Throughout my childhood, there were certain words of advice that my father enjoyed sharing with me on a regular basis. “Don’t let anyone walk in your mind with their dirty shoes” was his response when I told him I had been teased by the boys at school. “Just do your best” was his typical pep talk for when I had a piano recital, and “Focus!” was his word of choice when I had to prepare for an important exam.
One day, when I was in eighth grade, I came downstairs to have breakfast before school and he was already at the table reading the paper and drinking his coffee. He asked me if I was ready for my upcoming mathematics exam and I confessed that I was a bit nervous because math was never a subject which came as easily to me as languages and humanities.
“You better get focused,” he said.
Being that I was a teenage girl, I most likely rolled my eyes as I replied, “You always say that.”
“Well then, do it.”
“How would you like me to focus?”
“You need to start meditating.”
I asked him what he meant by meditating and he said that I should come downstairs fifteen minutes earlier every morning and sit at the table in silence with my eyes closed. When I asked him how that would help me, he said that I wouldn’t feel nervous about my math exam because I would realize that I had all the answers inside myself and the capability of discovering them. The key, he added, was to stay focused.
It would be great if I could say that meditating every morning for the final months of junior high had led to a lifelong practice, but like most things your parents introduce you to during your adolescence, I rejected it as something obligatory, unnecessary, and worst of all to my teenage mind, uncool. I spent the next twenty years reading articles about meditation and even purchased several books, but despite learning about its many benefits, I never managed to fit it into my daily routine. Something always stopped me from making the time and space to just be still.
Why did I resist meditation for so long?
It wasn’t the time. It’s never the time. If you can find thirty minutes to check your Instagram feed, you can find thirty minutes to close your eyes and breathe. What it really came down to was the four-letter word that keeps most of us from implementing simple, yet radical changes in our lives — FEAR.
I was afraid to let go, afraid of the blank slate, afraid of trying to slow down my ever-racing mind. I was terrified of being alone with my body, just me, myself, and I.
What would I find at the core of my being? What if I didn’t like what I saw?
As someone who always liked doing everything “just right,” I was afraid of failing.
What if I couldn’t stop thinking? What if I was no good at quieting my mind?
It wasn’t until last year as a result of my life coaching course that I was able to put my fear aside and give meditation a try. I was getting ready to go out one morning while listening to an interview with health and wellness coach Claire Obeid. She described herself as a “nervous little bunny” before she started meditating on a regular basis. At this point she says meditation is like “brushing her teeth,” something so automatic that she couldn’t think of a day without it. At the time, I myself was struggling with my own anxiety and a constant tension that manifested itself as an ever tightening knot in my stomach.
Meditation was the beginning of the knot’s unraveling.
After listening to the interview, I went to Obeid’s website and immediately purchased her 21-day meditation program. It was a series of guided meditations with a downloadable workbook to record your thoughts and reflections after each practice. Following this program was key for me because it got me in the habit of meditating every day, and the fifteen minutes of listening to her voice and the sound of my breath went by faster than I ever could have imagined.
During this time, I was also reading books like The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks and The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, both of which emphasize the importance of meditation when setting yourself up to accomplish big goals. That motivated me to keep going, and after finishing Obeid’s guided meditations, I started experimenting with music and meditating to audio tracks on YouTube. On days when I was feeling weak, I would listen to Om on repeat. On days when I was feeling tense, singing bowls would settle my nerves. When I was feeling sad or overwhelmed, crashing waves would get me out of my funk.
|Taking a moment to meditate at the bus stop.|
Suddenly, I was looking forward to sitting on my meditation cushion with my headphones in, disconnecting from the world while reconnecting with myself for thirty minutes every day.
It wasn’t until after I had meditated several months with music or another person’s voice that I was finally comfortable with meditating on my own; just me, my body, my breath. Now meditation is not only part of my everyday routine, it’s an invaluable tool for feeling safe, grounded, and as my father would say, focused. The knot in my stomach has come undone. The surrender that I so longed for just a year ago has come to pass, and I’ve realized that the feeling of security that I was desperately seeking was within me the whole time.
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