I realize that I’ve been practicing meditation for about 7 years now. <lets out a low whistle.> I’m both proud and shocked at how long that sounds. I also feel some immediate imposter syndrome kick in and want to make sure you know that I am in no way some kind of meditation guru. Not. Even. Close. My journey with meditation has been stop and go. Sometimes I’m off for a while before I get back on the path again.
I don’t have some peaceful room with gorgeous pillows and candles where I sit and meditate (although this does sound lovely if it works for you!). My meditation practice has ranged from sitting on the floor in my living room to walking outside to practicing in bed before I go to sleep. I’ve done meditations where I simply focus on my breathing (cue mind drifting and re-focusing on my breathing. Again. And again.), and I've done movement meditations, and I love listening to guided meditations (Tara Brach is one of my absolute favs.). I definitely do not believe there is only one way to meditate, but if there’s only one way that works or resonates for you—that’s okay too. I’m of the find-what-works-for-you-and-do-it approach.
But, let’s dig deeper. What interests me is why I meditate and what I’ve learned about myself in this process. When I first started, meditation was recommended to me by my own therapist as I was dealing with a lot of life stress and anxiety at the time. It sounded like a good idea. So, I tried it. And, I struggled . . . and struggled some more. If you’ve never given your brain much quiet or down time, it’s hard! It’s a completely different experience from how most of us go through our lives all the time, and when you begin, it’s kind of like using a muscle you didn’t know existed. A little bit of “exercise,” and you may be worn out. You may think you’re failing because you feel frustrated, instead of relaxed. You may think there’s no way you can meditate because you think too much.
This is all very, very normal.
I definitely got (and still get) frustrated sometimes. The mind can jump all around, we can get bored and uncomfortable, we may think or feel things we don’t want to think or feel. Meditation can be outright annoying at times.
But, I also notice benefits that keep pulling me back to my practice again and again.
What I get from meditation:
- A deep sense of calm. Not every time, and not even every other time I meditate, but often, I feel this calm settle into my body. It starts from deep in my gut and my heart and just kind of flows throughout. I feel deeply settled into me. I’m not sure I ever experienced that sensation before I started meditating.
- Quiet from the noise of the day (which, as we know, can be especially important for highly sensitive people). Even if I’m bored or tired, I notice that it usually feels good to stop doing things and just sit for a bit. It’s almost like my mind takes a deep breath as my body relaxes. It feels good.
- An improved ability to notice my thoughts and emotions without immediately reacting to them. I’ve noticed over the years that it’s become easier for me to slow down when I start to get worked up. This doesn’t mean that I don’t get upset or overwhelmed by emotions sometimes, but I’m more aware of what’s happening and better able to slow it down or get out of it more quickly.
- A clearer sense of what I want. Sometimes when I’ve been trying to think through a problem or come up with a creative idea, it’ll just hit me—almost out of the blue. I’ll be doing something else, and I suddenly have this clarity about exactly what I want to do.
- ·A decreased sense of perfectionism. The beauty of meditation is there is no right or wrong way to be. It’s a practice of being aware of the present moment over and over again. The mind is supposed to wander, as it does, and meditation is that act of refocusing. Even if you have to do it a million times, there’s no wrong way.
Of course, my experience is just that—mine. We’re all different, and your experience could be completely different from mine. That’s okay. Do what works for you. If yo u can find a form of meditation or mindfulness that clicks, I really invite you to stick with it. I’ve found a lot of personal benefit, and there’s a mound of research out there saying how good it is for all of us.
If you’re interested in the data, you might start by checking out:
The Science of Mindfulness By Dr. Dan Siegel
Each of these can lead ya to more articles and studies too. Or if you'd like to chat more about meditation, I'd love to hear from you.
Best wishes, and happy mindfulness!
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