“I shut my eyes in order to see.” This quote by Paul Gauguin explains how meditation changed my life. It’s that simple…or not. Just shut your eyes and you will start to see within yourself.
Throughout my thirties I felt like a machine. A well oiled machine at first, efficient and productive. I was building my career as Vice President at a marketing agency, raising my newborn son, training for my first marathon, decorating my new home and still leading the glamorous life with grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning the toilet and all the daily necessities to hold my life together. I was living the American dream.
But over time the stress started to build. My career was extremely demanding and the work-life pendulum was stuck to the left. When the agency I worked for got bought out, the stress soared even higher. I can recall working on presentations on the baseball field as my son played Little League. I wasn’t fully present for anyone. Migraine headaches were commonplace and I demanded higher doses of prescription pills to ward off the pounding in my head. Back pain sent me to the hospital. My doctor wrote a note for medical leave (which I ripped up as soon as I left her office). As my husband explained, “something was going to break…my health…our marriage…”
If you told me then that I would be teaching meditation one day, I would never have believed you. In fact, I’m quite certain I would have laughed. Hysterically. It’s not that I didn’t believe in meditation. In fact, I had practiced meditation as a kid and in my twenties. I would have laughed because I was so stressed out, so full of anxiety and so utterly “un-zen”… the thought of me teaching any peaceful practice was unbelievable. Laughable. A cruel joke. I was the poster girl for anxiety, not peace.
Yet here I am today, guiding and teaching meditation. I feel honored to be sharing this practice. There isn’t one day that I dread driving to “work.” I get particularly excited to teach people who are new to meditation. I get excited because I know they have the potential to change their life for the better.
Most researchers use 8 weeks when studying the benefits of meditation. Some people start to feel the benefits sooner while it takes a bit longer for others. However, 8 weeks is a proven time period and I have even had students tell me this is when they really started to notice a turnaround. For myself, I felt the benefits of a calmer, more peaceful mind from day one. It only got better from there. Close my eyes, focus on my breath, and feel better. I was hooked.
The benefits started with a calmer, more peaceful mind. When meditating, you can’t stop the mind from thinking. However, you can interrupt the thoughts. As I meditated, I started to experience just a second in time that would go by without a thought. Then two seconds…then three. I was experiencing the silence between all the chatter. Some people say you experience your soul when you meditate-- the most peaceful, blissful aspect of yourself. Perhaps this is what was happening to me. Perhaps not. It really didn’t matter. I felt more peaceful... that was what mattered.
Then the benefits began to expand. With less stress, I noticed I wasn’t as reactive. I didn’t yell as much. My body wasn’t shaken with every car that cut in front of me, with every dish left in the sink, with every time someone didn’t agree with my ideas. I started to become more responsive and less reactive. And there was such power to this new found ability. Think about it. Do you really want to give your energy to something as insignificant as being cut off in traffic? There is power in deciding how you want to respond instead of haphazardly giving away your energy.
As I started to become more responsive instead of reactive, I started to become more aware of my awareness. And as I became more aware of my awareness, I started to become more pleasant. My husband noticed. He would often tell me, “Whatever you are doing, just keep doing it because you are much nicer!” I was able to choose how I wanted to respond instead of knee-jerk react. When something didn’t go my way, I started to ask myself the “real” reason I was upset. Was I upset because I didn’t feel in control? Was I upset because I was fearful? Was I upset because I felt disrespected? Once the reason was uncovered, I could respond more responsibly.
I also experienced physical benefits. I started to have less migraine headaches. Less backache. I started to sleep better.
My senses have even become more sharpened – I am more sensitive to smell and sound. I feel a subtle sense of energy vibrating, flowing through my body. The less stressed I am (and the more I meditate) the stronger I feel. This sounds crazy, right? I even hesitate sharing…my “crazy” words here on this paper for all to read. However, what I am feeling is 100% normal. We are supposed to walk in a room and immediately smell the fresh cut flowers. We are supposed to hear the distant laughter of kids rather than tune them out. We are supposed to feel sensations flow through our body. I believe we have become stressed out. We have become over stimulated with television, radio, computers and cell phones. We have glorified “busy” and do anything we can to avoid being still. And this dulls our senses.
This is how meditation has changed my life. I am more aware of my thoughts and body. I am more peaceful. “Nicer.” I have learned to open my heart, love harder and feel deeper. Colors are more vibrant, sounds louder and sensations run deeper.