For many years, I would go to bed around the same time every night. In the micro-moments between leaving behind sleep and fully waking up, my overactive mind was already buzzing. I could sense its agitation.
I was thinking of all the things I had to do, all the tasks to check off the to-do list, all the events of yesterday. Although I had officially slept eight or more hours, I felt anxious at the moment I was back in the realm of consciousness.
My mind rattled frantically like an unstoppable trainwreck. As my imagined worries mounted, my heart paced, and I had a baseline sense of dread and unrest as I dragged myself to reach for my phone. I thought distraction would calm my mental chatter. So I looked at messages, emails, notifications, social media updates. Red threatening icons on a glaring screen.
Of course, all this was a recipe for decisive unease, worry, a lack of attention and perhaps most importantly, absence. Absence from reality, from the present moment. Mindless-ness.
I was everywhere, yet nowhere.
I was starting each day unconscious, unfocused, unsettled and overwhelmed.
Good ol’ meditation
Finally, I decided to change this pattern. I admit, there were several false starts, and even today I have relapses. But on good days, that helpless feeling of being controlled by a morning-tyrant-mind has significantly abated.
Now, I know there are things I can do to avoid succumbing to my own mental noise—that background of constant thought flurries. I know that my mind cannot control me (not always) if I decide to control it first. How do I know this? Because I have experienced the proof in my personal morning ritual.
Among all the things that I try to inculcate in my morning practice, the one that works with maximum intensity and efficacy is meditation. Yes, good ol’ meditation! It has profoundly changed my life since I discovered it. And sure, it intimidated me, too, at the beginning.
Meditation needs a better PR manager, as it has this reputation of being arduous, unachievable, New Age, or simply something that requires a lot of quiet space, time and strenuous mental effort.
It is, in many ways, none of those preconceived misconceptions.
I have meditated for anywhere between two and 20 minutes, in quiet or noisy places, with or without a guided meditation (from an app or a YouTube video), alone or with a friend, successfully and not-so-successfully. In all cases, I found that that the act—the very intention—of sitting to meditate and observing my breath and thoughts calmed my nerves and made me more serene and balanced in my perspective. It dispelled the anticipations, apprehensions and self-inflicted anxiety within my mind.
You might say, “I tried it, but I cannot sit still, and I continue to have interminable thoughts scuttling around.” Well, personally, I don’t really care if I still have thoughts in my head (Spoiler: They will always be there!). What matters most is the discipline of taking time to connect with who I am and what is true for myself. To know myself.
For me, the benefits accrued from the practice of meditation far outweigh all the other societal connotations and occasional failures that are associated with it.
Trust the journey
Meditate. No excuses—just meditate!
Think of meditation as a jog, a dance or a gym workout, but for the mind. I feel the same freshness of spirit after meditating for 10 minutes as I do after a one-hour gym workout—and I don’t even move from my chair at home, in the former case! Isn’t that powerful? I think it is.
I feel the same freshness of spirit after meditating for 10 minutes as I do after a one-hour gym workout.
And the best part of it all? The effects of meditation linger on as I go about my day. Sure, unpredictable life events occur and lead to more worry, anger, fear or sorrow. But meditating almost always helps me maintain basal mindfulness and the level of attention that’s needed to overcome those difficult daily moments.
It isn’t a magic trick, and it’s not always easy to meditate when I am already overwrought by the vagaries of life, but if and when I do manage to, it unfailingly makes me feel better.
Recently I did a guided meditation by The Mindful Movement that inspired me to “Trust the Journey.” This is something I know I should do, but rarely put into practice. This guided meditation presented the analogy of winter as part of a journey during which, unseen to the eye, growth is still happening. I found this idea enlightening and liberating, especially in relation to my current life situation.
I am learning to code and am currently facing a brick wall of frustrations and difficulties with my online coursework. Although I periodically remind myself to be kinder and more compassionate towards myself, now I know I ought to trust—trust that I am on the right path for me, trust that even when I think I am not making progress as quickly as I’d like to, I am growing.
I often worry about finding a job after all these online courses. I panic because I have forgotten what it is to be a student again and learn a whole new skillset (in French, too). I worry that I might never succeed.
But now I know that failure and challenges are part of the journey.
Any journey. Most importantly, my journey.
And I trust that after winter, there will be a salubrious spring and a sun-kissed summer!