What would you do if I told you that sitting between 10-20 minutes with your eyes shut and breathing could make you able to handle problems faster, be worried and stressed less, be less angry, make you smarter, and able to understand what you really want out of life? That’s what this post is all about. As a skeptic, I wasn’t sure how meditation could help me with my problems. It seemed too simple, but now I meditate most days first thing in the morning. I hope to explain what my experience has been and how it’s changed my life for the better.
I decided to write about this because with the new year approaching, you might be wondering what is the one thing you can do that will improve your overall wellbeing. In the past, I’ve casually mentioned meditation as something to add to your list, but my recent experiences with it makes me think it might be the only thing you need to put on your list and the rest will naturally follow.
Typically, I’m a very intense person. I feel ALL THE FEELINGS. I deal with anxiety which if it goes on long enough can turn into depression. I also have some rather intense anger issues stemming from my childhood. It’s easy for me to worry about the past, its effects on the future, and feel powerless in the now. I have an internal dialogue that can be extremely critical of myself and of others. During my really depressing moments, I honestly believed that the idea of living the rest of my life like this would just be unbearable…But that’s changed recently.
I’ve started to meditate on a daily basis as well as start to learn some Buddhist teachings and the combo has really helped me calm down. I’ve found that I’m able to “let go” a lot better. So how did this all start?
About three or four months ago I “graduated” from therapy. That’s the nice way of saying that my therapist had taught me all she felt she needed to, and now it was up to me to use the tools I had been given. You can actually read my post about that HERE. I was really scared and felt a bit like I did when I would study for an exam only to sit down and not remember anything. After about a month of wondering what to do, I decided to try and start meditating which was something I had been doing on and off during therapy but had stopped. I made a commitment to really give it a shot and to meditate 10 minutes every morning first thing.
I would wake up and head to my office which is a bit of a sacred space, I light incense and I have a meditation cushion. I also wear a Mala that I made (You can buy one of them HERE). Sometimes I sit in silence or with a meditative soundtrack in the background and use my mala necklace to pay attention to my breath. Each bead gets an inhale and an exhale. I also have a bunch of YouTube meditations that I LOVE and I put on if I find it hard to concentrate or if I feel like I just need the extra help.
Meditating was extremely difficult at first. I often found myself either getting angry, or anxious, or worrying about my day, or my future. After a while, though something started to change. I found that when upsetting things would come up in life I was able to stop, focus on my breath for a few seconds and then look at my problem and ask myself how important was it really. THIS WAS LIFE CHANGING. I started to see that a lot of things I worried about were speculative! They either didn’t happen or might not happen or were entirely created by my own psyche! If it was a legit worry I was also able to offer myself compassion. The understanding that I was experiencing something that was really tough and upsetting to me and that it was okay to feel what I had to. I was also able to let go of things that would have ruined my day normally like bad drivers, entitled jerks, or even just home and life stressors. I was able to adopt either compassion for the person (that maybe they were having a bad day as I have also had, OR that they were creating their own negative Karma and that they would create their own negative outcome and that I didn’t have to “Teach them a Lesson”.
In combination with meditation, I’ve also been listening to several Buddhist monks on YouTube. Of course, I talk a lot about Ajahn Brahm because he’s funny and relatable and is often able to put a different spin on the problems of this world. I highly suggest looking at his channel HERE.
I’ve also discovered another slice of life monk who used to work as an addiction counselor in California before deciding he wanted to give up his lifestyle to become a monk. His name is Nick Keomahavong and you can find his channel HERE. He said something in one of his episodes that has really stuck with me. It was “Meditation is like showering. You can go a day without it and maybe be okay, after a couple of days though, you start to notice that you don’t respond well to things. After a week or two, your friends and family start to notice and then maybe even strangers…some people haven’t showered in 30 years!”. That really struck a chord with me. I did start to notice when it had been a while since I had meditated. I was often quicker to anger or more prone to anxiety.
I decided to write about this because mental health is a focus right now. There’s a lot of stress, anxiety, depression, and anger. If there was one thing I would suggest trying for the new year it would be to start meditating first thing in the morning for just 10 minutes. You don’t need anything special to do this. For a while, I used a couch cushion to meditate on. There are TONS of fantastic meditations for beginners. I actually love these 10 minute morning meditations by Great Meditation. I honestly believe if you take the time to meditate and listening to talks on how to love yourself more, you’ll see a dramatic difference. It won’t happen overnight, but pretty close. I’d say if you’re skeptical like I was, commit to a month of meditation Monday-Friday, and then pay attention to your days. How do you handle your weekdays as opposed to your weekends? Do you see yourself with a little more kindness? Start looking for changes. Also, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to benefit from Buddhist teachings. I am not Buddhist, but I take what I learn from their talks as mini therapy sessions where I am able to learn and consider a lesson and the meditation helps me to apply it to my life.
I hope as the new year gets closer, this is something you consider. All it requires is 10 minutes out of your day. I would also suggest that if you don’t believe me, doing your own research on what science says about meditation especially when it comes to stress. You might find that taking that moment to slow down will help you make stronger and more positive life choices. If you’d like to be notified of future posts like this one, please be sure to SIGN UP HERE. I hope this has inspired you a little to start meditating more and I honestly hope that helps you live a more positive life in 2021! Thank you so much for reading! -Heather Astaneh