Meditation… the blissful calming of the mind, the lotus position, straight backed and neck elongated. Breathing in through the nose, out through the mouth. The calming of the turbulent thoughts, the easing of the racing mind, the chakras aligned and cleansed. The one single act that instantly transforms us from irritable, hangry, frustrated mortals into enlightened, calm and mindful beings, right?
Um, no… sorry. Wrong.
Meditation isn’t a cure all, meditation isn’t the answer to all of our problems in the western world. It isn’t a secret passageway that some people take on a shortcut to enlightenment. It is hard, it can be physically, mentally and spiritually uncomfortable. It can make you cry like a baby without even knowing why, it can leave you feeling more confused than when you first started…
But it is pretty wonderful.
I have meditated on and off for the past few years. I went through a spell a couple of years ago where I tried to meditate every day (as well as doing an hour of rigorous exercise, eating healthily, drinking my protein shakes, working full time, being sociable, trying to write and maintain a perfectly ‘balanced’ lifestyle) unfortunately… something had to give, and ironically (or perhaps not) it was that time that I dedicated purely to the benefit of my own mind and self-worth that flew out of the window first.
Fast forward a couple of years and I’m sat at my desk at work, in a room where I spend 42 hours a week of my life. I am bored, I am exhausted, I am in physical pain and emotional pain. I blank out my own thoughts, fears and feelings by helping others (in particular, one other), I’m not exercising regularly, I’m not eating all that well… I am crumbling. This was last year, last summer. I wasn’t in a great place and it did all come to a head when I literally could not stop crying at work – that’s one thing when you can slip away from your desk and hide in the toilet for ten minutes, its another when you solely man reception for a company of 800+ employees.
So, for the second time in my life, I stopped. I stopped everything – work, the performance I was putting on every day. I went home, went to see my Dr, rested, talked to friends, took some time out and re-evaluated my entire life.
And it was hard. It was hard financially for a little while, it was super hard emotionally and it was hard physically as I learnt that what I was suffering from wasn’t just a recurrence of my depressive symptoms, I now had a physical condition too. My medication changed – or rather, stopped. I came off of the anti-depressants I had been on for 7 years – and let me tell you, medication withdrawal is not something I would wish on my worst enemy, if I had one. The plan was to switch to a medication that would not only treat my depression but also the Fibromyalgia that had reared its pretty nasty head. However, I am not someone who walks the easiest path, so I decided to not go on the other medication, and instead to try and find my way without it.
Let me clarify one thing here – I am not anti-medication, for anything. For mental or for physical health. I have actively encouraged others to take medication and of course, I have been on long term medication myself. I have seen and felt the benefits and I highly doubt that I would be sat here today if it wasn’t for pharmaceutical intervention earlier in my life. However, I felt I was at a crossroads and also, as a woman in her thirties, I knew that if I wanted to have children at some point, I could not do that whilst on the medication that was being prescribed for me.
I mean, I couldn’t do that if my depression symptoms were terrible either – so I picked up the prescription ‘just in case’. I decided to do a week without meds, then two, then a month…
That was 5 months ago. The meds are still in the cupboard under my stairs – if I need them, I have them, but not once have I reached for them.
And that’s not just meditation (oh yeah, lets get this writing back on track…) it’s a whole supportive network of things. It’s the vitamins and CBD I take every day, it’s the therapy I attend once a week, it’s the toxic relationship I have cut completely out of my life, it’s the different hours I’m doing at work, it’s the support of my closest friends and my husband and the snuggles I get from my dog…
But, it’s also meditation.
Ironically, it was the toxic person that I cut out of my life that suggested it to me in the first place. I know that doesn’t sound very grateful of me, but there was a lot more going on there than what it looked like on the outside and I’m sure there will be more writings about that in the near future. And I am grateful, immensely so. I thought he was fucking joking when he said to me one morning to meditate – I was in a very bad, and dark place – going through withdrawal and feeling like my world was falling apart. The thought of sitting cross legged and in silence seemed like torture, but he insisted I listened to a talk on a meditation app at least… so, I did.
I didn’t meditate regularly at all for the first few weeks. I found the odd one and put it on, half listening whilst I did something else (not always eyerolling, but sometimes) and then I listened to a talk on co-dependency, and something clicked.
I started meditating every day… sometimes for just ten minutes, sometimes for an hour. Sometimes when I woke and sometimes when I went to sleep and sometimes even both! I wasn’t entirely sure what, if anything I was getting from it, but it felt like a little glimmer of positivity in my darkest days and I was willing to grasp hold of that with both hands if I thought it would pull me through.
I listened to talks too – I listened to other people’s experiences and their journeys. If I just wanted to lie quietly, I’d listen to the sound of rain or waves crashing upon a shore and regulate my breathing. I listened in the bath, I listened in bed, rarely I listened in lotus position…
Because there is no correct way to find inner peace. For me, sitting upright hurt my back (thanks fibro) and still does on bad pain days, so I find that now I meditate best when I am lying on my bed and my mind can focus on breathing or voice, and often both, rather than being distracted by pain.
I have cried through entire meditations. I have cried even before they have fully begun! I have switched guided meditations off halfway through because they just weren’t working for me, I have found myself laughing partway though, I have found my mind wandering towards what we are having for dinner or what happened at work that day. I have meditated in the moonlight, sunlight, candlelight and pitch dark, I have meditated outdoors and in. I have meditated to past life guided mediations and I have seen myself in widows’ wares burying a child. I have fallen asleep during many meditations, I have gone for weeks where I haven’t listened to anything guided but just used gentle music or rain sounds to help me calm my breathing and get me to sleep. I have listened to meditations designed to give me more confidence, to help me connect with my inner child and to help me cut ties and find peace with people….
But I have done it every, single day.
I can’t say that I have wanted to do it every day – some days the reason I have done it is purely because I am a perfectionist and I don’t want to lose my continuous day streak! (Yes, really!) I mean – as marketing goes, it’s a pretty good incentive.
However, for what I feel I have learnt (other than perfectionism is a weirdly great motivator for inner calm) I’m not sure it can be summarised in a neat little package – but for the purpose of this writing, and because I have taken so long to get here, I will try.
I have learnt that we all need more time, we need time to just sit, and listen – and I mean really listen. I have learnt that it’s perfectly ok to take time for yourself and in fact, its more than ok, it’s vital!
Our own voice is the one we hear the most, it is in our head constantly. It’s our thoughts, it’s the way we see the world. It comes from our current form, it comes from our child selves, it comes from our family members, our friends and our ancestors – it is everything that has had a hand in creating us and it is constant. If we ignore than voice, what does it do? Does it quietly go and sit in the corner and wait until we’re a little less busy so it can have a quiet word with us?
It shouts. It throws a tantrum, it knocks things over, it says things to get a rise out of us, it criticises, it makes a nuisance of itself until we are forced to pay it some attention.
And that’s what meditation does. It allows us to hear that voice within us – the child that is lost, the memories we have buried and squashed down and sat on top of for so long. It forces us to come face to face with the quiet and in the quiet, the parts of ourselves and our pasts that we fear the most. It allows us to see what is real and what matters, without the distractions that we greedily absorb day, after day, after day…
And it is, at times, terrifying. And sad, and overwhelming.
But my god, it is worth it.
Because when you see yourself, and I mean really see yourself, it triggers something within. Some primal need for understanding and authenticity. When you stop using busyness, or alcohol, or sex, or Netflix, or running, or gambling, or food, or other people to stop distracting you from yourself it is weirdly freeing and completely empowering.
I’m not saying its not hard, or that I don’t have days where all I want to do is curl up into a little ball and hide from the world – because I do. But I also know that I am working towards something bigger, something that is going to help me become a different and hopefully one day, a more enlightened version of myself. For now, I will focus on keeping my daily streak going, I will focus on learning and reading and listening and finding out more about what I have been hiding and numbing and running from – and some days I will have the courage to face those things down, and some days I won’t, but 100 days is a start and we all have to begin somewhere.
Thank you for reading 🙂 If you have enjoyed this writing, please feel free to come and join me on my following social network pages to see my new posts and daily musings: