I live in my head, not in my body. Rather than inhabiting actual space and time, I construct my own reality in my mind.
I’ve struggled my entire life with being mindful and living in the present moment. I was in one long, continuous daydream from 1990 to 2010. I remember hanging out with my friends in grade school on the playground and on field trips, and rather than having fun with them in the moment, I would be zoned out in a daydream. In high school I kept my nose in a book, escaping to different worlds as often as possible. And I spend the majority of my 20s blindly busting my rump to achieve a goal, never stopping to ask myself if it was best for me or if I really even wanted to achieve it.
It wasn’t until an excruciating break-up in my late 20s that I was prompted to finally wake up and acknowledge for the very first time that I was cruising along on autopilot, sleep-walking through my life. I was completely disengaged from my true self and my real hopes and dreams and desires.
After this wake-up call, it quickly became clear that I didn’t have any idea who my true self was. I had no idea what my true hopes and dreams and desires were because I’d been so busy doing what I thought I was supposed to do — trying to please everyone else.
I had completely lost sight of myself.
I knew that I had to make some major changes and some hard decisions. And, most importantly, I had to figure out who the heck I really was…who I was beneath all of the people-pleasing and blind ambition and self-defeating beliefs and lies that I’d been telling myself to compensate for what I knew in my heart to be true: that I wasn’t living anything even remotely resembling my best life.
So I started meditating every day.
I was a bit skeptical at first. I had always that thought that meditation was a bit hokey. But, you guys, it’s NOT. It’s just breathing…focused breathing. It’s creating a tiny window of space in your life to eliminate all distractions and just be still. It’s giving yourself an opportunity to inhabit your body and get out of your head. It’s learning how to listen for and tune into that intuition or that still small voice that guides you through life and always has your best interest at heart. So for someone like me, who had completely lost touch with that part of herself, this was the answer.
There are many different techniques and methods for meditating, but what worked best for me was just sitting still and focusing on my breathing. I started carving 10 minutes out of my day, usually in the morning, to sit in a quiet, comfortable place with no distractions and just breathe. Deep breath in through the nose. Long exhale through the mouth. Repeat. As I focus on my breathing, I also start to become aware of my thoughts. I just let the thoughts come and let them go, and eventually my mind becomes still. Sometimes I bring my attention to different parts of my body, just to check in with myself. It’s amazing that I sometimes don’t even realize that my shoulders are tensed, or there’s a dull ache in my leg until I stop and pay attention to my body.
Over time, as I continued to meditate, things began to change. I began to trust my instincts more. I began to acknowledge my own preferences and I began to recognize self-limiting beliefs that I had carried with me since childhood that were no longer serving me.
But the most important thing that meditation has taught me is that the constant stream of thoughts and negative self-talk that had been roaring through my head for the better part of my life are not the real me. There is so much more to me than those thoughts, and I have the power to control them. I have the power to choose what I focus on, how I view myself, and how I respond to the world around me. Before I started meditating, this had honestly never occurred to me. I had always just assumed that those vicious thoughts were the truth.
I vividly remember the first time this dawned on me. I had attended an event, and after it was over, before I even made the short walk to my car, I was spiraling out of control, drowning in shame and embarrassment over something stupid I had done. I was re-playing it over and over in my mind when, like a light bulb turning on, I realized that I was the one making myself miserable. Not the situation. Not the other people who had witnessed my actions. My thoughts about the situation were the only thing keeping me in misery. So I let them go. Just like that. I decided to think about something positive and I CHOSE in that moment to be happy.
The choice to be happy is ours; we just have to make it. And meditation helps us do that.
What are some other benefits of meditation?
1. It increases mindfulness, helping us to live in each moment without blame or resistance.
2. It helps us to recognize instinctive habits and choose a different response.
3. It helps us to be more accepting of people and situations and realize that the only thing we have control over is our own response.
4. It improves concentration and fosters clearer thinking.
5. Reduces anxiety and stress.
6. Improves overall health.
Maybe you are in a similar situation that I found myself in when I realized I wasn’t living my best life. Maybe you devote so much of yourself to your children and your family and your work and other obligations that you have lost sight of the woman you used to be, the one who had dreams and goals for herself. Or maybe your children are older and you feel a bit lost now that they don’t require as much of your time and attention as they once did. Or perhaps you are genuinely happy with your life just as it is and you simply want to deepen your connection with yourself and improve your health.
Whatever your situation, I promise, it is not selfish or self-indulgent to sneak 10 minutes of your day to devote to finding yourself again.