You become what you consistently practice. So practice what you want to become.
1. Make friends with your Mind
Rather than trying to force thoughts out and berating myself for the monkey that seemed to have moved in permanently to my mind, I decided to give meditation a go.
OK, so that’s not the whole truth. My reality at the time was that I was medicated to the hilt for depression and anxiety and with no more increases in doses an option, and desperate to not go back to where I had been without the meds, I was backed into a corner and realized I was out of ‘outside in’ options and it was time to give the much-lauded benefits of the ‘inside out’ work of meditation a go.
I don’t know where it came from or who said it but I had a belief at the time that meditation was about clearing the mind of all thoughts, of making it quiet. This appealed to me very much! AND it led me to think (those pesky thoughts again) that there must be something very wrong with me because I couldn’t do that. I remember trying to convince my teacher that they just didn’t understand, that my mind was so much busier and noisier than any other human beings and that this practice of mediation was never going to work for me. As a result, I believed for a long time that I couldn’t meditate. And wound up thinking I was just not destined to have the serene, calm and balanced life of those souls I saw crossed legged on the mats. Once again, those pesky thoughts and limiting self-beliefs.
I smile as I write this. That was 6 years ago and the journey I have been on has seen meditation, yoga and breathwork become part of my personal and work life. I now have the privilege of sharing with others the teachings that brought me here. I love it! Meditation is now as much a part of my self-care regime as taking a shower and brushing my teeth.
So, what changed? I found a patient teacher who sounded like they were in my head making sense of all the stuff I hadn’t quite managed to put in to words yet. I came to understand that I couldn’t meditate UNLESS I had a busy monkey mind. Because without the mind getting distracted and running away with thoughts of ‘oh gosh, did I remember to turn the oven off?’ or ‘will I grab lunch here after or stop at that great deli on the way home’ then there is no ‘coming back’. And mediation is all about coming back. Coming back to the breath, coming back to the sensations in the body, coming back to the voice guiding you, coming back to the awareness that you have drifted off into thought.
Think of it like going to the gym in your mind and each time you bring the mind back you are lifting a weight. We don’t want to go straight for the strong man dumb bells and we don’t want to go for the lightest either. We want to choose the one that feels right, even feels good for us at the time. It may be mindfulness mediation, it maybe guided mediation or metta mediation, body scan mediation or transcendental meditation. Listen to your body and your mind and do the one that feels good for you. Not the one your mates are raving about or the one your yoga teacher prescribed. Find the one that you want to keep going back to. Start small. Five minutes a day done consistently over time brings transformation. Rather than berating your mind, make friends with it. Listen to what it wants in a meditation practice and stick with that.
2. Change in perspective
Perspective is everything! Change your perspective and you change your reality. Seeing meditation as a treat, as something that I could look forward to each day started to shift how I was showing up. It stopped being something to tick off my to-do list that I needed to try harder at and get better at. I was shown by dear friend and mentor the magic of ‘maitri’ which is loving friendliness for self. Talking to myself, thinking about myself and believing in myself as I would do a beloved friend. Wow! That transformed how I approached my mat and how I sat in my practice on the mat.
3. Find a mantra, a phrase for your practice
Two years into my practice my healing was well underway. I was off all medications and I was coming out of adrenal fatigue. My nervous system was still dysregulated and when I chose to pack up my life and move to country, I experienced a resurgence in anxiety and needed to adapt my practice. With hindsight this was such a gift as it saw me bring my practice off the mat and into my daily life.
I was guided to mantra, words or phrases that are repeated over and over again. While silent meditation is said to space from the thoughts that are no longer serving us, mantra is said to actually dissolve the unconscious programming of the mind.
I chose a mantra from metta or loving kindness meditation as it spoke to me. Our body will tell us what it needs to heal, we just need to learn how to hear it. When I hear these words and started to repeat them, it felt like coming home, it felt like I had always known these words and had just forgotten them till now.
“May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be safe. May I be at ease.”
Whenever I became aware that my thoughts were taking me away from balance and into anxiety, I would chant this. At first drowning out the other thoughts and in time replacing them. It is true that our thoughts create our life so having a practice that can reframe and upgrade our thoughts so that they create calm and balance, rather than distress is a wonderful thing!
Every time we come back to meditate, we are creating new neuro pathways in the brain, we are repatterning and reprograming the endocrine and nervous systems. We are changing ourselves from the inside out. We are opening ourselves to new possibilities and a new way of thinking and behaving. Meditation is a practice that transforms us and it starts with just 5 minutes a day. And remember, it is just that. A practice.
You might want to read “Let the Super Power of Sadhana Rocket your Recovery into the 5th Dimension”