When you hear the word meditate, what comes to mind? Perhaps an image of someone sitting with their legs crossed, hands on knees, and their index finger and thumb gently touching comes to your mind. Maybe you just picture a little Buddha statue or you might not even have a thought in the world when it comes to meditation. Regardless of your current image, I want to talk to you today about what meditation means to me.
med⏑i⏑tate think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.
I personally practice Mindfulness Meditation more than any other form. I will mostly, if not entirely, focus on this practice in this post. Please keep in mind though that there are many forms of meditation.
Have you ever been laying in bed at night praying and you find your mind has wandered off? You’re all of a sudden thinking about tacos or how tall Cher is, or both. Yeah, me too. You see this right here is how I will explain mindfulness meditation and its benefits.
I have a racing mind, usually all day. I have a better handle on it now than I used to believe it or not, but nonetheless it races. To imagine what this is like, if you are fortunate enough not to experience this for yourself, it is similar to the prayer scenario I referenced earlier. Now I say similar very lightly here. Imagine being in the middle of something important that takes your attention engage in, but your mind is aggressively cycling through literally tons of other information simultaneously. A racing mind has no regard for your need to focus.
This is unlike the prayer scenario where you accidentally find your mind has wandered off. A racing mind actively and knowingly takes you through unrelated scenarios, such as irrational paranoia, what you did last Tuesday, vivid imagery and intrusive thoughts just to name a few… This is not what i’d imagine your usual, “oh did I leave the coffee pot on?” or “uh oh what’s going to happen if I mess this up” mind would look like. It is much more methodical and intense.
So how does mindfulness meditation help this?
Okay so in the prayer situation, it isn’t the process of yourself being pulled away that you notice. You only notice after you’ve already spent some time being distracted right? What if you could notice when you’re about to start wandering off? If you could do this, you would likely be able to prevent the wandering in the first place. In practicing this you would be able to stay more present in the moment that you desire. This is what you can accomplish with mindful meditation.
I began my practice of meditation utilizing something called a “guided body scan”. I still participate in at least one per day, but sometimes more if I make time to do so. During a guided body scan, the person or the recording on the other end of the practice is talking you through your awareness of each body part. The practice is guiding you to keep your focus intentional and without judgment. When I began, I always wandered off more than I was ever able to keep focus. Every time I found myself away from the scan, I simply pulled myself back. I practiced this daily, and I’m not going to lie, sometimes I would get super frustrated for not being able to keep my focus! I would still continue to try to relax each part of my body as we went through them, I would breathe into all of the parts I was prompted to. I always attempted everything the scan suggested, over and over again.
One day, after roughly a month or so I believe, I realized that I had completed the entire ten goddamned minutes without a loss of focus. I know goddamned is meant to imply anger, and I mean, I was angry. How was this possible? And how in the hell did I only all of the sudden have this ability? Okay, so I wasn’t really angry. But I did feel this huge rush of confusing emotions. I immediately started thinking over some of my previous meditation practices. When reflecting back, I was able to see even more growth that had been taking place, growth that I just hadn’t yet realized. I started to think about those moments where I actually began to notice when my mind was even beginning to wander. And I noticed that I had actually been pulling myself back before it ever had the chance to get far.
This is what mindfulness is about. I was learning to actively be present, in a truly intentional way in my mind. This was something completely new for me. Something I honestly thought was unattainable.
The question, “how does this happen?”: Well it is simple when you look at it really. You are teaching your brain a new skill. I mean, my brain has spent nearly its lifetime not really pulling itself back to the present when it wandered, who knows maybe it has never known how to do that well. Regardless, in time and with practice, this just now suddenly worked.
To get the most benefit from this tool, consistency is important. You have to allow the time to practice this skill. I have no problem in doing so because I would simply never choose to let go of this peace I have found in meditation, a peace that I hope you are able to find too.
Also in this post I wanted to mention the “Calm” app. I have passed my third year of paying for the full membership on this app. Now if you knew me, you’d know how cheap I am. We don’t really even have the money to spare like that either, BUT every year with good old tax time money, I without question pay up for the year. This app has truly helped save myself from a space in life that I never saw a way out of. Oh and if you don’t know, this blog is brand new, and I am in no way sponsored or affiliated. I am solely sharing this app with you because of my gratitude for it.
The benefits I have received by practicing mindfulness meditation go far beyond what I touch on in this post, but what is written here was the most important takeaway for me in the beginning. In all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect when I started meditating. I just knew I didn’t have anything to lose in doing so. I now credit a huge portion of my panic disorder recovery to mindfulness and I only wish I would have found this tool sooner. So if I am able to introduce or lead anyone who is in need to this practice, I would be beyond grateful for that privilege.