The first time that I had ever heard of meditation, I was 17 years old and sitting in my Tuesday afternoon therapy session when she recommended I enroll in a class to start to sort through my emotions and be more “present” with them. Originally, I scoffed at the idea, automatically characterizing it as some silly trend that would probably die off in a couple of months, a money-making tactic if anything, for so-called “wellness professionals” to profit off of. Plus, I wasn’t broken or in need of fixing, and I certainly was not going to buy into the bullshit of it all, so I likely rolled my eyes as I walked into my first meditation class.
When I entered the room, I was surrounded by a group of people, who were all at least 20 years older than me. Almost immediately I noticed the age gap. I wondered what I could possibly share in common with these people when we were at completely different points in our lives. But as I listened to their stories of serving in the military, strained relationships with their children, and marriage problems, I began to develop a more empathetic and open heart. Maybe I could not relate to them on such a specific level, but we were all just humans going through this crazy little thing called life together and we shared that commonality. I originally did not want to speak up in the group, as my breakup with my first boyfriend clearly lacked importance in the long run compared to their stories, but that’s where I could not have been more wrong. Meditation has not only taught me how to be a more effective listener but has shown me that no one’s problems or pain are “worse” than another. We all struggle in different ways and heal at our own paces, but it is what you do with that pain that leaves the greatest impact on the life we want to create.
To begin, I must say that meditation is typically a highly emotional experience as it involves noticing your feelings and learning inner truths about yourself and how you process. To feel is an essential part of the human experience, but this practice teaches you to notice any defenses or reactions your body and mind may have to explore your emotions. Meditating gives you the opportunity to slow down and really feel it all because, in reality, the mind will likely not stop wandering. Really leaning in and experiencing them in their entirety allows you to notice the feeling and not be so quick to judge or label it as one thing or another. But also, being okay with and noticing any judgment if it arises can help take the blame off of yourself and allow you to accept, heal, and move on. It involves being gentle with yourself and just letting it be and pass through without the need to fix it right away, because contrary to popular human belief, we don’t have to try so hard to remove these feelings of discomfort from our mind, avoid it, and “just get over it.”
After a year and a half long hiatus, I decided to return to the practice again this past summer as a treatment for PTSD, working privately with a meditation coach. When I first began meditating again, these negative emotions came quite frequently when I would sit and meditate, and to my original frustration, made me question why I was even doing it at all? Sitting alone in silence with yourself can be the most terrifying, but also the most liberating experience. I really dreaded it for a while because I did not want to face the unpleasant nature of my feelings, but as I began to build consistency with my routine, I realized I was beginning to see the world in a different light.
How I am feeling and where I’m at right now are only temporary. This too shall pass and I am more than strong and capable enough to handle whatever may arise.
I realized that I didn’t have to change anything about what I was feeling or who I was, I could just recognize my thoughts and allow them to pass through freely, sort of like clouds in the sky. Meditation isn’t always pleasant, and sometimes feelings of discomfort or negative feelings from the past arise, and that is more than okay. Meditation reaffirmed my inner strength and taught me that while I cannot control the way other people act, that at the end of the day, I will always have my own back and that no one can ever take that away from me.
Shortly after, I quickly learned there were several ways to meditate, and I began to incorporate it into my daily routine- at camp, on walks, even lying in bed at night. Even if I found it seemingly impossible to calm my mind, I could at any point, take a moment to feel how my foot felt against the surface I was standing on and just bring myself back to the present.
When walking to activities, I tried my best to be careful of my pace. I know I won’t really be mindful all of the time, but taking note of these seemingly simple things has drastically improved my quality of life because it allows me to lean into my actions and really gain that awareness of how I am moving and existing throughout the world.
As humans, we are so immersed in overloading our schedules in hopes of productivity and success that we often operate in autopilot mode without even realizing it. When I would meditate, I noticed the ways in which I was unintentionally storing trauma in the body, as I noticed my tightened chest and clenched fists. Realizing that I possessed the ability and power to suspend judgment or control about things that no longer served me changed my life, which inspired me to start an Instagram account @mindfullybecs to share my love of this practice with the world and show other people how powerful and badass taking back your power and finding your inner peace can be. After weeks of planning and promoting, I held my first meditation class over Thanksgiving break centered around gratitude, and plan to lead even more in the future!
I don’t need to be saved or fixed, and I never did. I know I won’t always let myself believe these things so easily and that some days, I’ll have to dig beneath the surface and really search for them, but whenever I want, I can always reset, center, and consciously choose to not let these distorted thoughts determine my reality or control me, and that is truly magical. My breath will always be there waiting for me, but most importantly, I will always be there waiting for me. Even amongst my most overwhelming, intense, and ugly thoughts, I am still breathing, connected to my body, and I am still me. I am still in my body and more aware of its movements, sensations, impulses, and reactions, and I will always have that to fall back on when I feel most trapped or disconnected from myself. Regardless of what your life has been like, it has all guided you to this moment, and I am proud of all of us for fighting to get here.