I Meditated For 365 days In a Row. Here’s What I Learned.

A deep dive on how meditation helped me overcome my depression and anxiety.

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I’ll start by saying, I don’t think I’ve ever done anything for 365 days in a row. Aside from the basic needs of survival. 

I am what you would call a creative type. I love unstructured environments. I love change. I love being spontaneous. It makes me feel alive. 

For years growing up, many people who know me, saw me move. A lot. It was for love of travel, for sure. But there was something deeper there. I was actually running away. So, a bit of background.

After graduating from university, I moved to a small seaside town in Japan: Mihara. I taught English there for two years. With this newfound freedom, I developed an insatiable appetite for travel. I didn’t need it to be glamorous. I would find a way. Even if it meant living in a dangerous neighbourhood or eating a meal I could figure out that cost 50 cents CAD per day. I came back to Canada and immediately wanted to get back on the road. I got a working holiday visa and flew to a friend of a friend’s house near the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Australia. I took my time traveling by bus to small cities along the east coast. Living modestly and working where I needed to to ensure I could keep moving. Meeting new people, seeing new beauty. Also seeing places that did not hold any emotional ties for me. All in all, I moved 10 times in a period of six years. On four continents. An enormous privilege. I learned so much and met people I will cherish and never forget. But something was missing. 

There was a gaping hole in my spirit, my soul. From the outside, I looked ‘happy’, for sure. People always commented on how optimistic and positive I was. They talked about how they were envious of my experiences or ‘wished they had my life’. The truth is: I was in crippling pain. Every day. And I couldn’t escape it. It followed me everywhere I went. No plane, no marathon, no new address or new person I met could erase the dark, immensely powerful grey cloud that followed me literally everywhere. There were definitely good moments in my life. But when I would leave my friends, my family, be alone at the end of the day, there was an extremely deep emptiness. A lingering sadness. No amount of tears or journal entries or self-help books could erase the wounds that felt so deep, I wondered if sometimes I would bleed out and make an early exit from this life that was gifted to me. 

As good fortune would have it, I met one of the most important friends and teachers that I’ve ever met in this lifetime. We met in Berlin in 2011 and became fast friends. Right away, we went deep on life and talked about our wildest dreams, our hopes for the future of the world, and what we hoped for each of us in our individual journeys. We ended up traveling together for some time and I noticed that this friend started their day the same way every morning. 20 minutes of meditation. At first, it kind of irritated me. I was eager to get going, to explore and they would always, without ever breaking their personal vow, take 20 minutes of meditation prior to starting their day. 

This friend had the most vibrant energy. They were also very serene. They savoured the moments. I could see them appreciate life engaged in all of their senses. They saw the beauty and learning opportunities in all things. They welcomed the shadow work and the darker moments of life. They asked what they could learn from them. I was in awe. I also thought it wasn’t for me. They bought me two books that remain two of the most important books I’ve ever read in my life: The Art of Meditation by Mathieu Ricard, and Faith: Trusting One’s Deepest Experience by Sharon Salzberg. I half read them and they sat on my shelf for close to four years. This friend and I ended our time traveling together, but fortunately, remain close friends, in touch regularly, to this day. I’ve told them that they are one of the greatest influences on my life. Here’s why. 

In 2017, my life collapsed. It’s like all of those things I had been carrying from city to city, country to country, finally caught up with me. And I was in the middle of this pile of unhealed trauma, terrifying feelings, hopelessness, desperately looking for a way out. I used workaholism and serial-travel for years to avoid looking at the painful moments I’d collected throughout my life. I never talked about them. Or if I did, it was with very few. And I never actually let those feelings come up and out. I just shoved them back down, thinking that in time, they would just disappear and I would ‘get over it’.

When I had my breakdown, I couldn’t get out of bed. Make meals. I couldn’t be alone. I was a total mess. I decided to go to therapy (an enormous privilege to be able to do so) because I had literally no clue how to pick myself up and get back to the excruciating task of daily living. Like, I still had to shower, work, pay my rent, feed myself, do my laundry. Basic stuff, right? I didn’t even have the energy to cook food. I was just in tears and felt physically and emotionally paralyzed. 

The therapist I saw, we talked about a lot. I’ll save those conversations for another story. Bless her though, she is an absolute miracle worker and taught me so much. One thing she recommended to overcome my depression and anxiety was meditation, specifically an app called Insight Timer. A light bulb went on and I remembered my friend meditating every morning in Berlin. When I got home from my appointment, I went to my bookshelf, and sure enough, the two books they gifted me were there. They were calling out to me. So I read them. The two books had enough anecdotal and scientific evidence to convince me that I should try to meditate every day for a while, just to see what happened. It was kind of a personal experiment to see if this thing actually worked. 

I meditated for between 5 minutes and one hour per day for a few weeks. It wasn’t overly consistent in terms of the way I meditated. It was all different styles of meditation. 

But there were commonalities to each practice. 

  1. BREATH WORK. Being conscious of your breath, inhaling and exhaling, slowing your breath and activating your parasympathetic nervous system. 
  2. THE PRESENT MOMENT. A common theme I noticed in many meditations was a call to be present. Here, now, in this room. Not in the past and not in the future. To simply be.
  3. NON-JUDGEMENT. There was almost always a theme of not judging what you were experiencing. Just noticing it. Getting curious about it. Not to judge the good or the bad, to just acknowledge what you were thinking and feeling and allow it in that moment to exist, judgement free. 
  4. THE INNER LIGHT. There were many meditations that talked about that inner spark or inner light that we all have within us. If you are alive and breathing, you have that spark. Many of these meditations encourage you to feel the light with your physical body and feel it move within the body while you sit in stillness. They would then talk about envisioning that light expanding from within to surround your body. The light would support you and flow freely into the world to support your environment and others whom you crossed paths with.
  5. LOVE. Many of these meditations focused on connecting with your heart centre. Opening your heart centre. Allowing emotions, the feeling of love to flow freely into your mind, body, spirit. And out from within you into the world.

    I meditated off and on for a couple of years, and during August 2020, it was in the middle of a COVID lockdown in the heart of the continent in the Canadian prairies, I had a bit of time on my hands during lockdown (LOL) and thought to myself, what would it feel like to just make a commitment to meditate every day, forever? That sounded like a bit of a lofty goal and one that I was unlikely to achieve. So I thought, “OK, I wonder if I can do it every day for a year.” And I did it. If I was tired as fuck, I did a three minute meditation before bed. I remember drinking a ton of margaritas with a friend and being like, “Don’t forget to meditate before you go to bed,” and I can’t even believe I followed through, but I did it. It was a pathetic session for sure, but I stayed true to my commitment (and made up for it with a longer session the next day as sort of a penance for my excuse for a session the night before).

    So, it’s a year later. It’s August 2021. And I’m finally answering the question to the title of this article.

I meditated for 365 days in a row. Here’s what I learned. 

1. The importance of self love.

Sadly, in my younger years, I didn’t truly love myself. I felt unworthy. When I looked at myself and my body, the flaws far outweighed the beauty. I would numb the pain of feeling unlovable, unworthy and empty by being an overachiever, a perfectionist, partying hard, being a travel junkie, falling in love and leaving almost as fast as I landed. To many, I ‘had it all together’ from the outside, but on the inside I was a mess. Once I started doing daily meditation, I learned that I don’t need to achieve anything to be worthy of love. I am worthy of love simply because I am alive and breathing. And that is true for all of us. I have always had a lot of love for other people in my life, my friends, my family, my heroes and icons, my past loves. But I never showed that same love to myself as I had this deep block that I felt I was unworthy. These guided meditations in particular, Self Love For The Feminine by Jason McGrice and I am Love by Michelle Chalfant, helped me to break through and finally learn how to love myself. Also, a HUGE shout out to Lizzo as two of her soul-fueled anthems Soul Mate and Like a Girl really helped too.

2. Your trauma can’t kill you, but burying it can.

I used to think getting over something just meant pushing it down and trying to ignore it. After all, time heals right? Wrong. I learned from my therapist that if you don’t ‘deal with things,’ they can live inside you for years. And hold you back from living to your full potential. I had a lot of trauma from my relationship with my late father that I had never dealt with. When I allowed myself to be in silence, it would come up. The feelings were extremely uncomfortable, physically and emotionally painful, but in meditation, I would just breathe. And allow them to move through my body. Sometimes it would come with tears. Anger. Numbness. But eventually, as I just continued to breathe, in stillness without judgement of these emotions, they would pass. And it was like past negative experiences and hurt would move through me. Once I did this a few times, I started to realize that I felt positive emotions more deeply. Joy, happiness, serenity, comfort. I felt them in a way I never had before. I was living an emotionally stunted life because I was trying to erase the pain of the past. Once I let the difficult emotions flow to the surface, freely, in solitude, without judgement, I was shocked that good feelings came along with that too. My emotional range had expanded and that is something I am truly grateful for.

3. The value of silence.

It’s funny because for people who know me now, they think, “Wow, that Jane loves nature.” I have 35 house plants and any time I have time off, I jet to nature as soon as I can. I love being among the water, the trees. Watching sunrises and even more so, sunsets, are where I find some of the most joy in my life. In those moments, I am in awe of the beauty of nature, watching the gradient sky shift as we move around the sun, and she shines on her next destination. So, what’s the funny part? I used to ‘hate nature’. Maybe not, ‘hate’, but I really disliked being there. On the surface, I thought it was dirt, bugs, too hot or too cold. There was nothing to do. Being in nature actually made me feel tense. When I deeply immersed into my mediation journey, I realized that I hated being in nature because it was so quiet. I was alone with my thoughts, and that was scary for me. I didn’t know how to deal so I just was like, “ok, I don’t do nature, thanks for the invite though.” As I developed a sense of self-love and moved through my difficult emotions, my mind was much quieter. I could sit in silence and silence brought not only a feeling of calm, but feelings of being completely immersed in love. Silence brought feelings of euphoria and immense appreciation for life. When I finally found the ability to be silent, to be still, I was able to enjoy nature for all of its beauty.

4. The natural world heals.

Once I could finally sit in nature, it was almost like I was reborn. I’ll never forget being in Japan and learning about the concept of forest bathing or shinrin-yoku. It is a practice that has been in Japan for generations where, when people want to realign their mind, body and spirit, they go into the woods to cleanse. They sit or walk among the trees, and there is a belief that this restores your emotional and energetic field by restoring your positive and negative ionic balance. This is especially true when you are close to running water like rapids, waterfalls and streams. Now that I am a daily meditator, I see things in nature that I never saw before. Like the sun shining through the veins on a leaf. A tree decomposing with a new seedling breaking through the ground beside it. How the texture of the rock changes, above and below, as the wave meets the shore. I didn’t see any of that before as I was in my head all the time. Worrying about the future. Thinking about the past. I was not present. Now that I am present, wow. The natural world is truly the most exquisitely beautiful thing in the world to me. She is truly divine and we are so blessed to enjoy all of her gifts.

5. Follow your intuition.

This was a big one for me. I was a big over-thinker and worried a lot in my early 20s if I was making the right decisions. Was I taking the right courses in university? Did I have the right job? Was I dating the right person? What was the purpose of my life? Where did I want to live? Did I want to have children? Plant roots or always be on the go? What would make me happy? I questioned my choices a lot. One of the greatest gifts of meditation has been connecting deeply with my intuition. My inner knowing. For me, physically, I feel it most strongly just below the centre of my chest, deep in my core, stomach, diaphragm. I also feel it in my chest and in the centre of my forehead. It’s sort of an inner knowing. A gut feeling. It’s a type of intelligence that I believe is from beyond. Whether that’s from ancestral knowledge, a greater knowing, a collective consciousness, a higher power, I’m not sure. But it’s there, and it works. Meditation has helped me to connect with my intuition. And I’ll be honest, I do an ‘intuition check’ several times a day, even for small things like which route should I take to walk downtown, or what should I do this weekend. And for bigger things relating to work, family, friendships, and romantic relationships. I always think about it logically, but the intuition feels like another layer of intelligence, another tool at my disposal. A gut check. A vibe check. How does this decision affect my physical body when I think about it? I often get a physical sensation and it will tell me one way or the other what the best course of action is for me. When I started trusting and following that intuition, slowly, I noticed that so many things in my life started falling into place. Was it my own inner voice and was I finally just trusting myself? Or was it part of some divine plan? I’m not sure, but it continues to be extraordinarily helpful for me and without meditation, I wasn’t able to feel it in the same way. It existed on a very subtle level, but I mostly ignored it and tried to think my way out of every situation. Meditation, slowing down, breathing, allowed me to feel the physical, emotional and energetic sensations that accompany my intuition. I highly recommend tapping into yours and following it. Just to see what happens. Here’s one meditation that helps me to tap into mine: Live Reiki Chakra Healing by Jason McGrice.

6. We all have masculine and feminine energy and it is time for us to tap into the wisdom of feminine energy.

I have this cross-stitched piece of art in my bathroom and it says in cursive, Smash the patriarchy. A family member was over at my house one afternoon before I was having a boy over for a date. They went to the washroom and came out and said, “Do you want to take that down before he comes over?” I smiled and said, “No, I think I should leave it up.” The reason I say this is because I feel strongly that a great imbalance in patriarchal ideology has been a hindrance to humanity. Wounded masculine energy has negatively impacted men, women and all genders. Not only has it caused women to feel lesser-than, repressed and broken, but it has done the same for many men. Historically, men haven’t been allowed to express their difficult emotions, and often their unhealed trauma comes out in other ways, addiction, anger, violence, severe inflation of the ego, lust for money, sex and power. And ultimately, chasing fleeting moments of fulfillment, but landing back on empty. Every time.

It’s important to note that we all have masculine and feminine energy within us. There is also so much beauty in masculinity. To quote Sahara Rose, healed masculine energy is grounded, present, heart-centred and a respectful protector. To me, the phrase ‘smash the patriarchy’ means, let’s collectively bring masculine and feminine energies into balance. There is so much wisdom in feminine energy, it is nurturing. Healing. Protective. Aligned, secure, loving, flowing and creative. At its best, feminine and masculine energy are integrated and work together for one another’s mutual benefit, the benefit of our environment and the benefit of humankind. A daily practice of meditation helped me to see masculine and feminine energy at its worst, at its best and everything in between. I simply became more conscious of this as I saw the world operating around me. As we see the planet and communities around the world literally gasping for air, part of the answer comes from a resurgence in feminine energy as we look to heal communities, heal the planet and heal ourselves. As we move back into balance, we will see a beautiful restoration take place within ourselves and our world. Meditation made this very clear in my eyes.

7. The benefits of living a life in service to others.

From the time I was very young, I always wanted to help people. Though I now identify as spiritual as opposed to subscribing to a particular doctrine, I was raised in a Christian household and I was taught to pray every night before I went to bed. I remember, for years, from the age of around 8 years old, I would pray to be led on a path where I could help as many people as possible. And I think somewhere, on some level, we all have that desire to help others. For me, it’s always been a deep, sort-of a soul calling. That feeling was always there, just running in the background. Sometimes it would be stronger, and sometimes, life would get loud and I wouldn’t make the time to help others. I would be too focused on myself or my goals to stop and say hello to someone experiencing life on the street, or to stop and deeply listen to a person in need. I found that the more time I spent in meditation, stillness, connected to my heart and away from technology, the more my sense of compassion grew. The more I meditated, the more I felt compelled to live each day making the world a better place, even in a small way. Maybe it was smiling at someone jogging by when I was on my bike ride, or asking a woman at the gas station who is crying if she is safe and if there is anything I can do in that moment to help her. And if not, telling her I am sending her love before I move on with my day. Those very small things, they add up. And the wild fact is, I noticed, the more I took time to do those things. The more blessings would – almost magically – land in my life. When I started living my life more conscious of my service to others, to the greater good, performing small actions to uplift anyone who crossed my path, the world started to open up in ways I never dreamed possible. I would be talking about wanting to go and work on a project in Vancouver, and that week, I would get a call asking me if I would like to go work on that project in Vancouver. I would talk about how I would love to meet a Latin lover for the summer, and one literally fell into my life a week later. Sounds crazy, right? But this has been my experience. The more I focused on being heart-centred and helping those around me, the more I found that blessings were coming back to me tenfold, and for this, I am extraordinarily grateful. And this is why I am sharing this with you.

I truly believe it is in all of our benefit to live a life in service to others. To live a life connected to our heart centre. To practice gratitude, compassion and lovingkindness. In my experience, these are the things that make you feel full inside. It’s not the material things, it’s not being the CEO, it’s not feeding the black hole of consumption. The thing is, it will never be enough. You will never feel that level of fullness or inner peace from pursuits in the material world. For me, once I connected to that energy that connects all of us, focused on self-love and love for others and focused on creating a better world, my life began to expand in ways I never thought possible. So, remember back to the beginning of this story? Where I was the girl who carried trauma and immense weight and self-loathing around with her? I am still her. She is still me. But I now see things more clearly. I had to accept and feel my way through those experiences. I had to find my inner light. I had to nurture it with the wisdom of feminine energy. I had to follow my intuition. I had to connect to silence and the natural world. I had to love others, but first, I had to learn how to love myself. And how did I do it? Meditation seems like the easy answer based on what I’ve just written. But it’s more than that. There is one more key.

I recommend taking the journey of meditation in partnership with someone. It can be a friend. A partner. A family member. Someone you just met that shares your goal of becoming more conscious, more heart-centred and living their best life. Because there are moments when you will feel off-track, you need to re-centre, or you need to tell that self-doubt that they are not welcome at your birthday dinner.

For me, it was looking to friends, inspirations, and teachers, like fiery Brazilian meditation teacher, author and supernova, Sah D’Simone. My soul sisters and meditation co-pilots, Angie Lamirande and Amanda Buhse. Visionary Nehiyaw hip hop artist and entrepreneur, Dakota Bear. Deepak Chopra. Yung Pueblo. Robin Sharma. And the list goes on. For me, community is another keystone in this equation. And if you’ve had difficult chapters with your nuclear family (haven’t we all), don’t let that get in your way. I found a beautiful quote, author unknown, on Instagram this weekend that says, Be yourself so that people looking for you can find you.

So, after meditating every day for a year, this is what I have learned. I’m not done with this chapter and I am eager to continue on the path of daily meditation. Even on the days I don’t feel like doing it (these are now rare, but were definitely a thing at first), I know that as little as five (or even three) minutes a day can have an exceptionally profound impact on my life. It has made me a better person, a better partner, a better neighbour, a better sister, a better daughter and a better friend. I am more open to learning, to feedback and to growth. I have more energy and – the question I get asked – do I still have bad days? Absolutely. I am still human. But they are more rare and when they come, I don’t judge them like I used to. I get curious about them. I sit with the emotions and just listen. Usually, there is something to be learned in that moment. Something that I can learn from the experience. And two things always help to bring me back.

Sitting in silence, reconnecting to the heart centre and breathing. This has been extraordinarily helpful to help me reconnect, shift my mindset and move through difficult emotions.

The other thing that helps me to see things more clearly, is the quote by Ram Dass that says, in the end, “we’re all just walking each other home.“

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