I finally did it. After years—yes, years—of my therapist suggesting that I meditate due to my anxiety, plus a few conversations with trusted girlfriends, I made the decision. I’d dabbled in it off and on, but I always found my mind wandering. I simply didn’t enjoy meditation, I concluded. It took up too much time, and required peace and quiet, something that’s very hard to come by when you have a large and loud family.
I even tried to get my kids in on it. To me, a group activity is a form of multitasking. I could supervise my children while we collectively got our mindfulness on. You’ve probably already guessed that this was a total fail. Two complained, one was over-the-top restless, and my oldest relentlessly asked the others to just sit still and be quiet so she could focus. Understandably, I gave up.
I wasn’t going to rise early in the morning to meditate, exercise, and then sip coffee. I’m not a morning person. I also didn’t want to stay up late, trying to calm myself before bed. I was far too tired to even think about putting forth meditation effort. From the minute my feet hit the floor until I plop into bed at night, I’m on the go. I’m working, I have a child who is remote learning, another one who is homeschooled, and a mile-long daily to do list.
Yes, meditation has so many benefits. The problem wasn’t convincing myself of the pluses. The problem was putting meditation into practice—daily practice.
What finally pushed me to take the plunge and commit to meditation? I was talking to a friend who has the same autoimmune disease I do. I wanted her tips, since she has a lot more experience than me. We talked about medication, supplements, dietary choices, sleep, pain management, and exercise. “Oh, but one more thing,” she said before we got off the phone: “Meditation.” She was choosing to meditate, and it had made a night and day difference in her overall attitude and pain level.
This is someone I trust. Someone who wasn’t trying to sell me anything. She had experience. Instead of asking myself, “Why should I finally commit to meditation?” I went with, “Why not?”
The Mayo Clinic defines meditation as “a type of mind-body medicine” that’s been in practice for thousands of years. You “develop intentional focus—minimizing random thoughts about the past or future.” The benefits of meditation include relaxation, improved concentration, stress reduction, less fatigue, and peace. Additionally, they remark that research has shown that meditation can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, may improve physical health when paired with conventional medicine, and can help with symptom management when a person suffers from cancer, digestive issues, heart disease, insomnia, and more.
I downloaded a free app and started exploring guided meditations. Basically, a host uses their voice and sometimes background music or sounds, to help the listener meditate, usually on a specific topic. It took some time to choose the right hosts to listen to. I don’t like to hear chimes, waves crashing, or anything else that might distract me. I prefer a calm voice, but not patronizing. I love guided meditations because the host says what to focus on and what to do, rather than me having to make another decision. I know I’m not the only mom who has serious decision fatigue, especially right now in the midst of pandemic.
My meditation style is short and sweet. I’m realistic. Unless I can knock out meditation as soon as I wake up, setting the tone for my day, I’m not doing it. There are no quiet moments or spare time throughout the day, and at bedtime, I just want a snack and some Netflix. Knowing my personality and needs made it easy for me to decide when, for how long, and why to meditate.
The experience isn’t always perfect. I swear my kids have some sort of mom radar where they sense I’m awake and jump into my bed. I’ve decided to include them in meditation if they hop into the bed before I’ve started. Since only meditate for two to five minutes, they are able to sustain attention. My son is particularly fond of a Scottish man’s meditations; something about his voice is charming and soothing.
I’m on day forty-something of meditating, and I have absolutely noticed a difference. My usual go-to is to wake up and start getting anxious. What day is it? What has to be done? What meetings or appointments are on the calendar? How am I feeling physically? I basically create a terror checklist for myself and start the day with that. It is absolutely not healthy, or helpful.
Meditating in the morning means you know the day will have its demands, but you’re getting your mind right first. You’re choosing to prioritize self-care, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes. The result? I feel calmer, I have a clearer sense of purpose, and I’m more chill. I’ll be honest: I never thought “chill” would be part of my self-description. I’ve been anxious my entire life.
Has meditating been life-changing for me? Yes and no. I don’t think my life is magically better, with an aura of unshakable calmness wrapped around me as I float throughout the day. However, I do think that I’m giving myself a better, more grounded, more purposeful start to the day. I’ve taken back some of that control I desperately craved, but never seemed to grasp.
Other mindfulness techniques can be added perks. Going for a walk outside for vitamin D3 exposure, sensory experiences, and movement can be helpful. Yoga, too. Journaling has been helpful for me in processing emotions and difficult situations. Perhaps meditation really isn’t for you. There are other options.
My advice to any person who is considering meditation is just to do it, but do so realistically. Don’t take on an all-or-nothing approach like I did for years. The cliché is true. A little bit can go a long way. With all that’s going on in life right now, I’ll take any ounce of peace I can get.