When this article is published, I’ll be starting my eighth meditation retreat, so I wanted to update you on my meditation journey so far. Of course this retreat will be held online due to the pandemic. Even so, I’m so excited and I know deep inside that it is something I dearly need. My meditation practice has transformed my entire experience of life.
I first found meditation in the depths of depression and anxiety. My therapist recommended a book - The Mindful Way Through Depression - that introduced me to the practice and benefits of meditation for the first time. That was 6 years ago, and what I found was something so much more than a helpful tool for depression and anxiety.
Meditation is the very first thing I do every day. I practice allowing my mind to rest in a state of stillness first thing so that I seal in a barrier of peace for the day. My anxiety used to wake me up already in high gear, reaching instinctively for my phone to scroll through the work emails waiting for me. This trained my mind to be in continual high-stress work mode from the first minute. Our minds are very impressionable in the first hour of the day, and what we do then sets a tone that shapes our daily experience.
Let the first hour of your day seal in a barrier of peace. Be still in meditation. Let your body fully relax. Be gentle with yourself as you go about your routine. Don’t allow in the outside world (news, emails, etc) until you’ve allowed your mind to lock in a state of calm. Then you will face the stress of the day with greater ease. Otherwise you will train yourself to operate at high stress all day (as I did) which can quickly lead to burnout (as it did for me).
In the years since, daily mediation has helped heal my burned out mind so that I wake up feeling relaxed and able to meet the challenges of the day without spiking my anxiety. It’s the one indispensable thing I do every day. At the same time, it’s opened up a rich inner experience of my own consciousness that I never expected. I’ve rested in places of stillness where thoughts melt into a vibrating silence that feels deeply profound and extraordinary. I cannot put these experience into words, but I come out of them strongly wanting everyone to experience it for themselves. It’s so special and its already there, inside each of us, waiting to be discovered.
Over these years I’ve noticed a greater sense of clarity around the purpose of my life. I’ve felt a growing sense of conviction that I’m doing the right things, and taking the right steps towards a meaningful life. I’m far less prone to anger and far more likely to act from a place of love even when the situation is fraught with tension. At a certain point you begin to see, as if from a bird’s eye view, the drama that typically unfolds around you - and just bypass it. This strengthens your love relations and allows you to leave the unhealthy ones behind.
It may take a year or more of daily meditation - twice daily is the gold standard - to notice these changes, but at a certain point you will look back and see that it’s been working the whole time. And you will see how differently you are experiencing life and never want to stop meditating again. Of course, some days will make it impossible and perhaps for even longer periods you will drift away. But then, you’ll remember and miss how it feels and simply start again.
It’s not a miracle cure for all of life’s problems. You also have to construct a healthy lifestyle that supports your mental health - including your job, diet, exercise, play, community, all of it. But it enhances and deepens the richness of all of these and gives you the clarity on how to best construct the right lifestyle for you. When the mind is clear of the typical surface-level distractions of life, inspiration is set free to arise spontaneously within you.
Six years later I can still say meditation is the best thing I do for myself. And its not just for me, it’s for all the people in my life. Meditation helps me express my love to them, and helps me understand the pain they are feeling that comes out as anger. And instead of reacting with anger of my own, I can be there for them as they truly need. I believe meditation will help you do this with your loved ones, and eventually everyone in your community. Think of the world that we could create if even 10 percent of us had that capacity, to heal each other, to heal entire communities. This is now my dream and my mission - and it all started with meditation.