I have slowly, over time, replaced negative coping mechanisms (e.g., over-imbibing, over-exercising, over-working), with more positive ones. As part of this change, meditation has become an integral part of my life.
I remember the first time someone mentioned meditation to me. I was in grad school and stressed to the max with all that it entails. A friend suggested that I try meditation as a way to ease my anxiety. I scoffed. “There’s no way,” I said aloud, while thinking it was such a ridiculous thing for her to suggest. “I mean, have you met me?? I am so Type A. Meditation is not for me.” (Couldn’t she see that?). "There is no way I can clear my mind." *more on this later
To me, people who meditated were weak, unmotivated, and looking for excuses to get out of doing plain old hard work.
In my mind, my anxiety would subside once I did enough work, got enough done, ate better, exercised more, etc.
It was always about doing more or better, fixing, striving; there never was enough.
And that was where meditation stayed, for several more years…it was for somebody else.
I had dipped my toe in the meditation pool before, although I did not realize that’s what I had done. It came in the form of savasana (aka corpse pose), which is typically done at the end of a yoga practice. For the unfamiliar, this pose entails individuals lying on their backs on the yoga mat, with arms resting a few inches from their sides (palms up), and legs spread to the width of the mat. It is meant to be a state of relaxation without sleep, and could be considered a type of meditation. I started doing yoga because someone suggested it as a way to help with my anxiety. However, I was primarily concerned with the physical benefits and completely disinterested in the potential mental benefits. The first time I did savasana, I was shocked…there’s a workout that includes a time where you do…nothing??
That blew my mind.
And planted a seed.
But, again, I didn’t immediately connect periods of stillness with being beneficial.
I have tried to identify what got me to finally soften around the idea of meditation. Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic formula to offer you.
I believe it was a last resort, something I tried because I had tried everything else.
I believe it was because, despite having tried so many other things to help relieve my anxiety, self-doubt, and feelings of inadequacy, I still found myself experiencing debilitating waves of these.
I still found myself looking for external things - like degrees, relationships, events, attention, jobs - to make me happy.
I believe I began to embrace meditation because of circumstances – trauma, death, loss, grieving, overwhelming sadness – that helped change my perspective on true happiness, where it came from, and how to get it.
So, I took a baby step forward (The best kind of step! Find out more about baby steps here and here) and went to Amazon.com to search for meditation books. I filtered by the highest rated and discovered Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul. This book was life changing for me, and I have since read it several times and recommended it to many people.
Additionally, a great epiphany came when I found out that meditation is NOT clearing your mind.
Beyond this, I can’t remember many details about my specific next steps with meditation, but I do know they entailed an insatiable yearning for more, and a cascade of changes for the better. I began to see things in a different way and with a clarity that I had not yet experienced. I began to pay attention to myself and what I truly wanted, rather than being as influenced by societal and others' impositions. Today, over four years later, I can report that meditation has impacted my life for the better.
Now I meditate regularly, and teach others about it and how to practice. I incorporate it in my undergraduate class at UT and regularly attend (and sometimes guide) a weekly group meditation. I have found meditation to be a great liberator and consolation - an area of my life where there is “enough.”
The good news: It’s available to everyone. Right now. Without changing, or fixing, or studying, or working for it, you have access to meditation now.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to start a meditation practice or ways to approach other health goals, drop me a line.
I also welcome comments on this blog post regarding your own thoughts on, and experiences with, meditation.
Much love y’all,