Meditation has been a part of my life for over a year and it has changed me in so many ways. It helped me improve my mental and physical health and become a better version of myself.
Since my last post on How I Lost 30 Kg (66 lbs) in 6 months and mentioned the fact that meditation was a big part of it, a lot of people have shown interest in this topic and I figured that I actually have a few things I would like to share!
I started meditating over a year ago as a way to control my anxiety. I have always struggled with anxiety and sometimes even panic attacks and it got me to the point where I just knew I had to make some changes to my lifestyle.
Meditating for a little over 1 year doesn’t make me an expert, but it was a year of a lot of discoveries, and I would like to share what I have learned from it. But first, let’s talk about what meditation really is:
To me, meditation is an effortless effort, it is a state of full relaxation in which you place your focus inwards, whilst being fully awake and alert.
I started by using an app called Headspace, and I think the name of this app couldn’t be more appropriate because meditation is exactly that – headspace!
Meditation is about focusing on yourself and taking the observer role of everything that is within you.
And these are the 5 things I have learned from meditation:
1. Mediation can be different for everyone and have different purposes.
Not everyone has to meditate the same way or use it for the same purpose. Even I don’t meditate the same way every day. As I am more and more in tune with my mind and body I choose what I want to focus on depending on how I feel.
Some of the most common things you can focus on is your breath, the awareness of your body, affirmations, visualisations, mantras, etc. And depending on what the object of your focus is, it can have different benefits, such as health improvement, overcoming anxiety, personal growth, emotional healing, transcending your ego or even diving deeper into spirituality.
As I explained before, I change my focus depending on what I am feeling. If you don’t know how you feel exactly or what you want to achieve from it (it’s not always that straightforward I guess), I think the app – Headspace – is a good way to start as it is all about focusing on your breath and body and being mindful and aware of the present moment. I no longer use this app, as for me it was just a way to get started, but I highly recommend it.
But at the end of the day, you don’t have to have a specific reason or know yet what you are trying to achieve. Just begin and you will soon understand why!
“Meditation is like a gym in which you develop powerful mental muscles of calm and insight” – Ajahn Brahm
2. Silence is Gold!
I actually always heard my mother say this but I never fully understood what it meant or how I could fully take advantage of silence…
In our society, being busy is considered a sign of success. We feel the pressure to always be productive, be social or just be distracted. Even when we want to relax we are compelled to fill in those moments with distractions such as TV, social media, etc. We spend less and less time with ourselves and as a consequence, we don’t know who we truly are.
We define ourselves based on our titles, our achievements and our possessions, but we wouldn’t know who we are if all of that was taken away.
It is OK to do nothing!! It is ok to spend time alone and check in with yourself. For me, meditation is that – ME time – it’s the time of the day when I sit with myself and allow myself to just be – to just be me!
Being in silence and allowing yourself to go within, helps you get more in tune with who you really are, what you really feel and what you really want. Silence helps you to be in the present moment, fully aware of what’s around you and especially also of what’s inside you, without any distractions.
Because of this understanding, I now spend more time in silence, even if I’m not meditating. I enjoy having my cup of tea in silence, or having a meal in silence, etc. This helps me be more present and enjoy those little moments fully.
“Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt” – Sr. Francis de Sales
3. You are not your mind – you begin to understand your own power
Yes, you have power and a lot of it!!
Meditation is a place of detachment from whatever is happening inside you or around you. Whatever you feel right now doesn’t define you or your reality, it is just a temporary movement of your conciseness.
As you meditate and take the observer role, you begin to detach from your own thoughts and even your own emotions. It doesn’t mean you stop having thoughts or feeling emotions, you just understand that you have the choice to not be ruled by them. You and yourself alone have power over your own mind and consequently, over your own life.
We are so often consumed by negative thoughts, we let ourselves focus on the bad things in our lives and feel trapped by situations or the conditioning we have been victims of. But we are not victims, and we don’t have to feel trapped and we don’t have to see things the same way we have always seen.
A lot of the stress and anxiety we feel is not caused by what’s around us, it’s caused by how we choose to react to it, how we let it affect us. And by detaching from your thoughts and emotions you understand that you have the power to react differently, or not react at all!
We may not have power over other people or the things that happened around us, but we have power over ourselves, and that is more than enough!
“The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, its to stop letting them control you” – Anonymous
4. You let go of conditioning – and your ego
This is all a process. As you meditate regularly and spend time focusing within, you become more aware of yourself and who you are. And as a consequence, you begin to understand that it is OK to let go of all of the conditioning.
Throughout our lives, whether we are aware of it or not, we are conditioned. We are conditioned by our parents’ beliefs, by the rules of our society, by what is deemed as acceptable by the communities we are part of. We start to identify with certain groups and we start to walk a path that we believe is our own but it’s really not.
Stop to think: why do you believe the things you believe in? How often did you make a certain decision under the advisement of others or to not disappoint others? How many times did you say yes when you wanted to say no or the other way around?
As you become more aware of how you’ve been conditioned your whole life, you begin to let those conditionings go. You understand that you can still be accepting and respecting of others without having to worry about what they think, so the judgment of others no longer affect you.
Now, the ego is a tricky thing! The ego exists to protect us and it plays its useful part in our lives. But the problem with the ego is that it can become so strong that we identify with it and we begin to live by it.
Every time we feel “attacked” by someone else, or feel the need to “attack” someone else, every time we give in to fear or choose to stay within our comfort zones we are being ruled by our ego. The ego disguises as your thoughts and feelings, it is your desire to be perceived in a certain way, your need for control and an unhealthy confidence booster. But it is just an illusion, it is not who you are.
And as you can see, it is all related. As you detach from your thoughts, your emotions and your conditioning, you also detach from your ego. This doesn’t mean you stop having these things, or that you should discard them all completely, they are there for a reason!! But it means you can choose what to do with them.
“Meditation is not to escape from society but to come back to ourselves and see what is going on. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness, we know what to do and what not to do to help.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
5. Epiphanies and heightened intuition
Sometimes we dwell on certain problems we have or decisions we need to make, only to become more confused. By meditating and giving yourself some headspace, sometimes things just come to you!! This has happened to me so many times…as I start to relax and detach from those thoughts, the answers just came to me!
We often underestimate the power of our intuition, we try to rationalise everything and forget to follow our gut.
Guess what? You know what you want to do, and you know what way you want to go, you just need to give yourself permission to see it. If you think about it, most of the times when you are dwelling on something is because one of the options is what you truly want, and the other is what you think (in your mind) you should want, often due to the conditioning we already talked about.
As long as you are not purposely hurting someone it is ok to follow your heart and trust your intuition. You don’t always have to recur to proof, evidence or reasoning to know what to do, you just need to look within, and that is exactly what meditation is all about.
“The thing about meditation is: You become more and more you.” – David Lynch
“Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.” – Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
I hope this post was the little push you needed in case you were already considering starting meditation. I cannot stress enough how much it has helped me and transformed me and there is still so much more I could say about it!
Please let me know if you do like me to share more and in case you also practice meditation please share in the comments your own learnings.
Thanks for reading!