*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional nor a psychologist. I am simply sharing my experience.*
It all started because I was curled up in bed one night, getting over some sort of stomach virus. I was sick of being sick. I couldn’t catch a break. And my anxiety was beginning to cripple me again, both mentally and physically.
I remembered “Eat, Pray, Love” and writer Elizabeth Gilbert’s meditation journey in India. The thought of meditating always intrigued me. I grabbed my phone and started looking up guided meditations on YouTube.
I chose a Christian meditation on anxiety and figured it would easily solve all my problems.
That’s what meditation does, right?
To my dismay, I was still outrageously anxious after the 10 minutes had passed. Not to mention that I could not stop thinking about literally every other thing in the world.
Come. On. Kristen.
Let’s try again.
I took a deep breath, opened another one and closed my eyes.
Nope. Not working.
What is wrong with me? Why can’t I concentrate?
A million questions suddenly flowed into my mind as I tried to empty it. I laughed at how paradoxical this entire situation was.
It was 1 a.m., and I was thinking about my meal plan for the next week.
That night, however, I made a promise to myself.
Stick to it for a month and see if it’s even worth it.
Is meditation just a fancy buzz word or some little scam created by self-help gurus? What does it even entail?
What is meditation?
The word meditation stems from the Latin meditatum (to ponder). Essentially, the word encompasses any technique used to practice mindfulness and improve focus or awareness. According to many historians, meditation was first documented through art in ancient Indian culture around 5,000-3,500 B.C. Though the earliest written records of meditation come from Hinduism, most religions have some form or fashion of a meditative practice. It is not, however, a solely religious practice today. Western meditation moved from a religious focus to a philosophical and even scientific focus beginning in the 18th century. A growing number of psychologists believe that meditation is very beneficial for stress-reduction and physical healing.
There are six well-known types of meditation: mindfulness, spiritual, focused, movement, mantra, and transcendental.
My Meditation Journey
I’ll admit that I didn’t do a ton of research before jumping into this. Based on the research I have now done, I would say I practiced a mix of spiritual and focused meditation. I chose to listen to Christian guided meditation videos on YouTube, with the exception of one or two focused breathing routines. Here’s a little glimpse into my brain during this whole process.
I’m super excited about this whole meditation thing. It feels trendy. It also feels like a solution to my problems. So I lay in bed every night, clutching my pillow, listening to some sort of guided meditation. I treat is as some social experiment. I’m determined to do this and I’m prepared to share my results with the world. My mind still isn’t focusing like I want, but I feel good for trying.
Okay, scratch that. This is stupid. All this effort is proving to be futile. I don’t feel any different, and it feels like a chore. Also, I keep falling asleep during my nightly meditations… Oops. Not very good at this whole focus thing. I might just have to change up the routine. Or maybe I should forget this whole thing.
Okay, now we’re meditating in the morning! I still don’t feel like doing it all the time, but I have better concentration this way. I change my pose. No more lying down. I sit up straight and do deep breathing exercises. My meditations become more scattered and distracted. I pray and desperately try to clear my mind to no avail. It seems like the harder I try, the more my thoughts fight back.
My brain still has a hard time sitting still, but I definitely can feel a difference. I can bring my focus back to the rise and fall of my chest with each breath. My prayers are less desperate. Time seems to pass quickly. When I close my eyes, I feel like I’m not even in my bedroom anymore. My inner monologue quiets as I appreciate the silence and stillness.
I started out this whole thing near tears, covered in blankets, clutching a pillow. Reflecting back on that night, I think it was a symbol of how afraid I was of opening my heart to anything. Now I meditate on the edge of my bed, eyes closed, hands out. 100% still. Furthermore, meditation is now part of my daily routine.
Yes, I am still in quarantine and currently have plenty of time to meditate.
Yes, I know a mere 30 days of meditation is nothing compared to those who spend their lives doing it.
But I do plan to incorporate this practice into my life going forward.
It helps prepare me for the day, mentally, physically and emotionally. I feel so much more refreshed if I take even 15 minutes to meditate in the morning.
I guess my main takeaway from it all (thus far) is that it is so evident to me that my soul is longing for another place.
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
Got questions? Comment below! If you meditate regularly, I would be interested to hear your routine.