Previous to traveling to India and Nepal my meditation practice was non-existent.
I had a very vague idea of what meditation was all about, so after taking the advice of a passing traveler, I signed myself up for a meditation and buddhism retreat. To be honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into...
During the retreat we would meditate three times a day and had silent time for much of the remaining hours, including no speaking after 7pm. At first, this feels completely insane. I loved being social, and after coming off of a few weeks of traveling and meeting new people every single day-- I was used to being social!
Fast forward to the end of my meditation retreat-- I was thrilled with my new habits and learnings of Buddhist Philosophy. After the retreat wrapped up, I continued meditating for 20 minutes or more per day. Then, something interesting happened that I could not have predicted...
Two weeks after my daily meditation practice began (and while I was still traveling and adventuring around the world), I was hit with a surge of emotions: unexpected crying, guilt, frustration, and a whole lot of confusion. I knew I should be happy, I was in a beautiful country, finally feeling safe, and experiencing the adventure of a lifetime. What could possibly be making me so upset?
After seeking the advice from the temple monk, I realized that I was suffering with an unhealthy relationship with guilt, people pleasing, and inadequacy. These feelings were suffocating me. I had suppressed these emotions and feelings for years, keeping myself constantly busy. I mean, I was the queen of multiple jobs, school, friends, and favours. I felt like I was never not busy, which was obviously a problem.
We live in a day in age where our busy-ness is seen as a badge of honour.
Why is that?
I learned that living this lifestyle of constant hustle never allowed me to properly deal with my feelings and it forced me to repress my thoughts and feelings until they all came up unexpectedly in Nepal, when I finally slowed down. I have to be honest though, I still struggle with this… however, I am more conscious of when they are starting to arise. It is a daily practice for me to ensure that I deal with emotions daily, as they come up, rather than let them bubble over and seep out of me unexpectedly.
I’m sure you can relate to a time when you ‘blew up’ or ‘broke down’ without warning...
Returning home, I found it challenging to continue my meditation practice. We tend to regress back to being busy. Being distracted. Being multi-taskers. However, in the last couple months I have reintroduced daily meditation-- ranging anywhere from 5 minutes to 25 minutes. Things have improved. I have noticed positive change in my perception and approach to difficult situations, I feel more grounded, and every day I remind myself to be present.
Want to know how I stick to my meditation practice and make it a daily routine?
It’s simple-- a printed calendar on my fridge! Each day I check off that I’ve mediated. Seeing the checkmark motivates me to not break the flow. It may sound too simple to be true, but I suggest trying it (& let me know if you have other tips and trick you use!)
I want to encourage you to explore mediation, if you’ve been curious to try it. Here are some of the positive results I have noticed from incorporating this powerful routine into my life.
- Increased clarity
- Decisions that I make are 100% based on MY needs and not everyone else's
- Learning to say NO or NOT RIGHT NOW when I otherwise would say YES without thinking
- Comfort in scheduling more down-time or alone time (i.e. self-care)
- A better understanding of my inner dialogue
Now, before you start thinking ‘Amy, I don’t have time to sit in a quiet room without kids or family members for 20 minutes everyday’, I want you to imagine your meditation practice integrating into your lifestyle. Sitting on a cushion with your legs folded is NOT the only way to mediate!
Have I convinced you yet? Even if you simply want to TRY a quick meditation and see what it feels like to embrace your thoughts and emotions for a few minutes, I’ll leave you with a few quick tips!
Beginners Guide to Meditating!
Here are some of my tips & tricks…
1. Start simple and build up over time! Rome wasn't built in a day ;)
2. Repressed emotions may surface, that’s normal - feel them, and embrace what you’re feeling
3. Be comfortable: sit in a position (in a chair or on the floor, whatever) that feels good to you. Legs crossed or straight, whatever!
4. Label incoming thoughts: when a thought arises (example: I hate my body) accept it, acknowledge it, and send it away as if you’re able to release it with ease!
5. Concentrate on breath: in, out, in, out -- don’t over complicate it! Try to focus on your breath coming from just below your nose
6. Guided meditations may help you: have you heard of Headspace the App? It’s got hundreds of guided meditations dealing with a range of emotions from food freedom to anxiety to sleep. Have you tried it?