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I had some work to do.
As a young divorcee, I wanted to rediscover my own strength and build a foundation before I partnered up with someone new.
I needed to calm down the hyperactive hamsters running around in my brain so that I could hear the quiet voice in my heart that held the answers that I needed to rediscover myself.
I started working with a hypnotherapist named Iris as a way to prepare for remarriage.
One of the first tools that Iris introduced me to was guided mediation. And I freaking loved it! It was like a mental massage.
I found it easy to follow the sound of her soothing voice telling me to breathe as I imagined myself walking up some stairs, or found myself in a safe and beautiful place. Like magic, for that one hour the chatter of my head was silenced. Those voices didn’t stand a chance.
As I became more self-aware, however, I realized that while guided meditation is amazing, after a while it can start to feel like riding with training wheels. Though I still practice with Iris, and the work is still magical, I came to realize it was time to challenge myself—to take all that spiritual coaching, and run the marathon.
It was time to meditate on my own.
I was so nervous. Could I do it?
I mean, I’ve had those little hamsters running around my brain my whole life, spinning that wheel. And I love them. They’re the reason I am so productive.
Anyone who knows me, knows I have a crap ton of ideas and an equal crap ton of drive to get stuff done, which is awesome if you want to be a successful business woman in the United States. But, all that drive and determination means that shutting it down feels nearly impossible.
My mind jumps from question to question: Am I a good friend? Should I send out that customer survey? What should I wear tomorrow? How is my mom doing? Is it time to get a PhD? All in two seconds.
And while trying to do my actual design work.
So, I took a deep breath and took off the training wheels. I started practicing a morning meditation to quiet some of the squeaking racket. It was intimidating to try to do it on my own, but what did I have to lose?
In the year since I started meditating solo, I’ve discovered three simple exercises that have helped me win at meditation.
I picture a tiny version of myself laying down, belly up, inside my brain. Then, I picture that tiny version of myself doing snow angels.
During these mental snow angels, I imagine pushing away all the snow around me. As I do, I push out the extraneous hamsters—I mean, thoughts.
The bonus of this one is that snow angels are childlike. Even thinking about making a snow angel brings a smile to my face, so this particular practice also brings joy and wonder into my morning practice.
Even better, unlike with real snow angels, there is no risk of getting ice down the back of my neck.
Another of my favorite meditation practices is to think of breathing as an exercise in alchemy.
Instead of turning lead into gold, I turn oxygen into love.
We don’t always get to control what comes into our world, but we do get to control how we respond, and for me that means that every time I get the gift of breathing in, I get to determine what I’ll do with that breath.
During my morning meditations, I choose to turn it into love and send it out into the world. Why not give it a try? Breathe in oxygen. Breathe out love. Breathe in oxygen. Breathe out love.
Travel to space
Getting some perspective is one of the best ways for me to quiet those squeaking wheels, so sometimes during meditation I try to reconnect with the feeling that I have when I’ve hiked to the top of a mountain and look down on the world. How small everything is!
This meditation works particularly well when I start feeling my problems and projects are too big and overwhelming. I picture myself sitting in my room, then I start to zoom out.
I picture my home, my neighborhood, my city. Then the state, the country, the earth. I imagine myself floating in the galaxy looking around.
Even the biggest things in our world are minuscule in relation to the Universe. This meditation calms my anxiety, and brings my problems and projects back into perspective.
With each of these practices, after a few minutes, the mental chatter and squeaky wheels quiet down. I can sit for a few blessed seconds without any thought-hamsters running through my mind.
Invariably, a new one will pop up and start running around, and I’ll have to return to the exercise. But just like the meditation masters tell us, I have found truth in that the more I practice, the longer I can go without my thoughts showing up. It’s a marvelous feeling—experiencing a minute of silence in the mind!
Do you have a favorite meditation practice? Did you try out one of the above? Please share below so we can all benefit!