“The thing about meditation is: You become more and more you.” — David Lynch
The thing about my meditation experience is this: I was terrified of what it meant to become more me. When I agreed at the urging of a very patient therapist to at least attempt to meditate, I was truly afraid of what was underneath the layers of self-preservation I had built up. It was my thirty-fifth birthday and my gift to myself was to commit to anything that might improve my anxiety.
Up to that point, I had tried reading self-help books, running, yoga, and even prescription medication. Like clockwork, though, I could expect an anxiety attack around 2:30PM and again around 8:00PM, times when my mind became less engaged in work and productive thoughts. Scrambling, circular thoughts precipitated the inability to take a deep breath and the combination led to reaching out like a person drowning for any validation I could find from friends and family.
Anxiety had been a part of my life since childhood, but as I watched my thirty-fifth birthday approach, I decided that I was otherwise happy enough and managing my anxiety was the only thing I would change.
Before my first therapy appointment, I committed to trying anything she suggested. “How often do you meditate?” was the first question she asked.
“I don’t” I replied, and she made a note, and advised that I would learn.
I committed to meditating for at least five minutes every day. At the end of my run in the evenings, I walked down to a pond in my neighborhood with nothing more than my cell phone and a pair of ear buds and sat staring at the water listening to a guided meditation and fighting skepticism.
Not every day’s meditation went well. Some days I was able to reach an easy Zen-like state quickly and stay there. Some days I sat and worried that neighbors would think I was some sort of hippy if I stared at the water too long. Somehow, though, five minutes became ten, then fifteen. A daily meditation practice became a twice-daily meditation.
There’s plenty of room for improvement and I’m excited to learn more about meditation, and for the first time, I’m excited to learn more about myself. After six weeks, I’m startled at the changes meditation has had in my life.
My anxiety is manageable, not curable.
Anxiety will always be a part of me, but it doesn’t have to define me. After only six weeks of regular practice, my anxiety attacks are noticeably dwindling. I’m learning to breathe through those moments when troubled thoughts do arise, and some days I look at the clock and realize an entire day has passed without one anxiety attack. I’m not naïve enough to think I’m cured—I don’t believe anxiety has a cure. I am optimistic to think I’ve learned a natural, holistic way to manage anxiety.
I’m still in the honeymoon-phase of meditation, but I can already sense that it has to be a daily practice and not just something I can turn to when I need it. I can feel myself start to slip when I don’t practice with an intention.
Time for Self-Care is not Selfish.
I could have made time for a party I was invited to on a Saturday night, but there was something feeling just a little off. I knew I would be better served by spending some time in solitude and making more time to meditate. I declined the invitation and stayed home, knowing instinctively that I had made the right decision for me, but I had to fight through habitual feelings of guilt. That’s a habit I’m trying to break, and given how much better I felt the next day, I know I made the right decision. It’s not a selfish act to spend time in solitude and to practice self-care.
Meditation Makes Difficult Moments Less Difficult
My doctor was pleasantly surprised to find my blood pressure had significantly improved after six weeks of changing nothing more than adding a twice daily meditation practice. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my relationships, my running regimen, and my career also suddenly felt far less challenging and stressful.
My anxiety was no longer allowed to make decisions either in my relationships or in my career, and subsequently, my stress reduced and my productivity increased. Challenging moments passed without creating an anxiety attack, and I began to operate from a centered place of authenticity instead of responding to every whim of my anxiety.
Anxiety had been making decisions for far too long. I had allowed anxiety to do so because it was easier, I thought, than scraping away the layers of self-doubt and insecurity to do what was right for me. With anxiety lulled into a safe place through meditation, I am making more secure, more confident, and acting on my own behalf.
The Skeptic Became the Sales Pitch
“You should meditate,” I hear myself saying on a daily basis. “Yes, you can, everyone can meditate!” Who is this person? Six weeks ago, I was the one trying to convince a therapist that I couldn’t meditate. Now no one is immune from my sales pitch for meditation. If coworkers complain to me that they can’t get enough sleep, I urge them to meditate. A friend in crisis wants to vent in a telephone call, and I urge her to meditate. I know that by now they’ve seen the change in me and I’m so desperate for others to take the fifteen-minute mental break that will help them that I am a broken record urging all who cross my path to breathe deep and let it go.
I Am Not Afraid of Me
I’ve come to the realization that my anxiety is rooted in the resistance I have built to feeling my feelings. At the first sign of circular thinking and shortness of breath now, I zone in on how I’m feeling and why I’m feeling that emotion. I don’t run. I don’t put up a wall. I let it pass over me, I acknowledge the feeling and if I can change it, I do. If I can’t change the circumstances of the emotion, I let myself feel it.
I was terrified of meditation when I started because I didn’t want to know what was under the protective layers of emotional scar tissue I had created to avoid feeling unpleasant emotions. There are still difficult days when I realize that there’s an ugly bruise of emotion that I failed to properly address when it was happening. But I’m not afraid. This is me. I am a collaboration of every memory, moment and emotion that has already happened. I’m not yet quite fearless, but I am no longer afraid to sit with myself, allow an emotion, and dive into the messy, wondrous beauty of my own mind.
This is my journey at six weeks. Where are you in your journey and what unexpected epiphanies await?