I will be the first to admit that there was a time in my life when the idea of meditation and mindfulness would have me scoffing at whoever was brave enough to mention it. I mean, really? Sitting cross legged on the floor for hours finding inner peace… who actually has time for that never mind the fact that there’s no way it could do anything besides give you a sore bum!
Yet times have changed. Our lives have become so hectic and we find ourselves on autopilot more than we are actually present in our everyday lives. How many times have you driven to work only to zone out and arrive at the office with little recollection of how you actually got there? Or jumped in the shower, about to hop out and towel off when you couldn’t remember if you’d actually washed your hair? We are so busy the only way to get everything done is rely on muscle memory so we can multitask with our thoughts racing around in our head, taking us away from the beauty of everyday life. When was the last time you stopped to take in a fresh snowfall blanketing the trees, or to really and truly watch your child experience something for the first time, the way they scrutinize and explore something they’ve never seen before?
I recently read a book by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, “Mindfulness – An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” and I was amazed by some of the data they shared. There has been more and more research on the subject of mindfulness and meditation and the positive benefits seemed too incredible to not give it a try.
According to research discussed by Penman & Williams, regular meditation has been shown to:
– Decrease anxiety, depression and irritability
– Improve memory and reaction time
– Reduce stress and lower blood pressure
– Improve quality of life with serious illness such as chronic pain and cancer
– Boost the immune system
What was most astounding to me was the effectiveness of meditation on treating depression, and that a Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy was found to be just as effective as antidepressants with none of the negative side effects, and that regular meditation was found to reduce the chance of future bouts of depression by up to 50%.
So armed with this newfound knowledge and my itching desire to discover a new version of myself I downloaded a free meditation app (cause I’m on maternity leave and have no money), turned on my essential oil diffuser (which was diffusing Saje Unwind blend, amazing btw), and sat on the couch to experience this magical inner peace that would change my life for the better. Also Evan was taking his morning nap which made this possible as I think we all know trying to meditate with a 9 month old would be pointless.
I sat on my sofa, legs crossed (which you actually don’t have to do – you can sit normally but I figured I’d go all in my first time around), and began to focus on my breathing. Breathing in. Breathing out. As I listened to the guided meditation it wasn’t long before my mind began to wander. What was I going to make for dinner tonight? Did I have anything to make for dinner? Maybe I should go to the store after Evans nap. Would Evan actually sleep long enough for me to get through this? Speaking of Evan I still had his laundry to put away, and I was running low on underwear so I should throw in some laundry for myself. Yawn… Hmm thinking about me I never finished my coffee from this morning, when was the last time I finished a coffee…
And on and on and on.
But I followed the soothing narrators advice and stopped, acknowledging the thoughts racing across my mind. I refrained from judging myself and instead went back to breathing in, breathing out, focusing on the breath until I noticed my mind had wandered again. And then I repeated the practice over and over. Breathe, notice my mind wandering, focus. Breathe, wander, focus. Each day I came back to my spot on the sofa, turned on my guided meditation and sank into my breath.
And then, on the fifth day, something magical happened.
I had a moment of clarity.
Just long enough that I realized my mind had become still. There wasn’t a thought interrupting my zen, my mind was still and all there was was my breath and calm. And I thought holy shit, THIS IS WHAT IT’S ABOUT!!! Not long after that zen moment a random thought flitted through and then my mind was racing again but now I knew what it was all about, knew what I was striving for. And it honestly felt amazing. It was this fleeting experience that made me aware of how much power our mind has over us, but that it is actually possible for us to control our minds. Imagine being able to decide on a happy mood and then being happy. Or being able to stop ruminating over how your meeting went and what you should have done or said and just being able to move on. Imagine the freedom you’d have if you could just break free from the viscous cycle of overthinking everything.
It’s been almost a month since I’ve incorporated daily meditations and mindfulness into my life, and I must say it’s been one of the best changes I’ve made all year. I can sense a deeper happiness in myself, and feel how much easier it is to let things go and not get stressed out by things I can’t control or change, and even Kirk has commented on how calm and present I’ve been lately. I’ve made Kirk do the 7 days with me and even he’s noticed a difference in himself during this short amount of time.
So my advice to you is to give it a try. With so much research showing the benefits of meditation it couldn’t hurt to see if it’s for you. Download a free app, listen to a guided meditation on YouTube, attend a class at a local center or even sit in a quiet space for a few minutes and focus on your breathing. The beautiful thing about meditation is that you can do it anytime, anywhere and you don’t need anything you don’t already have with you. The important thing to remember is it’s called a “meditation practice” for a reason, and the more you do it, the better you’ll become at quieting your mind and finding that inner peace you’ve been searching for.
“You cannot give what you don’t have, so practice giving to yourself”