Nearly two years ago, I wrote a blog about my early days of meditating. As with anything shiny and new, I was reveling in the honeymoon period of my new habit. I just knew that life was going to get so much better now that I was intentionally working on mindfulness.
My chakras would be cleared and aligned, my soul would be enlightened. It would be a new me!!!
Meditation has done fantastic things for me. It has been ‘as advertised,’ but in the beginning, it was something that I did a couple of times a week, then I would drop off, and pick it back up again as needed.
Maintaining the habit was challenging. I was diagnosed with ADHD in my early 30’s, so sitting still and focusing on anything for longer than 90 seconds is tough. If my mind wandered just once, I considered the entire session a failure.
You know, because I was supposed to take to this practice like a duck to water. My brain, which on a good day resembles the screen of a Vegas slot machine being played continuously, was supposed to be calm and measured in mere minutes. Serenity now!!
While I grappled with it, I remembered something that I had heard both Katy and Laura tell their clients regularly. Your mind will wander, just gently bring it back to the present moment.
Gently, guide it like a sweet old lady who’s asked for directions. Don’t yank it like the arm of a misbehaving child at Target.
Keeping that in mind made it easier to stay consistent with the practice despite the normal distractions of my cats, landscapers, and my brain, but I was still, for lack of a better term, half-assing it.
In late 2019, I vowed to once again get serious about meditation. I decided to use a technique that Katy had advised me to try when it came to another thing that I wanted to be more consistent about doing.
“Set one week as your goal.” She told me. “You can do anything for one week.”
She was, of course, correct, so when it came to digging into meditation, I gave myself the one-week rule. Before I knew it, I was meditating at least five days a week. It could not have come at a better time.
You all remember early 2020, right?
During the early days of COVID, meditation became more than a practice, it became a necessity. As I struggled with social isolation, fear, loneliness, and anger, making time to center myself for ten to 45-minutes saved my sanity.
I would find myself sitting on my couch on a Friday afternoon, dreading the hours that I had in front of me with nowhere to go and nothing to do.
I filled that time by numbing myself, which at best was a waste of time, at worst put my liver in serious jeopardy.
I utilized the tools I had learned in my time at Anxiety Resource Center but still could not fight the belief that the world was on fire. (I had a complete breakdown in the toilet paper aisle at Target, but that’s a story for another blog)
One day, it hit me, just go and meditate. I hit the Insight Timer app on my phone and laid down on my bed. Soon I found that whatever I was wrestling with, I could find a meditation to help me through.
When I felt frazzled and anxious, there were meditations where I visualized calming places. My apartment, one of my very favorite places, had become a bit of a prison after a month of stay-at-home orders, so being able to transport myself to a beach or a forest, or a field of daisies, even if only for a few moments, helped me to calm down.
When I felt like I was witnessing the downfall of humanity, I would do a loving-kindness meditation. The challenge with this is that you are asked to extend loving kindness not just to yourself and the people you care about, but to the people in your life who may be “challenging”.
There was something about taking those big deep breaths and picturing someone I wanted to punch in the throat while offering them kindness that took the edge off. It helped me to realize whether I liked someone or not, they were a human being who was feeling the same things that I was feeling.
There is study after study proving the benefits of meditation, but in a world where we expect gratification in seconds, it can seem like yet another thing that is good for someone else, but not in our wheelhouse.
For those of you who are skeptical, please refer to the aforementioned ADHD diagnosis.
The days when the slot machine of my brain will not stop spinning, instead of focusing on the instructor’s word, I focus on my breathing. After a few big, deep breaths, it’s easier to gently guide my mind back to the words.
What meditation has also given me is the ability to understand when I am scattered and the opportunity to gather myself up again. Just last week while I was working, I found myself making silly mistakes. I was rushing through something that did not to be done ASAP. As soon as I realized that I simply could not focus, my brain said,
“Girl, you need to meditate.”
I grabbed my phone and took advantage of having the office to myself. I sat in Laura’s office (She and Katy have the best couches!) and picked a seven-minute meditation for focus. I got back to my computer and felt better than I would if I’d downed an energy drink.
I meditate when I’m on vacation. I meditate when I’m home. I meditate before (and sometimes during) big family gatherings. I meditate before I get out of bed in the morning. I’ve even done it while riding my bike!! It has been the thing that has most helped me get through the dumpster fire of 2020.
Meditation may not be your jam when it comes to a mindfulness practice, but the goal is to find something that aligns with you and your life. Meditation is free and portable, which was music to this girl’s ears. It took me the better part of a month before I truly felt as though I was feeling long term benefits, but the sense of calm that you feel after just a few minutes of your first meditation is worth giving it a try.
While we hope that 2021 will show us that the light at the end of the tunnel is not in fact a freight train, learning how to meditate helps to take the edge off of the news of the world. It helps to quell your anxiety symptoms and give you some time to just “be” without the demands of your daily life. Practice some loving kindness on yourself and give it a try! You literally have nothing to lose.