Two weeks ago I started meditating seriously for the first time. I’ve stumbled around the idea for years but I’ve never actually tried. Maybe one half-hearted session here or there, but nothing substantial that could possibly have had an affect. Then I started seeing a councillors who asked me what I thought I could do to help relieve stress and anxiety. I told her meditation. She asked why I’d never done it if I knew the answer. I had absolutely no answer for her.
So she gave me my first homework assignment. Meditate a little bit every day for a short time. Even a few minutes, as long as it’s every day. ‘But here’s the catch!’ she said quickly. ‘I know who you are and I know you’re going to work hard at this. Don’t! Don’t try to be good at meditation or do it right. There’s no such thing. Just let it go’. That advise turned out to be the key for me.
I’m an overachiever, so my ‘little bit’ every day turned into twice a day for at least twenty minutes. I lay in bed because sitting felt uncomfortable, and I really set myself up to do it right. I dimmed the lights, set me intentions to really give this a go, and told myself that I wasn’t going to do this right anyway so there was no use getting frustrated as my mind wanders.
I was surprised at how gentle it turned out to be. I’m so used to working hard for everything. I thought this would feel the same way. But I wasn’t at all. Once I started breathing and listening to the guiding voice, it was very gentle and soothing. I let my mind settle, I focused on calm, and when thoughts came into my head I acknowledged them and then gently let them drift away.
Something funny happened to me after I started meditating. My first session (a guided meditation from an app my councillor recommended) left me feeling calm and relaxed. I went to bed a short while later ready for a good, restful sleep. I feel quickly into a gentle slumber and slept all night. Unfortunately the next morning I woke up from a strange dream feeling stressed and uncertain. So I sat down and did another meditation, eager to find that calm again.
Afterward this session, along with the calm and relaxation, came something else. I couldn’t explain it at the time. I simply looked at my day and couldn’t face going to work. I just couldn’t face it. Luckily I can work from home without missing a step, so I did. I got everything done and sort of stayed around the house without any real purpose. I tried to watch TV but it didn’t interest me. I wrote in my new meditation journal (another councillor recommendation) and wrote how I felt after my meditation. I felt calm. I’d meditated for 20 minutes. I felt relaxed. But I didn’t feel good. I even ordered a large pizza with extra cheese for dinner, which is my go-to depression food. But I didn’t feel depressed.
That night I had a long hot bath and meditated again. The next morning went about the same way. I was calm, I felt better than I had in a long time when it came to stress and anxiety, but there was something…. else. It took me three days of staying inside sort of just being around before I recognized the feeling. I felt sad.
It was strange when I finally had that ‘ah-ha’ moment. It was saturday, and I actually stopped walking when it hit me. Sad. I never really feel sad, not like this. Or at least I’ve never really noticed it. And even stranger, I felt relieved, like figuring it out made total sense and I was excited to feel sad. And I was!
It feels like I have this ball of something way down low, a mix of emotions and stress I’d pushed down and down until I had no idea what was down there. Each emotion is there like a piece of rice paper, all pressed together. When I peeled up the first layer with my meditation, this slow, dull sadness drifted up. And I felt so impossibly excited that I’d released something from down there.
I also learned that I have no idea what’s down there.
Week two was a little harder. My dedication wavered and I went a full day without meditating. It was funny how the anxiety started again, like an old friend you don’t really like seeing. I see now that my anxiety comes from not listening. I feel something, ignore it, and my anxiety builds up because there’s something important happening inside me that I simply push away.
After only two weeks I’ve learned so much about myself! I thought of meditation as another band-aid. I’ll meditate to fix the stress issue. But what’s happening is the meditation is helping me figure out all the real issues, and stress is being taken care of as a result.
Reminder that this is two weeks in. Another update will come soon!
And for all those people who want to try, the app is called Insight Timer and there is a free version!! The icon is white with a little cold bowl. Here’s the link: https://insighttimer.com/