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May 12, 2015

How Meditation Transformed my Experience of Stress.

stress reduction

People come to meditation for different reasons.

Some are “on the spiritual path” and seeking enlightenment. Others have been recommended the practice to help manage physical conditions, mental or emotional distress. What I always tell my students is that your original motivation doesn’t matter, because the benefits will come through on all levels anyway.

Over the course of my life I’ve started and stopped many things to improve my wellbeing—yoga, tai chi, running, boot camp, juicing, wheat-free diet, oil pulling and lots more. But the only thing that I’ve kept up—to my utmost amazement—was meditation.

Since I started meditating, all kinds of life-long ailments quietly went away. Regular headaches, constipation, heartburn, (mild) psoriasis, disturbed sleeping patterns and other issues were such a normal part of my life that I didn’t even think about them. I simply medicated as necessary without stopping to consider why I had them, or if there was a better way to deal with them.

But one day, while clearing out my bathroom cupboard, I found myself throwing out expired creams and pills. And I was flabbergasted to see the evidence before me. All of these ailments that were once such a common experience for me were now a rarity.

And the only explanation I could point to was meditation.

You see, all of these conditions were triggered by stress. And I have no doubt that the overriding reason why I have maintained a meditation practice—despite my interest in the spiritual aspect—is because it has completely transformed my experience of stress.

And not just mine either; meditation is scientifically endorsed as a highly effective antidote to stress.

This is not to say that daily meditation will eradicate all stress from your life. I wouldn’t be so bold as to make anyone any promises, and I do still “get stressed” myself.

But I don’t experience stress in the same way that I used to.

Nowadays, I feel stressed less frequently and with less severity. Without having to make a huge effort, I don’t allow most situations that would have triggered a stress response in the past push my buttons now.

Now I’m keenly aware that the stress is in us, not in whatever sh*tty circumstance we find ourselves having to deal with. “Stress” is a fight/flight response determined by how we respond to whatever arises. And with daily meditation, I’ve found myself responding to scenarios differently.

I am a lot less irritable. I used to be quick-tempered, and now I take a more considered response to things I don’t like. I certainly do feel anger every now and again, but I’m able to step back from that too and look at what energy I’m bringing to the situation; how I’m fuelling my own lack of peace or comfort.

I used to worry—a lot. And now, I simply worry less. I recognise the uselessness of worry and reframe my mindset to allow myself to be at peace—even if I’m far from delighted about how things are unfolding around me.

I used to struggle to “be present”, because my mind would be so wound up around things I should or shouldn’t do, or have done. Now that I worry less, I’m more easily able to be present.

Now I recognise the signs and symptoms of stress arising in my body and I take steps to counteract it—like pranayama, a special meditation, a Reiki treatment or whatever feels right at the time.

In the past, I wouldn’t have noticed how stress was affecting me until my head felt like it would explode. Once upon a time that was a regular experience. Now, I am so grateful to only rarely get a glimpse of that feeling. And I am grateful that I have the tools to bring myself back to a more centered place before my thoughts spiral into a chaotic flow.

I used to feel that my wellbeing was in the hands of circumstances beyond my control—if things were going smoothly, all would be well. But if they were difficult, stress would ensue and it seemed that I merely had to put with that and cope as best I could.

Now my coping ability is so much better.

Now that I know my stressful response to anything is within my control, my relationship with stress has been completely transformed.

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Relephant:

Compelling Scientific Reasons to Learn Mindfulness Meditation

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Author: Hilda Carroll

Editor: Caroline Beaton

Photo: Eamon Curry/Flickr

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