My first experience of meditating was a bit of a baptism by fire. My dad had completed a Vipassana meditation retreat some months earlier and as a poor ‘mature’ student at the age of 21 I’d asked him for some financial help. He helped but he wanted me to go and complete the retreat so I thought it was probably the least I could do and I’m always up for a challenge.
Vipassana is a 10 day retreat where you observe noble silence. The object is introspection so you’re not allowed phones or reading material, music, to exercise, take drugs or alcohol, masturbate, or eat meat, and you’re encouraged not to look anyone in the eye. You get up at 4am to mediate and follow a pattern of meditate, rest, eat, meditate rest, eat until the evening where you are shown a video of the Vipassana founder, SN Goenka who tells you (scarily accurately) what you have been feeling throughout the day.
I’m not going to go into detail about my experience of those 10 days here, I might do another post on that later but I will summarise by saying that it was a very worthwhile endurance test.
I got back into meditation only recently. I was searching for some answers after being fully clouted in the face by the divine 2 x 4 in my romantic relationship. I read ‘The Secret’ followed by ‘The Universe Has Your Back’ and both talked about meditation. It kept popping up in other areas as well; Ray Dalio discusses it in his book ‘Principles’ and people were mentioning it podcasts that I was listening to. There seemed to be a lot of signs pointing me back to meditation so I started again. At that point I hadn’t mediated for over 12 years.
I’m now consistent with my meditation practice; I meditate for 30 minutes most days. Though I do find that if I am having a particularly stressful day I’m better off going for a run or going to the gym as my mind will just be too active and I will find it more frustrating than helpful. On those days, I won’t force my practice. I accept that it’s not the day for meditation and move on.
The biggest benefits that have come from my mediation are as follows;
This has been ‘effortless’. When I say this what I mean is that I put the effort into the mediation and the result is that I just don’t stress out about stuff as much anymore. I find that when situations arise that used to stress me out I have inner space between me and that thing that wasn’t there before. The result is that I don’t react as quickly and I have time to pause and think about my next step.
I’m more accepting of my emotions
I spent a lot of time closed off from my emotions. Meditation has given me the ability to accept what I’m feeling. I don’t have to like it, but I allow myself to experience the emotions as they are without judgement. This means that I can get curious about why I’m feeling what I feel (is it about the present-day situation or is it about something that happened in my past) and that helps me to understand and the majority of the time means that I am more connected to people. Unless they’re being an asshole in which case I move away from them (without judgement ha ha).
I am less reactive
I have a highly stressful job and I used to find myself lurching from one drama to another. Though I still do the best that I can to resolve any challenges that arise and I still show up 100% at work, I just don’t get as emotionally entangled anymore. It is, after all, just a job and I’m not working in life or death situations. In the past I would have thought that this would make me less successful but in fact I am doing a better job; panicking and stressing doesn’t help anything.
I wholeheartedly believe that I have stopped drinking alcohol because I mediate and I feel so much better for it. More about that here.
I eat more mindfully
I am more connected to my body and to food and how that food makes me feel so I tend to avoid eating lots of processed food and feel healthier for it.
I’m more connected
My relationships with my family and friends have improved and I’m more present and connected with them.
I strongly believe that mediation was the catalyst for all positive changes that I have made in my life over the last 12 months. I would highly recommend it to anyone. You don’t need anything to meditate but some people find apps helpful. There are loads out there. There are also a lot of helpful Youtube videos. You can start as small as you like; 5 minutes, 1 minute, 30 seconds… It all helps. Good luck and let me know if you need any support.