"We don't meditate to get good at meditation, we meditate to get good at life"
I love this expression, because for me it rings so true; for every delicious, blissful, calming experience, there’s usually another one right around the corner that can be agitating or boring, and quite frankly I can’t wait for it to be over!
(Apologies, I’m probably not making it very tempting right now, am I?)
However everyday regardless, I still hit that meditation chair without fail. So, what gets me motivated?
As one of my own teachers tells me, it’s not what happens when your meditating that matters, it’s what happens when your eyes are open that's of real importance.
How are you showing up to everyday life?
Even though it’s an age old practice, meditation has become a bit of a buzz word lately, and there’s good reason. We have so much scientific research now for why it’s good for you; increasing happiness, reducing stress, improved wellbeing, clarity and focus, which is all true and valid.
However, I’ve noticed that most of the articles I’ve read are quite clinical and practical, and I thought about how much it had changed my life for the better, realising I’ve never shared my own perspective, and what it’s done for me which has been truly remarkable.
I hope some of what I've discovered resonates with you and can inspire you to give it a go.
I too once thought that “I can’t meditate”, "I think too much to meditate" and "I don't have time to meditate".
I've been meditating on and off for the past 15 years with varying degrees of what I judged at the time as good or bad meditations. However, I seriously started a regular practice about 5 years ago when I first moved to Copenhagen and went to their meditation centre, where a beautiful Irish Buddhist teacher with a wicked sense of humour, had a way of making meditation relatable. His humility and ability to find the fun in life’s difficult moments resonated with me.
He set me on a path that pretty much changed me forever, studying further to learn mindfulness mediation, Vedic meditation, and also to certify as a teacher myself.
In experimenting with different forms over the years, I’m not sure it really matters where you start, for me personally I highly recommend just jumping in and giving it a go, without having too much expectation of what it should be like, or self-judgement of the experience.
How my life changed for the better:
I’m more present with my feelings. I’m able to acknowledge them, rather than push difficult or uncomfortable emotions away. They still may take some time to resolve, but allowing them to be there, investigating why I feel that way, and then nurturing myself through the experience, whatever that may take, helps them move through quicker.
I live (more) in the moment. The old “being present” chestnut! While it’s easier said than done not to reflect on the past or imagine the future, I’m definitely better at it than I used to be. I’m more grateful for what I do have right now and appreciate the simple things a lot more.
I know myself better and what I want out of life. I’m able to create better boundaries with situations, habits and people that I know aren’t healthy for me and my state of mind, in order to create more of what I do want. It’s not always easy to let go, but because I’m happier within myself, I value myself more, and I’m able to move forward with reasonable ease, feeling positive and optimistic.
I get insights during meditation that I may have overlooked, and I’ve been able to recognize old patterning. One recently arose after 16 years, where I was stunned to discover I’d rewritten history in my mind, to squash down a painful comment from someone I loved. That one sentence that I’d pushed inside my subconscious, had led to common threads in my relationships over the years without me even realizing, and now I can finally see it and begin to live in a different way.
So yeah, tough stuff comes up and I should put the caveat on, that what you experience isn’t always pleasant; but if you’re looking for a way to truly create internal change and healing, meditation in my belief can fast track you to greater self-awareness and growth. For me personally, it's done more than a therapist ever could.
I am generally happier. Even though life can sometimes be difficult, I'm more positive and see the best in life; I pick myself up quicker if I get down.
I’m calmer, grounded and more even keeled day to day. My stress levels are reasonably low compared to what they were in the past, which was very extreme at times.
I’m more creative, ideas flow more easily, and I have more confidence in their worth. I also trust myself and my ability more.
I’m braver than I ever was before, with the increase in confidence it’s leading me to put myself out there in new ways.
I get more done, and I feel more productive. I multi-task less which keeps my energy more directed, worry less, and my concentration is definitely more focused.
I don’t buy into the story. I used to get overwhelmed, not only by my own stories, but by others stories as well. You know the heading down the rabbit hole scenario….. I know we’ve all done it at times, but I was a champion at it, and having a strong tendency for empathy meant I took on the issues of those closest to me.
Now I can see things with perspective, still be caring, listen and be there for the ones I love; however, they don’t become my own problems or undoing.
Likewise, things I may have taken weeks or months to get over, usually can now pass through in a few days because I allow myself to deal with them in a healthier way. I also take the time to care for myself through difficult times, plus I look for the positive in most situations. Even if I can’t see it right in the moment that something happens, within a few days I’m normally looking at the brighter side.
I'm less of a people pleaser and I don’t care (as much) about what others think of me. Now I don’t know anyone that isn’t somewhat effected by others opinions of them, but I’ve realized that not everyone is going to connect with what I have to say, or that they're going to like me, and I’ve become more accepting of that. The ones that don’t, aren’t probably the right fit for my business or personal life, and it helps me to be less fearful about putting myself out there.
I’m more compassionate to myself and to others. Even when I find myself speaking a little negatively towards myself, I’m usually able to notice it and stop before it gets out of hand. We’re always hardest on ourselves right! However the kinder we can be toward ourselves, the more that flows out to the people around us.
I really live by the adage these days that “everyone is doing the best they can, that we are all the same, and we all want to be happy”. It helps me see people in a kind light and I look for the good, rather than the bad. Some may see that as a touch naïve, but I’d rather live that way than the cynical side of life.
I have greater awareness not only of myself but of what's going on around me. This is a tricky one to describe, but it's like I've gone from tunnel vision to a much more expanded view of my space, I see things that I would never have used to because I'm naturally paying much more mindful attention.
Life (and meditation) is still a constant journey, I learn every day, I grow every day, shit still happens, I make mistakes, and life still throws curveballs; but I've developed a way to deal with it that makes me feel like the challenges are more like lessons to help me have a greater understanding of others, the world and myself. And I also have to say as things go in general I’m a pretty happy, calm and grounded person these days.
Meditation is by no means a cure all, but it does change you, my belief is for the better; especially if you stick with it over time. Like anything it’s practice, and like building a muscle, you go to the gym to look good in your jeans; you meditate to have a more focused mind, and a better outlook on life.
Give it a go! There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain!