I have always been interested in mindfulness and meditation, but have yet to create a habit that stuck. Over the years, I have tried to meditate for a couple days in a row and be met with so much mind-wandering that I was discouraged from continuing. Since physical distancing measures were put into place, and we are encouraged to stay home, there are fewer things to distract me from meditation and a lot more reason to commit to it.

To tie this in with money – I begin all of my podcast episodes with asking my guests, “What is your relationship with money?” The answer is not always positive. Money can be stressful, money can be shame inducing. We work for money, we need money to sustain our livelihoods. Being mindful is being aware of the present moment, and I think that the practice of mindfulness and meditation can help us be more aware of many different aspects of our lives, including money.

It’s important to practice mindfulness with regard to your relationship with money so that you become more aware of your spending and saving habits, leading to a more positive relationship with money going forward.

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. I’ve heard this length of time in popular culture and seen a lot of “30-day challenges” around the internet. This is a myth. With a quick Google, 21 days to form a habit has been debunked countless times. According to a study done by Phillippa Lally at the University College of London and published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it took participants 18-254 days to form a habit. So the time it takes to form a habit is different for everyone, and it’s ok to miss a day or two. The key is to be consistent overall and commit to making your goal stick. It’s all mental game.

I’ve decided to meditate for at least ten minutes each day for 60 days to get me started on what will ideally be a lifelong practice. I’m proud to say that I have completed over 60 consecutive days and will continue to meditate each day. These are my reflections.

Meditation Practice
To guide me through my meditation practice, I use an app called Insight Timer. It has thousands of free guided meditations, a timer with different sounds you can customize, and some free courses. You can sort the meditations by the length of time and also search by keyword, for example, meditations for mornings, sleep, gratitude, etc. It took me a while to get into the habit, but now I meditate when I wake up and before I go to sleep. I like the guided beginner Vipassana meditation.

Day One
I lay on my yoga mat in savasana and tried to inhale for four seconds and exhale for six over the span of ten minutes. It was difficult because various thoughts of my day kept on popping into my head. I had to visualize them as balloons filled with helium, acknowledged, and then let them go up into the air. It was hard to breathe deeply through my belly, I found that my chest was restricted and they became shallow breaths instead. Not sure if that is a function of the anxiety I was feeling at the time, or because I haven’t practiced deep belly breathing in a while.

After that, I decided it would be better to create a habit beginning with a trigger. That would be waking up, getting ready for the day, meditating before eating breakfast, and also after getting ready for bed. This made it easier to get into the habit of it, and also helped with reducing my screen time at night.

Day Thirty
It has become kind of habitual to meditate in the morning and night, and my mind wandering has decreased although there is still a long way to go. Some days are easier than others, and that is perfectly ok. It is my personal meditation journey and whatever I feel is valid. Something I’m also practicing is being kinder to myself. We are our own worst critics, but we can train ourselves not to be.

One of the guided meditations that I have enjoyed guides the listener through a breathing exercise that is based on counting the breaths – inhale for a count of four, then hold it for a count of seven, then exhale to a count of eight. It was pretty hard for me to hold my breath for a count of seven, so that really kept me focused and in the moment.

Another kind of meditation that helps me focus is mantra meditation, where you inhale, silently say a mantra, exhale and silently say a mantra. This helps keep the mind from wandering.

Some nights I listen to a chant meditation and fall asleep to it.

Day Sixty
Meditating every day has made me more aware of my breathing patterns as well as my thoughts. It has taught me to breathe through the difficult moments and live more in the present moment, be absorbed in my current state as opposed to worrying about the future or ruminating about the past. It has taught me to be more kind and patient with myself. This is key for me, as someone who has always been tough on myself. It has reduced my mind wandering and increased my overall sense of well being.

All in all, I’m really glad that I made the effort to incorporate a meditation practice into my daily life and think that it will continue to be part of my life into the foreseeable future. Though it was off to a rough start, getting into the habit of meditation really became a game-changer. I would recommend that anyone and everyone start meditating, I think we could all use a bit more zen in our lives, especially through this weird, challenging time.

My Thoughts on FI…


There are a lot of financial independence/retire early (FI/RE) blogs out there. There are even more personal finance blogs. Although there are fewer Canadian ones, what I think are the most interesting ones are personal journeys to reach FI. Is it cliche to say that it’s about more than money? Rather, it’s about changing your life. There has been a movement, albeit a small one, toward minimalism and away from consumerism. This all ties into financial independence because when you spend less than you earn, and invest the difference, that is how you get on your merry way to FI.

When I was in university, one of the first things that my finance professor said to us was, simply put, “compound interest”. This is also what Warren Buffet believes in. A few years later, I came across Mr. Money Mustache and it all clicked. Invest 25x your annual expenses into ETFs and you’re FI. But putting it into practice was another story. Live by these tenets: spend less than you earn, time in the market will always beat timing the market, and continuously educate yourself. There is no lazy way to earn money, everything has a cost – usually, it’s your time. 

 

Many FI bloggers I’ve seen are high salary earners. Many of them worked in big tech. Many of them American. House hackers, living for free. I’m fortunate to not be considered low income, but I definitely am not in the top snack bracket by any means, and in Canada we pay a heck of a lot more in taxes, and in the larger metropolitan areas, real estate is certainly not cheap. Now maybe I’m just making excuses for myself, but I strongly believe in moderation. I choose not to squirrel away 80% of my take-home pay because then I would be living in a sunless basement apartment and eating beans and rice every day. Is it possible to have nice things and also work towards FI? That’s the question that I want to answer. Personal finance is exactly that – personal. It’s your money, so do whatever you want with it. You don’t know what will happen tomorrow so you might as well enjoy today – within reason.

I know of so many people who have worked so hard for so many years and then haven’t had a chance to enjoy it. And then there are the people who have achieved FI and are living their best life. There are also people who have reached FI and have fallen into a depression because their life lacks meaning. Everything is a spectrum. Balance and moderation are key. Don’t deprive yourself, but it’s important to remember not to spend beyond your means. But can this moderate lifestyle attain FI? I guess we’ll see.