In January 2020, I started a mindfulness meditation practice. I knew that I wasn’t achieving my potential and that something had to change. To be honest, 2019 had been a whirlwind, rife with major life-events, not the least of which were losing my stepmother, and then getting married, a month later. There was just so much to process and something had to give. As my emotions spun, I felt myself sinking and knew that there needed to be a paradigmatic shift for there to be a change in my life. Something completely different had to happen. In retrospect, I see how timely and important beginning this practice truly was, because of the times that we are living in, presently.
That was it.
Levelling up time.
2020 was going to be MY YEAR, and it was going to be my self-proclaimed Year of Shift.
I recorded a social media video to solidify this as I catapulted into the new year with gusto. I decided that I was going to show up to EVERYTHING, every big event that I saw being advertised, and to every coffee-date that I made with friends. I hit the 2020 ground running and decided to revisit one of my favourite gurus on YouTube, Esther Hicks, for some inspiration and guidance. And the strangest thing happened. She kept repeating that word, meditation, while speaking of its benefits; and how it can help to elevate your vibration by not focusing on negative thoughts, thereby attracting more “good stuff” into your life.
The truth is, I had tried that meditation thing before, 13 years ago, when I was doing my yoga teachers’ training, and I absolutely HATED it. I remember being SO excited beforehand. After all, I had heard about the many benefits of meditation, and was really looking forward to learning about how to do it the right way.
On meditation training day, the class sat for an hour in perfect silence, allowing our thoughts to come up, while noticing them, having acceptance for them, and then letting them go. Everything was going just fine when I started to feel something.
It was anger.
Like, real anger.
And the feeling just would not go away.
What was this?
Wasn’t meditation supposed to make you feel all Zen and calm?
Turns out that when you’ve spent years suppressing and pushing through your feelings (aka pretending they don’t exist), and then you finally become still, some of these feelings might just float to the surface. I was in Year 7 of pretending that I was ok after my parents’ separation, and clearly, I was NOT ok!! I didn’t know at the time that this was life’s way of telling me to do some deep work on myself. Instead I thought, “Oh Hell No. I am never meditating again!”
And I didn’t. Years went by, and while I had practised yoga since my teachers’ training, I avoided meditation like the plague.
That is until late December 2019.
Oh crap. There it was again.
I heard Esther Hick’s voice and realized that the thing I had been running from had come back to haunt me. This time however, I felt differently and I just knew that meditation was something I needed to try again, if I wanted life to change.
I mean, there are just so many benefits to meditation, and if it worked for so many people then maybe, just maybe, it could work for me.
Some of the science-backed benefits include regulated mood, reduced stress and anxiety, improved focus, attention and ability to work under stress, improved information processing and decision-making; while increasing mental strength, resilience and emotional intelligence. And, seriously?! These were all within my wheelhouse of what I worked on as a mental performance coach with my clients. So, shouldn’t I have firsthand experience, especially if I was going to be a proponent of it? Most definitely! The great thing was that I knew what to expect from the first time I had tried it.
So, it was set, and I began my practice the next day.
I sat comfortably in perfect silence, eyes closed, focused on clearing my mind for 10 minutes, while letting the thoughts come and go. If any angry thoughts did enter and swirl around in my mind, I acknowledged them and let them go again. The more I did this, the easier it became; and soon I had upped my meditation time from 10 minutes to 20 and then to 40 minutes. The more I practiced, the more at peace I felt, and the longer I seemed to be able to sit quietly and clear my mind.
And then something amazing happened. The effects started showing up in my life and throughout my days. My husband noticed that I was calmer and better able to handle stressors that would come my way. I also felt more of a sense of clarity about where I was headed.
More incredibly, I had also used my mindfulness meditation time to hone in on things, people, and situations that I wished to attract into my life; and slowly what I really wanted began to appear. It was amazing!! I was attracting opportunities and people that seemed to be sent to help me along my journey.
And there it was. In just about a month, I had become a believer! I am certain that anyone dealing with stress and anxiety can profit from beginning a meditation practice, particularly with all of the other benefits that come along with it. In these times especially, anything that can help to reduce the persistent underlying stress that many people are feeling is a great service.
So here is how I started my beginner practice:
- Choose a time of the day where you can find the most peace and quiet.
For many people, this is in the early morning hours, usually before anyone else is up. That way, you can be completely focused with the least possibility of distraction. If your day is totally packed, try taking 5-minute breaks intermittently to meditate, which is better than none at all.
- Get comfortable.
This might mean sitting cross-legged on the ground or in a chair. Personally, I prefer to sit on my couch, leaning back comfortably, since laying down would cause me to fall asleep too easily.
- Begin deep breathing
Close your eyes and take deep and measured breaths. You may place one hand on your chest and the other on your diaphragm (where your stomach is located) taking a few breaths to notice how it feels. Count to 2, 3, or 4 while breathing in and then again, while breathing out.
- Acknowledge and release any thoughts that may arise
Allow your thoughts to come to the surface, release any judgment of them, and let them go. If I experienced any negative thoughts, I would say to myself, “I notice that I am feeling sad/upset/angry and that is ok. I acknowledge this feeling and release it.”
- Refocus and clear your mind with your own refocusing phrase
Thoughts WILL surface. When they do, have a short phrase ready like, “Be here.” or “Come back.” to get back to the place where you can clear your thoughts again.
I love the beautiful dance that mindfulness meditation provides for being focused enough to be aware of the thoughts that may arise, while simultaneously requiring that you relax and let go of them. I’m still moving through my Year of Shift, but I am much better equipped to do so with this practice. And remember the key word here is practice. It may not feel perfect or comfortable right away, but with repetition you will benefit from the wonders of meditation, like I did, especially in these times.