I took a meditation course in June 2016 because I was determined to find some inner peace. At the time, I often found myself stressed out and extremely anxious about the future. This would sometimes result in excruciating bouts of back tension that would put me out of commission for a good 36 hours at a time. Some days I would feel slightly depressed. I was tired of it. My attempts to quiet my very active mind by focusing on my breath and “clearing my thoughts” had given me a little bit of relief, but I suspected there was a better way. I turned to meditation.
In my course, I learned a mantra-based style of meditation. It is simple and very easy to learn. You silently repeat a mantra (generally a Sanskrit word) to yourself for fifteen minutes twice a day. The repetition of the mantra has the positive side effect of quieting the mind without putting any direct effort into “not thinking.” I have found it to be the most relaxing, mood-balancing and pain-relieving tool I have ever come across. It works beautifully by taking the body from “fight or flight” to “stay and play”, a place I am really loving these days.
In very basic terms, most of us raised in Western cultures have overdeveloped left brains - the side responsible for linear thinking, doing and achieving - which leads us to be continually stressed out. Meditation activates the right brain - responsible for holistic thinking, creativity and being - and brings us back to balance.
The first few months of meditation were hard for me. The relaxation effect of the practice has a way of dissolving tension (which consists of unprocessed emotions) from the body. You feel the emotions as the tension is released. I did a lot of sleeping and occasional crying. On the bright side, this process helped me to become much more aware of the situations that triggered me to tense up. I learned to take it easier and do a little bit less. At the same time, things started to flow much more easily in my life, because I was calmer and more present.
If you meditate consistently, it takes between seven and ten years to release a lifetime of accumulated stress from the body, but the first few months are by far the most intense. It’s much more easy going after that. I’m two and a half years into my practice, and I feel rarely stressed and hardly ever depressed. I have much more energy; I no longer have those horrible bouts of back pain, and I have a feeling I am generally much more patient and nicer to be around. So the rest of the world is benefiting too!
Practicing meditation has been absolutely life-changing, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Below are a couple of resources for anyone who would like to try it, including my personal favorite - Emily Fletcher’s online course. For help with processing difficult emotions, I also love Vijaya Nair’s “Inner Peace” exercise from the Gaia app.
Mantra-based meditation courses:
Emily Fletcher - zivameditation.com
Tools that offer a variety of guided meditations:
Gaia and Headspace apps
The Omega Institute’s YouTubeChannel