Why do we meditate? I suppose this list could be as long as a piece of string. Many people I talk to want to start meditating, or started meditating to change something about themselves. They wanted to fix something. Their stress levels, their outlook, their unhappiness, their pain. But what is it about meditation that is meant to fix that?
Meditation is a lot like going to the gym. Things can get out of hand if you don’t have the right intention or technique.
I started meditation as part of a yoga teacher-training course. It was mandatory. I would meditate for 60 minutes a day, every day. My life was moderately stressful and I was adjusting to life with a baby. By that I mean I was adjusting to a life vastly different to the way I was used to living my life. Minimal spontaneity, I wasn’t ‘using my brain’, and I wasn’t really down with it. I quickly saw how meditation was helpful. I found myself being mindful in random and blissful moments, and I appreciated what I had. I looked to the past less and less for the memories that made me smile, and instead found them in the present.
Then I had another baby, and the stress levels went through the roof. I suffered from chronic stress, which sometimes looked like severe anxiety. So I meditated every day. I was almost unhealthily fixated on my daily practice. But meditation became a part of the problem. I was trying to fix myself with meditation. I was trying to banish these thoughts and experiences through meditating using stillness with a framework of transcending the ego. This was done strictly and without compassion. It was feeding back in to my stress and anxiety. I was not being kind to myself. I was very hard on myself when I wasn’t ‘meditating correctly’, or when I displayed any painful emotions toward others, such as anger. When I yelled at my kids, I crucified myself with the idea that I needed to transcend this emotion as it wasn’t my true state.
This style of meditation was working hand-in-hand with trait of mine to be hard on myself, and to always strive for perfection. So as well as being stressed, I was now stressed that I wasn’t ‘meditating’ and ‘living mindfully’ properly.
So what are we doing when we meditate? Are we being kind to ourselves? Are we trying to ‘fix’ ourselves? We must recognise who we are and find a meditation style that suits us. My meditation style now is vastly different. It is a free-flowing process that allows thought, emotion and even sleep! It has taught me to be compassionate to myself, and to accept that I am who I am. It has allowed me to be curious and inquisitive in my practice, and is truly without judgment. It focuses on the journey of meditation, not the destination. I am still continuing on my journey, just in a much more gentle and loving way.
Now, when I yell at the kids, or eat my breakfast while mindlessly flicking through social media, or lose it when slightly irrationally, I just acknowledge it, notice it and move on. I actually let it go.
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