I've recently started learning about meditation. It's something I've always wondered about but really had zero idea of what it was all about other than the obvious stereotypes we all have of monks chanting, people in hypnotic trances, Buddha worshipers, and whatnot. When I mapped out the posts I wanted to do in this blog series, a guided meditation was on the list from the very beginning. Even better, during a nail appointment, my bud Kristen explained to me that she was training to teach meditation. Well, perfect.
I set up an appointment with her to lead me in a guided meditation and give me the low down on this stuff. I had a million questions - What do I need? What do I bring? Did I need incense or a robe? Was there going to be hand holding or chanting? I didn't ask all these questions but I sincerely hoped that there wouldn't be hand holding... a robe might have been cool though.
Turns out there was neither. We sat comfortably on my big sofa in my chill living room area off my home studio where the lighting is dim, it's quiet, and there was no husband or dogs to run around terrorizing the village.
She explained the science behind the practice and to put it simply: meditation is simply taking time to breathe, calm your mind and body, and to try take some time for yourself in the space between your thoughts. The ultimate result being a greater sense of self awareness, an increase in patience, an increased ability to think situations through rather than being immediately reactive, increased brain function, relaxation, and stress relief. The benefits really were endless. Seems pretty cool for something that seems so simple, right?
As someone who battles a mental illness that comes along with extreme amounts of anxiety, it seemed ridiculous that I hadn't dipped my toes in these waters before. Anything to help me chill the f*ck out, I was down with.
Her session focused on a basic guided practice that helped me pay attention to my breath and body, with gentle direction and the use of a silent mantra (no chanting required) - which I expected to be super weird, but was actually really helpful in bringing my focus back when my mind would wander off. It sounds easy, but it really isn't. Calming our minds in today's crazy world takes practice... but if things were always easy, what would we ever learn?
She helped me download an app (yes, there's an app for that) called Headspace which gives you a free "Take 10" mediation challenge consists of 10 minutes a day for 10 days of guided meditation with a man named Andy. Andy seems like a nice guy... maybe a geeky friend you might have a latte with once in awhile. He explains about meditation and includes cute animations in between sessions.
My favourite animation of Andy's explains that our thoughts are like traffic. Coming and going at a rapid pace all day. We are constantly swept away with the traffic in our hectic lives. The goal of mediation is to find a way to teach ourselves to sit on the side of the road once in awhile and just let the traffic go by. Finding the space in your mind where you aren't swept away by the speeding traffic; the space outside or in between the thoughts.
I found the challenge interesting. To sit there and quiet my mind was sometimes so simple and soothing, and other times it was like being trapped in a nightmare trying to get through it... like I was drowning in anxiety within it, but knew I would come out on the other side stronger for having stuck it out. It's obviously not always as easy as it sounds to get out of your own head. It's downright hard. Those times were the ones I found would make me anticipate the next time I did a session because I wanted to get "better" and "stronger" when it came to meditating. The truth is, there is no better or stronger - it's not a competition or a race, it's a personal practice that is just taking time to pay attention to yourself. Andy wasn't going to pass or fail me. He might buy me a latte though, or at least I'd like to think so.
There are amazing apps out there with guided meditations for almost anything you might want to focus on - anxiety, sleep, sports, fear of flying - even sessions specifically for children. It's a cool thing because it's something you can do anytime, anywhere.
Before diving in, I highly recommend a session with a real, live person who can explain and help you to understand the science behind meditation. Local gals, Kristen Antunes and Danica Slattery have started a new venture that allows you to book guided sessions with them in your home, office, or even schools. They can get you started with a single session or meet with you on an on-going basis. Kristen was a wealth of knowledge... plus we talked about our mutual love of doggo memes afterwards, so that was extra awesome. And there was no hand holding or chanting.
So, until my next post, I hope you all find some time to quiet your minds, sit on the side of the road, and watch the traffic go by.