This is a bit misleading because I did actually lose my keys today, and frantically paced from room to room in my apartment muttering obscenities.
I was already running late for work and had a myriad of other stressors nagging at me. I assume we all know some variation of this situation.
My stress manifests as a scattered brain and cloudy judgment, though, I didn’t consciously realize this until I started meditating consistently.
Let me take a step back here and mention that I have not been regularly meditating for the past two months or so.
My failure-to-practice started with lots of new transitions which lead me to distraction, laziness, and various other excuses to ditch one of the most beneficial things I’d been doing for myself. After the first month of not partaking in my regular meditation practice, I noticed differences in myself:
I didn’t feel I was expressing myself clearly, I often second-guessed my perspectives and choices, and felt generally out-of-place and self-conscious. I began misplacing things and had a difficult time making small decisions (what do I want for dinner? what should I wear to such-and-such? what should I do tonight?)
Plagued with indecision. Paralyzed with an over-thinking. Stagnated with creative emptiness.
These things are not only unpleasant, but sneaky too. We often don’t realize we are riddled with such ailments. When we get used to something being the norm, we don’t pay attention to it, we don’t look at it with fully attentive senses.
It can be nearly impossible to pull ourselves out of our heads when we don’t even realize we’re in them.
I look at every major aspect of my life as a potential cyclone. Family, job, boyfriend, friends, hobbies—if I don’t actively work to balance these areas, one of them will effortlessly sweep me up and my rational sight becomes foggy and confused.
Once you’re all twisted up in the cyclone, you stop seeing things as they are, and as a result you stop benefitting yourself and your life maximally. You are not doing anyone a favor by giving your entirety to one area.
Reasons I meditate that might be beneficial to you, too:
1. It’s Easy *
All you need is like, 20 minutes a day. Even five would pay for itself tenfold. The immediate response for many of us is “I am so busy, I don’t have time to meditate”. 99.999% of you (and myself, sometimes) can just cross that one off our alibi list because we definitely have time.
Meditation does not have to be time consuming. In just 10-30 minutes a day (or even a couple of times a week) you can build a fulfilling and brilliant practice.
2. Self- Awareness
I didn’t realize how little I understood about the way I operate until I began to meditate.
Since beginning my practice, I have a much deeper connection with myself. I can clearly observe my actions, reactions and motives in a way that has helped me create much richer and more fulfilling relationships in my life. I express myself with more clarity and honesty than I was previously able. I am learning to accept and love myself, flaws and all, in a way that feels true and genuine.
Meditation has helped me organize all of the perceptions, experiences, traumas, lies, truths, victories, and losses that have accrued into a tangled mess inside of me.
One of my high school teachers used to tell me that I would lose my head if it weren’t attached to my body. He is probably right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had something in my hand one minute and have been completely unable to locate it the next. Or how many times I have needlessly stressed, or become wildly impatient and irritated by small things. Or how many times fear has lead me to anxiety and inaction.
Meditation brought me back to myself.
My mind hasn’t been constantly bogged down and swirling with unnecessary thoughts, so I am able to stay present enough to remember where I put my keys, what I should wear to such-and-such.
When our minds are quiet, we can hear our hearts and intuition, and as a result our creativity flourishes and our life effortlessly falls into place.
4. Learning to Let Go of Expectations
Whenever we attach expectations to something, we lose the true present moment.
The word “meditation” had such a stigma around it to me. It was intimidating. It felt like something reserved for the spiritually intelligent, the devout yogis and monks and mystics. I don’t know what I expected when I began practicing meditation, but I certainly expected something. Maybe visions or epiphanies or serenity. Something big and noticeable and instant.
But if that’s how it always worked, we wouldn’t need to practice meditation. The first time I meditated on my own I didn’t experience much of anything that I could notice. My mind didn’t still much and the concept of “focusing on my breath” meant just about nothing to me.
What I did notice, was that after engaging in this seeming failure of a practice for three or four days in a row, all of the mental clarity and creative energy I’ve been talking about started to show itself.
My meditations vary—sometimes they are filled with epiphanies and insight, sometimes dreamlike visions and images, sometimes stillness, and sometimes I can barely focus at all because my mind is often a raging lunatic when it takes the wheel.
It doesn’t matter—stay in your meditation until your timer is up. There are benefits even in what we may not perceive as a “successful” session.
In “real” life, this translates to being able to genuinely connect with the world and the people around us, versus subconsciously (or consciously) trying to categorize experiences into neat boxes.
Letting go of expectations means we are free from judgmental thoughts and are able to flow with whatever way the wind blows. This also gives us the opportunity to reexamine our perceived limitations.
Attaching expectations to our lives can be dangerous. It can stunt our dreams and cause us to needlessly settle for jobs, friends and partners that are not aligned with our souls true wants and needs.
5. Building Something
It’s called “practicing” for a reason. I believe that meditation provides limitless potential for exploring our own consciousness and the Universe around us.
You don’t ever “complete” or “win” or reach the end of meditation. It can evolve forever and ever.
The sense of having a routine that benefits you (and as a result, the whole world around you) is satisfying! It’s a personal practice that is yours and only yours, that grows and expands as you do. It’s a perpetually safe space that only becomes more detailed and familiar the more you practice.
I could go on for ever, but I think I hit the high notes here.
However, as I mentioned earlier I have not been meditation regularly lately, so the flip-side list to this one is:
Reasons I’ve paused meditating that could potentially tempt you, too:
1. *It’s Not That Easy
Meditation is easy in the sense that it doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. It’s easy in the sense that physically, it doesn’t have to mean more than sitting or laying down. But losing the distractions that pull you away from yourself means that you will actually see yourself.
You will likely confront things that are difficult to accept and manage. You will likely encounter memories big and small, significant and seemingly insignificant, that are stitched into your fiber and hold more weight than you may have thought.
You will likely find that you act and react in ways that you were completely oblivious to previously. And this can be difficult. Like any successful relationship, the one you build with yourself takes a few big doses of bravery, steadfastness and self-awareness.
Enough bravery and steadfastness to face the dark, confusing, and painful moments while resisting the urge to run. And enough self-awareness to notice when you are making excuses for a lack of the first two.
Yes, I realize that I essentially called myself an escapist coward, but I don’t mean to suggest that. I accept that sometimes I stray from the things that I know are good for me.
It’s all a divine learning experience, and I certainly feel excited to get my body, mind and spirt communicating freely again.
Two months of misplaced wallets was plenty.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Emma Ruffin
Photos: Alice Popkorn/Flickr