I never thought meditation could improve my life and overall well-being until this past year. Before truly understanding the benefits of meditation, I went through eight years of moves, job transitions, job losses, relationship struggles and a few health problems; all of which may could have been handed with much more patience and grace had I understood the practice of mindfulness.
I was chatting with a friend last week about handling life with grace- grace for both myself and for others. In a world where we are becoming more and more divided, it can be a challenge to look at people or situations in a kind, loving way; especially when you don’t agree with them. My balance has felt a bit “off” this week; I’ve been having a difficult time feeling focused, have experienced a pattern of negative thoughts, and was just feeling run-down. I suddenly realized how much of the outside world was filling me inside; and that I haven’t taken the time for meditation and self-care.
After a long week of work, activities, and new political developments in the media, my mental energy was shot. I went to bed early on Friday and slept past 11 the next morning. The negative self-talk came back, and yes, I took it upon myself to spend the rest of the day feeling guilty for absolutely no reason. After a long day of what I thought was “self care,” I finally decided to do something productive- I did some cleaning, organizing, got a mocha and went for a walk. The fresh air made me feel wonderful- like it always does- so what took me so long? I needed more than just the physical exercise- I needed mental exercise, too.
After I burned off some of my negative energy through a stroll in nature, I knew it was time to re-focus my thoughts and stop thinking so much about myself. That’s what makes meditation so helpful to me. Medtiation helps you step outside of yourself; your worries, your obligations, your past and your future. I’ve heard that depression is when you’re living in the past, and anxiety is living in the future- yet all you have is right now.
Why are we wasting our precious minutes on recreating moments from the past or dreaming up what will happen tomorrow? All we can do is try our best and make the most out of each moment; that’s the purpose of being mindful.
Although I am still new to the practice of mediation, I have picked up a few favorite mediations that never fail to make me feel more relaxed, centered, and kind to myself. I truly believe that what you feel inside is reflected outward; if you feel negatively about yourself, you will be negative to others. I also allow myself to become a victim from my worst critic- me.
My first experience with the Loving Kindness meditation practice was through the Calm app, which guides you to develop feelings of warmth, compassion and love towards yourself and others. Every time I listen to this meditation- and truly relax- my negative emotions toward both myself and others lessen, and I feel mentally stonger to take on my daily tasks. For me, a balanced life requires many things- a healthy diet, 8 hours of sleep, exercise, plenty of alone time, staying organized, list-making, peer support, and more- but it all starts with a positive attitude and a peaceful mind.
If you’re just getting started with your meditation practice, I suggest finding a place in nature that makes you feel comfortable; a park, the woods, a marina. Although I started my own practice in my bedroom with a candle and blanket, now I will occasionally grab my headphones and listen to my Calm app on the bus, train or at lunch. Walking along the shore, through the park or strolling through the historic streets of Boston always helps me re-center myself, focus on self-love and in turn, have kinder feelings toward others- no matter what the chaos is around me.