Meditation isn’t new to me. I discovered meditation during my sophomore year of college when I couldn’t stop replaying how this guy screwed me over. I knew I had to get out of my head.
I found a few meditation podcast stations and went from there. I couldn’t tell you how I came to the conclusion that meditation would help get rid of the spiraling thoughts. Maybe someone suggested it to me, or I read it on the internet, or perhaps it was my inner voice guiding me beyond the conscious mind.
Regardless, I was willing to give it a try. I started with guided meditations where a teacher leads you through the practice. Each meditation is usually focused on a specific topic like grief, heart opening, relaxation, and gratitude to name a few. I would lay on the floor or in bed, arms open with palms facing upward, and let the thoughts quiet as the serene music and soothing voice of the teacher played.
The meditations helped. I eventually got over said guy and lived through my college years. Meditation has been in my life ever since. Over the last decade, I come back to it over and over again, however, never with such consistency as I have practiced this year.
Before 2018 started, I set a resolution to meditate unguided every day. I was ready to take my meditation practice to the next level, and so I decided that meant dealing with the mind on my own. Just me, my thoughts, and time.
I found an app called Insight Timer and began bookmarking short meditation music tracks. After all the years of listening to guided meditations, I knew breath work was essential. So I decided I would silently repeat the word 'in' as I inhaled and 'out' as I exhaled. Then came January 1, 2018, and I started meditating.
In the beginning, it was not easy! I remember my first meditation being seven minutes long, and those seven minutes felt like an eternity! How could only focusing on breathing in and out be so challenging and taxing? I kept going.
I worked my way up to 12-minute sessions, which was the next level I remember having to break through. I was so relieved when those 12 minutes were up. During the meditation, I would be thinking, “I wonder how much time has passed.” Many times I wanted to give up, and when the mind would wander, I would bring my attention back to the breath.
That’s what meditation is really all about. It's letting thoughts pass through and not engaging with them by bringing the attention back to the present moment. Granted, that's not the objective of every meditation technique, but at the core, it’s about focusing the mind and finding that quietness or space. A general misconception is that the mind will automatically quiet after enough practice, and from my experience, it does quiet, but only for moments at a time.
I didn’t end up sticking to my resolution of meditating every day of 2018. I broke the streak every couple of days in the first few months. When I reached the halfway point of the year, I decided to set the resolution again. This time I resolved to meditate every day starting July 1 to December 31. July 1 is the halfway point of the year and the beginning of a new month, so it seemed like perfect timing.
I’m more than 100 days into my mid-year resolution, and I’m up to 30-minute sessions now. I continued using my breath as my focus until I did a 21-day meditation by Oprah and Deepak mid-July. That’s when I discovered mantras and really felt my practice deepen even more.
A mantra is a phrase repeated silently during meditation to focus the mind. It can be something like “I am strong” or "all I seek is here now." I prefer using Sanskrit mantras — Sanskrit is the sacred language of various Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions — like the ones used in Oprah and Deepak's meditations. I find the mind attaches less to the Sanskrit mantras since the words don’t already hold meaning for me. It helps any thoughts that came up pass through and allows me to stink down into my inner stillness. Whenever the mind does wander, I smile with my eyes and silently say ‘thinking’ and redirect my attention to the mantra.
I found it works best for me to meditate right when I wake up in the morning. However, I don’t recommend remaining in bed. I get up, put in my headphones, and sit with palms facing upward, usually with a blanket over me because I get cold.
On the days I don’t meditate within the first 30 minutes of waking, or when I check social media before doing so, my mind is all over the place the rest of the day. Bouncing from one thing to the next and getting lost in tangents or thoughts that aren’t priorities.
Meditation allows me to be more proactive in my life instead of reactive. I feel like it gives me a brief moment to see what’s happening in any situation before taking action, almost like I hit the pause button. I'm almost always on time now because I use that pause to see the bigger picture. Then I'm prepared for several steps ahead instead of scrambling at the last minute.
I’ve also found that time seems to slow down or at least that’s my perception. Even with writing this post, I only started writing 45 minutes ago, and I’m almost 900 words in.
I think that comes from being more present. I can tell I get way more caught up in thoughts on the days when I wait until later in the day to meditate instead of right away. Meditation allows me to see opportunities I wouldn’t catch otherwise if I wasn’t in the moment. I notice my creativity increases and ideas come more naturally too.
Ultimately, I feel more connected with myself. I’m more aware of where I’m at emotionally and the thoughts I’m having. I can feel the flow of life, and I experience the state of being in flow more frequently.
It's not all unicorns and rainbows. I feel people’s energy more, particularly the negative. It can be abrasive and hard to be around, and I think that comes from being more aware of everything.
This year I’ve gotten into a lot of woo-woo stuff (crystals, moon cycles, Law of Attraction, going beyond the mind, quantum mechanics, etc.) and meditation is only one piece of that. By continuing my daily meditation practice for the rest of 2018, I am working on releasing blocks that may be keeping me from connecting more with my intuition.
For me, what is comes down to is that meditation is about listening, and mainly, observing the thoughts and thought patterns of the mind. It’s about going inside and finding that inner stillness between the chatter of the mind and expanding into that space.
One thing I’ve learned that is universal for all meditation techniques is that it’s not about achieving a particular outcome. Some days I find the stillness between the thoughts and feel like I’m floating above my body. Other days, the mind will not shut up, and it’s a total struggle to make it through 30 minutes. It’s really about recognizing where I’m at in the present moment and wholly feeling it by not focusing on the past or the future, only that moment.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING!
If you want to learn more about meditation, the Chopra Center by Deepak Chopra has a bunch of great resources, which you can find here. Add me on Insight Timer (Search Carrielle) and let’s meditate together! Tell me what meditation techniques you use by leaving me a comment. I would love to answer any questions you have about meditation or any of woo-woo stuff I mentioned too.
Have a wonderful week!