Discovering Calm Through Meditation: My Recent 6 Month Journey Toward Inner Peace

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Meditation. Something I never understood and believed I could never practice has been incorporated in to my day-to-day life. It has become a retreat, a mental vacation, slipping into slowing down and being present in the moment. The positive impact of this mindful practice has unfolded in my life in the most profound ways. Today, I wish to share with you my meditation journey over the past six months, from why I started and the different styles I experimented with, to ultimately discovering what is working best for me.

Why I Started Meditating

Life’s pace can often feel relentless, filled with endless tasks and commitments. As each day progresses to the next there seems to be an increased amount of stimuli, issues/worries/concerns, ever polluting the mind. Caught in this perpetual hustle, I yearned for a respite. A refuge. Something to help me slow down, reduce my anxiety, and improve my focus. I felt like I wasn’t retaining my daily experiences in memory as solidly as I once did, back when I had less things to worry about from day to day. That’s when I started telling myself that I can learn or accomplish or overcome anything that I want. I can do anything i put my mind to. I am the only person who can hold me back from anything. I am an adult and I can give myself all the permission I need. So I decided to give meditation a try. And oh am I glad that I did.

The health benefits that meditation could offer were promising. In fact, my blood pressure, which I’ve regularly monitored has always been on the higher side of normal, but now has stabilized significantly since I began meditating. In fact my last two visits to my doctor had her congratulating me on a textbook-perfect blood pressure reading. However, the main allure was the potential to cultivate a sense of calmness and the ability to be fully present in each moment.

Exploring Different Styles of Meditation

As a novice, I quickly learned that you can speak to 10 different people who practice meditation about what meditation is and get a different answer from each. Meditation is not a one-stop-shop. There are several styles, each offering unique experiences and benefits. Remember, each person will have a difference experience with their meditation. It truly is a personal journey of self discovery. Here are three types that I found particularly intriguing:

1. Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is rooted in Buddhist teachings and is the most popular meditation technique in the West. It involves paying attention to thoughts as they come and go, without getting entangled in them. This is the style of meditation I most often practice. This is my personal bread-and-butter of mental exercises, accompanied by focused breathing techniques. Here are some of its key benefits of Mindfulness Meditation:

  • Improved Focus: By teaching you to focus on your thoughts and sensations without judgment, mindfulness meditation can improve your ability to concentrate in other aspects of life.
  • Stress Reduction: By accepting events and thoughts as they are, you can avoid the stress that comes with overreacting or feeling overwhelmed by certain situations.
  • Emotional Well-being: By fostering an increased awareness of your thoughts and feelings, mindfulness can help you navigate negative thought patterns and keep them from gaining a hold, leading to improved emotional well-being.

I have found this style of meditation calming. Both mentally physically as I’ve seen my heart rate slow down throughout a session. Not only am I able to deflect negative thoughts that may normally come to mind during meditation, but I have improved my self awareness and ability to become less emotionally and physically reactive to negative thoughts or situations that I experience when not meditating. A few weeks back a co-worker of mine asked me how I seem to never be bothered or upset or stressed about anything at work. I told her I believe meditation is one of the biggest factors at play.

2. Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation is a form of meditation where you sit with your eyes closed and silently repeat a mantra.Have you ever seen someone meditation and hum out loud “Ommmmm” ? Many eastern traditions believe this to be the sound of the universe, and in the West is what most people recognize. I have only slightly dabbled in this style of meditation as I have found the most benefits from Mindfulness Meditation, but I have spoken to those who practice this style daily and swear by it. Here are some benefits of this style:

  • Relaxation and Reduced Stress: The repetitive nature of a mantra can help induce a relaxation response, lowering stress levels and reducing symptoms of anxiety.
  • Enhanced Self-Awareness: By encouraging a state of pure consciousness, Transcendental Meditation can boost self-awareness and promote a greater sense of peace and self-realization.
  • Better Cardiovascular Health: Some studies suggest that regular practice can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In college I once took a world religions class and we all went to a Zen Buddhism temple on a field trip to watch a group session, called a zazen, which translates to “seated meditation”. We all joined in and I have to admit that the sound vibrations felt throughout the body when chanting with the large group of a couple hundred people was an experience I will never forget.

3. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Also known as Metta meditation, this practice involves focusing on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness, and warmth towards yourself and others. Here are its benefits:

  • Increased Positive Emotions: Regular practice can boost positivity and promote feelings of joy, love, gratitude, contentment, and hope.
  • Improved Social Connections: By fostering feelings of kindness and love toward others, Metta meditation can help improve your relationships and social connections.
  • Reduced Negative Emotions: By focusing on positive emotions, Loving-Kindness Meditation can help decrease feelings of anger, resentment, and interpersonal conflict.

Have you ever heard the phrase Rewire your brain? Well, this is pretty much that. Negative thoughts can find permanence in us humans easier than positivity does. It heard some say it takes twice as much effort to solidify positive thoughts than it does to solidify negative thoughts, and we all know that negative thoughts and feelings both large and small easily creep in without our permission. If you want to feel the impact of positive thoughts over negative thoughts then this meditation practice may be for you! You need to put in the time to overwhelm the negative with the positive. This becomes especially beneficial I’ve found when dealing with thoughts of self value/worth, and in part has led me to growing and moving forward, which in turn is part of the reason this site/blog now exists.

Finding What Works Best for You

The beauty of meditation lies in its flexibility. You don’t need to confine yourself to one style; instead, try different methods and find one that resonates with you. Personally, I found a combination of mindfulness and loving-kindness meditation to work best for me. It has helped me improve my mental clarity and cultivate a greater sense of empathy towards myself and others. I have found that for myself meditating away from others is key. It dramatically reduces environmental distractions for me. I have also found that the element of air, such as feeling a blowing ceiling fan or a nice breeze outside, really relaxes me and helps me to find my calm during meditation. There is a small park a few blocks away which a small grassy hill that provides me both seclusion and a breeze and has become one of my favorite spots to practice. Many will tell you that you need to sit a certain way, hold your hands a certain way, etc, in order to meditate. I can tell you from experience that this is not true. I have found that for me, sitting up is key so that I do not fall asleep if trying to meditate while laying down. I have used meditation to fall sleep while laying in bed so that can be strategic in itself. Other than that, it does not make a difference for me if I’m sitting on a chair or sitting on the floor, legs our or legs crossed. My hands fall where they fall in my lap and I begin meditating. Don’t over think it.

Consistency Over Length

One common misconception I encountered when I first started was that I needed to meditate for long periods to reap the benefits. However, I’ve learned that consistency matters more than the length of each session. It’s more beneficial to meditate for five minutes daily than to do a single, hour-long session once a week. The regular practice helps train the mind and cultivates a meditation habit, leading to more lasting benefits.

In my journey, meditation has moved from being a scheduled activity to a cherished ritual. It’s become a non-negotiable part of my daily routine, akin to brushing my teeth or taking a shower. Try meditating at different times of the day. I’ve found that meditating before going to bed helps me fall asleep quicker. I’ve also found that meditating when I first wake up really helps set up my mindset for the day, starting my morning feeling positive and capable of taking on anything. Also try meditating in different locations. In different rooms of your house, outside at the park, etc. You will find that some locations help you stay more focused and less distracted.

When I get to work for my normal day job I will meditation for a few minutes while sitting in my car in the parking garage before I head in. I will drive to the top of the structure where no other cars park and where I can enjoy a few minutes of sunshine. It is amazing how calm and steady I feel as I walk into work, regardless of how wild it may be inside. If you have a few minutes to yourself, you can meditate and start reaping these benefits. Best of all, it’s FREE and something you can literally start right now (once you finish reading this post of course).

Meditation has been a game-changer for me, positively impacting my health and overall well-being. I feel encouraged, motivated, capable, alive, happier, calmer, less anxious, more optimistic, much more productive… the list goes on and on! I hope my experiences can inspire you to explore this practice. Remember, there’s no ‘right way’ to meditate. The key is to find a style that resonates with you and be consistent in your practice. So why not give it a try? After all, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Or, in this case, a single breath.

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