I am a survivor of clinical depression, suicidal thinking, anxiety, and chronic stress.
When I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t stop crying—even in my sleep—I didn’t know something was wrong; I thought it was just my work environment which would improve and I would feel better.
Living in a large city, everything I wanted or needed was at my fingertips or within a short walk, drive, or bus ride. My life—full of family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances—was a blur of activity: work, shopping, family obligations, entertainment. Every minute of my day was occupied with something. Even sitting while physically doing nothing, my mind rushed about.
How did I manage my busy mind, my emotions, frustrations, and disappointments? I didn’t—I didn’t know I needed to. I did self-medicate and self-soothe. I shopped until I dropped; my credit cards were maxed out. Speed was one of my things: fast cars and risky driving were one of the ways I calmed down or released stress. Yet, I didn’t feel happy. My emotions were not under control, my relationships were a wreck, and I always felt there was something more that I was missing out on, or not getting enough of.
The images, emotions, and endless thoughts that ran through my mind in a constant loop took their toll. I couldn’t think, make a decision, or complete my work on time or in a satisfactory manner. I was tired, my stomach hurt, my head hurt, my nerves were raw, and I was no longer the happy-go-lucky person, I knew myself to be.
When the mind is full of unimportant “stuff” there isn’t room, energy, or strength for it to properly process the important things needed to make appropriate decisions, to remember essential details, or to respond effectively to stressful situations.
The mind is a complicated organism—and unless we rest it and take charge of it, it will take control us and run us ragged. It will keep us awake at night, give us something to worry about, or create stories that cause us all sorts of problems. Like a two-year-old, if it doesn’t get what it wants, it can throw a mean tantrum, sending us looking for ways to calm it down.
The “monkey mind” is real and meditation soothes—or should I say, tames—it. It has been scientifically proven over and over again how meditation improves the mind, increases grey matter, and calms emotional crazy lives. It even improves physical health and wellness.
While under the care of a physician, medicated, and undergoing therapy, I discovered a meditation course being offered by the Willpower Institute down the street from where I lived. I had a memory of being taught how to meditate in my high school theater class sometime during the ’70s and figured I would give it a go since the classes were so close to home.
The Willpower Institute North America offers a unique perspective on meditation and teaches a very simple tranquility meditation technique which is easy to learn and to incorporate into daily life. It is based on the meditation practices of the Theravada monks of Thailand and is considered suitable for everyone to learn. Consisting of walking and sitting meditation, its purpose is to achieve a tranquil mind and a happy life, unfettered by chaos.
I attended the orientation not realizing that I would continue on to complete the course, take the exam, and become certified. I learned about the theory of meditation and how to create a daily practice. The meditation community is filled with dedicated people who have experienced the subtle benefits of meditation for themselves and understand the value of a regular consistent practice. I count myself an extremely lucky person to have stumbled upon this soothing and life-affirming practice.
I soon discovered meditation offered me the opportunity to rest my mind, eliminate the chaos. The calm and control I attained studying and practicing samatha meditation extend beyond the time I spend meditating. I am able to embrace my whole life. I am happier, and free of anti-depressants and therapy. My emotions are understandable, controllable, and I am able to cope with stress and frustration with wisdom, thereby avoiding the creation of more frustration and stress for myself.
I am a starter, not a finisher, and I don’t usually make commitments to anything. However, 10 years later, I continue to meditate daily and share the teachings with others so they too can overcome emotional distress, stress, frustration, and the mental chaos to find a slice of peace and achieve a happier healthier life through a balanced emotional and physical well-being.
Anyone anywhere can learn to meditate if they commit to it. Whether you live in a large city or a small village, meditation courses and classes are easily accessible. Meditation centers, libraries, stores, and the internet offer excellent access to instruction, books, and tutorials on how to meditate.
To begin your practice, it may be helpful to start out with 15 minutes a day, and within a week, grow your sitting time to 30 minutes. At first, it was a struggle for me to make myself sit and meditate, but over time it became easier to happily sit in the quiet, strengthening the power of my mind and to hear my truth. Building this daily habit helps us to experience and recognize the benefits of a calm and peaceful mind, clarity of thought, and resilience.
Yes, I am lucky to be living in a cosmopolitan city where I can enjoy all the modern amenities of life, and experience the benefits of an ancient practice which has helped me to improve my life and achieve peace and happiness. I changed my life by trying a free meditation course, and I am grateful for it.
I would like to offer a challenge to anyone who doesn’t currently meditate: make a commitment to meditate for three months, and see what benefits you experience.
Author: Cheryle Baker
Image: Unsplash/Mitchell Griest
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina