If you have ever sat down to meditation and felt as though it made your mind race more and your heart beat quicker and your breath seem shallower and you think this is all a bunch of BS, you are not alone.
In fact, I’ve been there. Many. Many times. I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life. It has been a constant battle for me to keep my head above the storm clouds inside my mind.
My Dad tells the story of when I was about two years old he found me bawling my eyes out in my bedroom. He rushed in asking me what was wrong and through my sobs, gasps for breath and snotty nose he slowly got the story out.
“Who will take care of the horses in my care when I’m on tour as a famous country western singer!?”
I suppose I should explain, from a very early age I was convinced that I was going to be a veterinarian AND a country western singer (who was married to Garth Brooks… we’ll ignore the age difference).
My dad, very wisely responded that when I become a famous singer, I’ll have enough money to to hire other world class equine veterinarians that will take care of the horses. It took me awhile, but eventually I trusted he knew what we was talking about. Daddy’s know things.
It was in high school though that I really started realizing how damaging my anxiety was. I began to notice that the voice inside my head was rarely positive and often dangerous. But, the masochist inside me enjoyed the company of that voice. It was—and still sometimes is, to be perfectly honest—very difficult to turn the voice off.
My mom suggested I start meditating. She bought me meditation CD’s recorded by a doctor at her work to see if it would help. I’m sure they were great meditations, but at the time the only thing they did for me was make me hyperventilate. I would feel almost claustrophobic and couldn’t continue listening. I did try, for my mom’s sake. But I just didn’t connect with those meditations.
Instead, I started going out for long walks by myself in a forest near my home. The longer I spent walking in the forest, I would begin to focus more on the peacefulness of my surroundings and less on the noise in my head. At this point, I’d never heard of mindfulness. But naturally, I found it in that forest. I found connection with myself. I found peace.
It wasn’t until years later that I returned to “meditation.” My thoughts still plagued me, I still couldn’t sit quietly for long periods of time. But I began to realize that just like in the forest, it wasn’t about turning my thoughts off. It was about sitting (or walking) with them, allowing them to come and then letting them go. It was about not getting dragged in by that vicious inner voice. It was about finding space in the moment I was living.
When I studied in India, I studied with a swami, a monk. He taught us so much insight and understanding, and honestly I’m still unraveling everything I learned from him. But one thing that really stuck:
I mentioned this analogy to a friend of mine the other day who was asking me about meditation:
“Perhaps imagining your thoughts as a river, and when one jumps out of the river, don’t try to catch it, allow it to fall back into it. Allow yourself to be the observer. Just like when you watch birds or bears from a distance, you don’t actually take part in their activities, you allow them to happen, enjoying the view from a distance. Creating space, quiet and peace so they can continue to live their natural life.”
We cannot stop our thoughts, but when we step back and allow them to pass unheeded we create a space for ourselves to feel. Meditation isn’t to stop us from feeling, to go into a black abyss. It’s there to allow us to unravel the layers we have placed upon the Self and reveal our truth. In yogic tradition we call this truth Samadhi, or the state in which individual and universal consciousness unite.
But to get to that point, it’s not about turning things off, making the mind blank, dunking our inner vision into darknesss. It is about allowing, observing, and transcending beyond the physical & mental.
And the reality is, you may never get to that point. And that is A-OK.
To gain the benefits of meditation you do not need to enter another plane of awareness. You benefit by giving yourself space and allowing yourself to be where you are, who you are, and how you are in that moment. You benefit by releasing the power of an internal narrative and just observing.
You may notice your breath slowing down or tension releasing from your jaw, shoulders, chest, or hands. You may notice that the more you do take time to simply sit with yourself, it becomes easier. You may find peace, even if only for a few moments.
And it doesn’t have to be sitting. There are so many ways to meditate.
If you find sitting tricky, maybe first start with a moving meditation, like walking meditation. I highly recommend following the Zen master Thich Nhat Han, who is revered around the world for his pioneering teachings of mindfulness and walking meditation. I love walking meditation and often share it with those who come on the Yogatrek Asturias retreats I do.
Yoga asana (postures) can also be a type of moving meditation. Connecting your breath with your movement, creating space from your thoughts. Often, the best way for me to approach meditation is first through asana and then stopping and sitting for awhile in a still meditation.
Running, gardening (I find pulling weeds very meditative!), hiking, all of these acts can be a form of moving meditation. It all depends on how you approach it.
Meditation is amazing and it can be life changing. However, depending on where we are in life, the way we meditate may change. It shouldn’t be about forcing yourself to do something that you hate. It should be about loving and allowing so you can better relieve the stressors that pull you down—whether they be external like the pandemic or internal like anxiety and depression. And eventually, little by little, perhaps delayer unite individual and universal consciousness.
If you are struggling with starting your own meditation practice, let me know how I can help you. I have a free 10 day meditation journey, where each day you’ll receive a different type of meditation. They start off short and build up to longer. It’s not all the different types of meditation, it’s a good start to build a foundation from! Want to try it? Reset Meditation
Or, you can work with me one on one, and we’ll work together to help you find what works best for you right now, and how best to tailor a personal practice that can adapt, change and grow with you to inspire self-confidence and joy and feel amazing: body, mind and soul.
If you have any questions or just want to chat, send me a message (video, voice or text!), I’d love to hear from you.