When I was first introduced to mindfulness meditation about 6 years ago I was totally confused about it. Like seriously you want me to quiet down and be alone with my thoughts!? That was the last place I wanted to be. My usual pattern was to avoid the cascading thoughts that would bombard me daily. I thought my counsellor at the time was a quack when she encouraged me to attend a mindfulness based group at our local mental health agency.
First off for someone who, at that time, was so depressed that I slept most of my days away trying to get a moments peace from the flood of nonstop ruminating thoughts, getting out of the house and attending anything that involved sharing in a group seemed like one of the most painful things I could imagine. Contrary to my feelings I attended the mindfulness meditation class. The very first exercise we did was a mindfulness meditation….on a raisin!? Now if I was being honest I would insert here all my thoughts about how stupid and useless this was but using much more colourful language. I was angry, unamused and agitated.
So we get this raisin and we are asked to look at this raisin, smell this raisin, then eventually put this raisin in our mouthes and eat this raisin as slow as possible using all our senses. All I wanted to do was jump out of my seat, scream at everyone how dumb this was and storm out of the room. It made no sense, how on earth could I focus on a raisin when I had 100 million other things flooding my brain in all directions.
I left that mindfulness meditation session and never returned.
Fast forward about 4 years to a place where I was calmer, medicated, had been through cognitive behaviour therapy courses a couple of times plus countless counselling sessions and I was more familiar with mindfulness concepts and the benefits sounded much more intriguing to me.
- lower stress and decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol
- let us get to know our true selves.
- start working as the brain’s “volume knob”
- help us in a variety of ways: body awareness, self-awareness, regulation of emotion and regulation of attention
The one that sounded the best to me was the “volume knob” I spent years being yelled at by my own brain in my own voice telling me all sorts of negative things, thinking about things that had happen, things that could happen, things that I did or did not do, things that made me feel bad, things that I did that where bad and then I would think, rethink, overthink, then think some more about it.
This pattern was exhausting and debilitating. Also I had come to realize it really did not achieve anything. My thoughts were just that….thoughts. They rarely turned into a positive action and most times manifesting in a reaction in some negative way.
So I started looking around, doing some research. I tried a few meditation apps and read blogs on mindfulness and started following zen type people on instagram.
The thing that really changed my perspective though was an app called 1 Giant Mind the day that app came in my life was the day I had the biggest “aha” moment about meditation. All those years of being perplexed by meditation and never understanding how to do it, thinking it just wasn’t for me came to a halt. When I started doing the 12 step meditation course it was like my mind was expanded in a way I never expected.
So here are my original (inaccurate) thoughts on mindfulness meditation:
- If you don’t have a completely blank mind then you’re doing it wrong
- If your mind wanders off your doing it wrong
- You have to be calm the whole time
- Meditation should be done for at least and hour
This is the part where if you think the same things that I did I get to tell you you are wrong about mindfulness meditation!
NONE of the preconceived notions I had about mindfulness meditation where actually true! How had I gotten it wrong for so long!?
So my journey began into mindfulness meditation and believe me I have not been perfect. That first 12 step course took me like 3 months to finish. I did it when I wanted to do it. I did not set a time or a space to complete the course. Each little session is 20 minutes and walks you through the steps of how to meditate using 1 Giant Mind technique. It was almost completely opposite of what I thought meditation should be.
Here is what I gleaned from the 12 week meditation course:
- You will ALWAYS have thoughts during meditation, the goal is to not control, focus or attach to any particular outcome try not to follow your thoughts
- Thinking during the meditation is your body’s process of releasing stress, there is no reason to resist this in any way
- When your mind wanders, which it always will, gently bring it back to the mantra
- Using a mantra (saying or word) is the easiest way to actually stay focused and calm during a meditation
- Meditating for 10-20 minutes can have just as much impact on your wellness as longer times
There is probably more benefits that I don’t notice right up front and I’m sure there would be even more/heightened benefits if I was practicing more but what I have learned over the years is that something is better than nothing. Right now my mindfulness meditation practice is baby steps and maybe one day I will practice every day and then again maybe I won’t. For now I will accept I am doing my best and continue on this journey to a higher vibration of mindfulness and meditate to the best of my ability.