How meditation changed my life
Journalist and author Jacinta Tynan envied people who could sit still long enough to meditate and regretted not having the “gift”.
If life were a streaming service, mine could be broken down into two different series: Before Meditation (BM) and After Meditation (AM).
BM would portray me as an unpredictable over-thinker who is constantly nervous, tipping into victimhood, and occasionally struggling with depression. My default was self-blame. I’ve been all over the store.
AM, I’m calmer, more present and exponentially more confident. Of course, I’m still freaking out, caring about what people think and getting back to old fears of not being enough; I accidentally hurt people’s feelings and I often wonder if I am doing life right.
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However, I am more critical of my role in things. The reaction time between manic thoughts and returning to the truth is shorter.
I now understand that I am witnessing my emotions – they are no longer running the show. So what took me so long
I used to think meditation was not for me. I had tried several times over the years, desperately trying to silence the incessant thoughts in my head. But I wasn’t good at it. I am a speaker and a thinker. My mind didn’t stop. As always.
It was constantly being stirred up and over-analyzed. I was in awe of these “gifted” people who could sit still long enough to watch their breath, check their chakras, or stare into an open flame for enlightenment (or anywhere else).
I was aware of the profound benefits of meditation: less stress, increased awareness, improved health and focus. There is a multitude of scientific studies to support this. But unfortunately I wasn’t one of those people. Until I was.
I learned Vedic Meditation when I was pregnant with my first baby (he’s 11 years old now) – to help me cope with the demands of motherhood – and have hardly missed a session since. Twenty minutes twice a day, every day.
It involves quietly reciting a mantra and gently coming back when the mind wanders. What it will be – on shopping lists, past injuries, fears for the future. The good news is that thoughts are allowed because they remind us to return to the mantra.
The technique is so simple that I was convinced I did it wrong. “The only thing we can go wrong with meditation,” my teacher Tim Brown assured me, “is resisting the process. Stop resisting and start helping. Put the handbrake on. “
An easy-going, “normal-looking” guy (no robes in sight), Brown has taught meditation to around 6,000 people in the past 20 years – from exhausted mothers, executives, and doctors to top athletes looking to improve their game.
He has noticed a significant surge in demand as meditation reaches the mainstream.
“Meditation becomes a non-negotiable thing, like brushing our teeth, when we try to cope with the pressures, overwhelms, and unpredictability of our lives,” says Brown.
“This simple exercise gets us out of fight-or-flight mode. When we slow down the nervous system, we produce more serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin, the high-quality healing chemicals for well-being. It’s the art of de-excitation. “
Guided meditation apps are also released, voiced by the likes of comedian Russell Brand, who attributes meditation with the challenge of “accepting who I am”.
Like Brand, I don’t need any persuasion. I’ll always take time to meditate – because I’ve seen what happens when I don’t. I meditate in the car before school pick-up, on buses, on park benches and as a news anchor in the make-up room between bulletins.
It is certainly made for a much more uplifting act.
Which form of meditation is best for you?
There are hundreds of different ways to meditate – and no wrong way.
“The common goal of all meditation techniques is to calm the mind and body, relieve stress and tension, and increase self-confidence, while at the same time improving our experience of daily life,” says meditation teacher Jo Amor.
Consistency is key, so finding a practice that you enjoy is important, she adds. Perhaps one of these popular methods will work for you:
A mantra-based meditation practiced twice a day for 20 minutes to “de-energize” the mind and go beyond thinking. This is the oldest technique, but it remains relevant because it is so simple and yet effective.
One session should correspond to up to four hours of sleep.
This can help keep wandering thoughts on track. The most popular guided meditation apps are Insight Timer, Headspace, Smiling Mind, and Calm.
Focus intensely on something other than thoughts, including breathing, looking at a flame, or singing.
We have more than 60,000 thoughts a day. Mindfulness meditation is the art of cutting through “intentional attention” in the present moment.
Jacinta Tynan is a journalist and author of The Single Mother’s Social Club (Murdoch Books, $ 32.99), which is available now.