"Meditation is a method of training our mind, learning about ourselves and radically transforming our very character and way of thinking." ~ The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa
Many of us know the benefits of meditation. It calms our nervous system, helps with depression and anxiety, and reduces stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline; and it can also strengthen our immune system and lower our blood pressure. There is a lot of science behind how meditation can improve our overall health and well-being, and the spirituality in meditation has been around for centuries.
So, why talk about it again now?
I think all of us have been going through major changes in our lives due to the pandemic which has caused a rise in our stress levels. And meditation is a self-care practice that we can all use in our daily lives; and if we are going to find a reason to begin, now is the opportune time! The reason I say this is because meditation has literally changed my life this past year.
I know for me, hearing someone else’s experience with doing something that improves their lifestyle spiritually, physically or mentally inspires me to want to try it. So, maybe my story will be one that inspires you this time.
I have always lived a hectic and worrisome existence, mostly self-induced. I have had situational anxiety and depression, and stress has played an integral part on the deterioration of my health in the past. I have seen what my life has looked like BEFORE daily meditation, and I see what my life looks like AFTER daily meditation. It’s night and day.
Right when Covid-19 started, my teaching job ended. I had been told when I was hired as a long-term substitute in August 2019 that I would be retained as a full time teacher for the remainder of the year, but at the start of second semester, they went with someone 20 years younger because she was cheaper to hire. Basically, I was too expensive and over-qualified.
That was a tough blow for me because I had worked so hard all those years as a teacher, and even before that with my education; and in one instant, my worth was reduced to very little in the eyes of my school administrator. This made me very angry! It was just unfair. In my opinion, teaching had become an institution that wanted to hire inexperienced educators over keeping experienced ones, and that was a bitter pill to swallow.
The stress of not having a job wreaked havoc on my physical body. I was struggling internally. I did not have peace of mind and I was anxious about everything! How was I going to make money? What was I going to do for a career now? I had to build up my own self-worth somehow.
It reminded me again of all those years of teaching where I would wake up in pain or come down with some illness because my immune system was weakened from stress. I literally would be a hamster in a cage wheel, running through the work week exhausted and stressed, and then I would collapse on the weekends to rest, recover and recharge, just to do it all over again.
So, remembering how my body responded to teaching, I took this as a divine sign that it was time to quit teaching and take care of me. Again this setback was actually a detour to something more beautiful.
For the first time in my life, I actually felt free because Covid-19 put the world on pause, not just me. I didn’t feel the pressure to get moving and start looking for a new job right away. I was able to slow down and just let myself be in the moment.
So, I made it a habit to start meditating first thing in the morning. I was always reading self-help articles, blog posts and books, so learning about it all was what I did at first. Then, I put that learning to daily practice. I began listening to guided meditations from Deepak Chopra and I enrolled in a 21-day meditation challenge with Gabby Bernstein.
As soon as I would wake up, I would not go on social media or look at emails/messages. I would just open up Deepak’s Guided Morning Meditation in YouTube. The key components were focusing and visualizing a joyful, energetic body; loving, kind heart; alert and reflective mind; and lightness of being.
After I started doing this just 10 minutes a day, my practice grew deeper. I started focusing on gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation for all that I did have in my life. I would visualize a shower of white light flowing down through my body from the top of my head. I would imagine a white, gold light circling my entire body and I would see my soul (my heart space) radiate pink, white and gold light.
Many years ago, my acupuncturist told me to practice the white light all around me visualization, so it was easy to incorporate it into my routine. You can do what’s best for you, but I do think it’s highly powerful and peaceful.
As time went on, my meditation grew to be up to 30 minutes each morning. And I continued doing meditation any time of the day when I was stressed or anxious. I would use whatever tools I could get my hands on and it brought me a great deal of calm in my life. I also made sure to work out every day which was a luxury I didn’t have when I was teaching. Exercise always helped me to de-stress too, and the combination of both practices really helped me stay focused on my well-being.
Spiritual prayer is also a type of meditation I do, but, I think what transformed my inner being, was the gratitude part of mediation and the quieting of the mind. I think it’s when we quiet the mind that we can actually hear our intuition and guidance clearly.
There is so much to talk about with meditation, but I will say that before I started my practice, I was worried about what was going to happen next, even with prayer. And now, after having meditated for a full year consistently, I can say that I start every day with a sense of peace that I never had before.
I think that Covid-19 was actually a blessing for me because it forced me to slow down. I did all the things that brought me joy that I didn’t have as much time for in the past. And I think that is the formula for a bountiful life.
I truly believe meditation and self-care is about balance, joy, peace, and love. When we take the time to put our health and wellness first, we are showing ourselves love and respect.
What self-care practice will you start today? I hope that whether it’s through meditation, exercise, eating well or just finding happiness in the present moment, that you find your own balance, inner peace, joy and love.