Meditation was something I always heard about but in my mind was reserved for people who were not like me. If you’ve never meditated before, you may know who I’m referring to: the spiritual yogi who flees to India for silent retreats and eats Beyond Burgers on the reg. Yup, I said it. That was the stereotype I had in my head and since I didn’t fit that bill, meditation remained an unknown practice that I had little desire for in my metropolitan life.
As someone who is constantly looking for ways to improve my life and be a better human, I kept coming across the benefits of meditation. Articles took a scientific approach rather than a spiritual spin and I became more open to the idea of trying it. But it did take a certain circumstance for me to get my butt in the chair. It was June of 2017, three months after I separated from my ex-husband and I was living alone for the first time in my life. My daily routine was flipped on its head; my anxiety levels were high, and my emotions were all over the place. Change was everywhere. If there was a perfect time to start, this was it. I had also found a greater level of space during this time that needed to be filled up with the right things – things that brought me joy, peace, and clarity. At the time I didn’t know it, but meditation was the very thing that led me to these things.
My Meditation Journey
They say it takes 21 days to build a habit. [Who is “they” you may ask? Well, mass belief of course!]. So when one of my colleagues recommended the Calm app, I was excited to see they had a meditation practice for newbies called “The 21 Days of Calm.” I thought the goal would be a good one to have, the commitment a good one to keep, and the habit a good one to form. So I got started.
Naturally, the first few meditations felt unnatural. It was something I hadn’t done before and I didn’t feel like I was “doing it right.” [Unfortunately, this is a common blocker for meditation newbies. One of my favorite things about meditation (like yoga) is that it’s called a practice. Recognizing that the goal is not to perform or be perfect, but rather to cultivate a satisfying routine that allows for good days and bad days, takes all the pressure off.] But after a week or so, I started to get used to it. And by the third week, I started to crave it. And after 21 days, I purchased a yearly subscription to Calm.
So what made me start to crave it? There were noticeable differences I saw in my everyday life:
- I started to catch myself when my mind was elsewhere. Whether it was in a one-on-one conversation or in a meeting at work, I found myself becoming aware of when my mind was drifting. This simple act of awareness allowed me to bring myself back to the present moment and pay attention to the person or topic at hand.
- I found myself getting less irritated by small things. Waiting for people when they were late no longer bothered me; the screechy sound coming from my showerhead started not to phase me; and my mother’s nagging (sorry mom) started to become comical. The mini moments of annoyance and frustration began to slide off my shoulder and were replaced with a sense of peace (and sometimes even humor).
- I felt calmer all over. Physically (over time), the diagnosed TMJ in my jaw was significantly improved; I no longer tapped my foot mindlessly when sitting; and the frown line between my eyes had greatly dissipated (a big win in my opinion). Mentally, I felt a sense of calm that I never knew before. This was clear in the way I started to respond, rather than react, to people and situations. And the overwhelming emotion of anxiety I once felt became a distant memory.
It’s been exactly three years since I’ve been meditating, and I can honestly say that having a daily practice has changed my life. A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine asked some members of our LinkedIn mindfulness community what words came to mind when they thought of me. The overwhelming majority said “calmness and centeredness.” If this exercise were done three years ago, I presume the majority would have said “high energy.” It’s not that my energy is low today, it is just way more focused and balanced. That anxious aura I once carried around transformed itself into a peaceful presence.
Starting Your Own Meditation Practice
Meditating every day isn’t easy and I certainly am not perfect at it. There are days, even weeks, that go by when I fall out of my practice, but the best thing is that I can pick it back up at any time. I now find that if I go a few days without meditating, I feel a difference. It’s similar to working out – when you do it often and then skip a few days, your body feels it. With meditating, your mind feels it.
Have I got you intrigued yet? Here are a few steps to starting your meditation practice.
- Choose an app the resonates with you. There are some wonderful meditation apps on the market. Try a few and stick with one that feels right. This can be based on the narrator’s voice, the variability of sessions, or the messages you receive.
- Commit to ten minutes a day. “It’s hard to find the time.” I get it. But we do make time for the things that are important to us and ten minutes a day can make the other 1,430 minutes of the day that much better. From better sleep, to less irritability, greater patience, and increased clarity, committing to ten minutes a day can make the world of a difference. If you can do it in the morning, even better. You’ll not only get your day started on the right foot, but when you think about meditating later on in the day and realized you’ve already done it, you’ll be pleased. If you go the whole day without finding time, try to get it in before bed and use it to prep your body for a good night’s sleep.
- Find your meditation community. Whether it’s starting up a practice with your best friend or joining a meditation studio, having people around you who are also making meditation part of their life is key. I’ve had the opportunity to cultivate a meditation community at work given LinkedIn’s focus on mindfulness and compassion in the workplace. Two years ago we partnered with Wisdom Labs to bring the Wise@Work Communities to LinkedIn and since then I’ve been meditating with colleagues weekly. During COVID-19, we’ve been meditating daily, and it’s really helped us all get through this difficult time.
I do not go on silent retreats and will take my cheeseburger over a vegan burger any day. And yet, I still get to reap the benefits of meditation…and so can you! I often wonder, if I hadn’t started meditation when I was in the crux of a life change, when would it have been? My message today- don’t wait for a life alteration to get you moving sitting still. Do it now. There really is no better time than the present.
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