Prior to recently giving meditation the old college try, I didn’t think I was capable of successfully committing to the act. I can’t sit still for longer than a minute without fidgeting or shaking my leg or needing to take a literal and metaphorical stand. I’m constantly processing every worry and fear and stress that exists in my current existence. I’m rarely not working or thinking about working or preparing to begin the working. I simply don’t stop, minus when I’m unconscious, which is why napping is how I often deal with debilitating anxiety. At the very least if I’m knocked out, I can’t panic over a laborious, looming deadline, unless my subconscious takes control and manufactures a whimsically unrealistic narrative in my rem cycle involving high school exams, vampires and that mean manager I had at that crappy serving job once upon a time.
But, even though I was unsure of my ability to achieve meditative bliss, my mental health has been so poor as of late that I’ve been giving every possible aid a solid shot. I’m hoping to quell some of the heart palpitating, nauseating, tiring, sweaty, agitated cerebral unrest that I’ve experienced since my early twenties. I’m finally pursuing the road to brain recovery and meditation was one of the first treatments that I experimented with. Unsurprisingly based on what I’ve read and surprisingly based on who I am, I have concluded that meditation is FUCKING INCREDIBLE. As soon as I began the trip into peaceful ease, I couldn’t go back.
This is why all of the celebs are always like Yeah, you gotta try it. Just try it!” But, honestly, you do… gotta try it, that is. If you’re wondering But why? What is so wildly fabulous about this simple yet powerfully serene eyes-closed, legs crossed sit down? Well, allow me to explain.
It calms the always racing mind
As mentioned above, my medulla oblongata is ready and raring to freak the fuck out at any given moment. It all begins when I construct complicated, fictional tales of predicted doom and despair within my exhausted psyche and then I obsess over said tales until my next nap. And the more I have on my plate, the faster the pace of my distress. Sometimes the origin of the dread is authentic, in that I’ve overbooked myself or the stakes are high or the many tasks at hand are colossal and will require mass amounts of energy. But, regardless, the human noggin was not designed to operate at this speed. It needs time to refuel and take five. Meditating accomplishes that while awake. Afterwards tasks seem less daunting, ˜cause my worst case scenarios aren’t spiralling into disaster. My workload may still be massive, but my frenzy is less.
It encourages full on deep breathing
I recall reading some silly little parable back in the day. It goes: a dude finds a phone booth with a direct line to the big G-O-D. He picks up, dials the operator, and gets an answer. Dude asks G-O-D what he’s meant to do with his life ˜cause he has no clue and it’s super stressing him out and he can’t sleep without knowing and he needs to feel better so please G-O-D TELL HIM WHAT HIS DESTINY IS. And apparently, the old, white, male Christian deity is all Bro. Take a breath and dude follows the instructions and get this… he feels better. WHAT A TWIST! He didn’t need to know after all. He just needed to unwind and inhale some tasty oxygen. It’s magical what deep breathing can achieve in terms of lessening your stampeding fright. Give it a go. Right now. And see what happens. Breathe in for eight seconds and out for 10. Pretty sick, no? Problem is, I don’t typically breathe like this. Not many of us do. We opt for short, nervous breaths in between gulping coffee/booze/Coke Zero. But, meditating requires sweet lung usage.
It energizes the body while releasing tension
An old roommate of mine who was the most passionate meditator I have ever encountered would present his case for the practice non-stop without solicitation. Anyone who stepped foot in our apartment heard about the benefits, including how meditation is more refreshing than afternoon snoozing. As a nap enthusiast, I was skeptical. I agreed that I would often wake from my slumber groggy and disoriented and angry that I couldn’t continue. But there was no way that meditating was more revitalizing than a classic siesta. Well, I don’t say this often folks, if ever, but I was wrong. Wow. I’m shocked too. Meditating somehow does double duty. It works out the kinks in your back with the deep breathing and sitting up straight and puts you in a funky, ’70s-like mellow trance yet when you’re done you feel pumped and ready to change the world.
It trains you to focus on a single activity at a time
I have trouble compartmentalizing, which is a huge contributor to my perennial anxious state of being. It seems impossible to execute a goal if there are seventeen other goals to wrap up simultaneously. Prioritizing is also a challenge and something I struggle with because I usually have multiple projects on the go. I attempt to tackle one to completion without interrupting my flow to begin tackling another, but I fail, a lot, ˜cause focusing is DAMN HARD. Meditation is the ultimate example of focusing. Unlike sleep, which also requires focus but requires zero effort to achieve it. With sleep, as soon as you’re out, you’re definitely out until you’re up again. With meditating you gotta be out while up and that takes persistence. Once you’ve gotten past that hurdle though, you’ll notice that targeting one mission via your job a much smoother process.
It forces you to turn off the internet
As numerous reports say, social media has triggered its own specific type of fun anxiety disorder. In 2016 people have meltdowns over their Facebook presence and by people I mean me (and everyone I know). When I change my profile picture I await getting likes with a level of anticipation that is comparable to a first child being born. And when I don’t get as many likes as the previous profile pic, oh baby, watch out. The rage filled insecurity is going to fly. We are connected to the online world through our phones and our computers and now our watches. When I meditate I forget that hashtags exist. All I feel is my body and my breath. All I hear is the air in the room and the birds doing their thing in the distance. All I see is darkness or more accurately the inside of my eye lids. It’s amazing what 10 minutes of internet absence can do.
It subdues general self-judgement
When meditating your thoughts will wander away from your breath and likely to your long, intimidating, dangerous to-do list that you must begin undertaking STRAIGHT AWAY! You’ll likely also start ruminating about how your body doesn’t look the way you want it to look and how you wish your bank account was more full and how your crush didn’t text you back within 24 hours of you texting them. And then when you realize how preoccupied you are with these varied subjects you may end up criticizing yourself for being so preoccupied, which only damages the situation further. Now you are punishing yourself for punishing yourself. You’re doubling down on the self-punishment. What’s excellent about meditation is it removes that second round of punishment. When you notice yourself drifting in memory, there’s no need to chastise yourself for doing so. You take another breath and shift yourself back into the present moment. You acknowledge those thoughts, you take note of ˜em, and you return to chilling. Let me tell you, it’s pretty liberating allowing yourself to stray without scrutiny. It feels amazing.
It invites productive slowness
Lastly and possibly my favourite aspect of meditation is that it promotes slowing everything down in the most beautiful sense. I’m not talking about being lazy or procrastinating or postponing meetings, I’m talking about not rushing through life without a second to absorb what is happening around you and what is happening to you. Meditation allows you to take a seat and simply exist in the skin you have for a little while. A slow pace is defined differently for everyone and taking five minutes out of your schedule to relax could be a lot, or maybe taking an hour is nothing. Either way, it is a pleasant, welcomed break from the chaos of modern survival.