I’ve got a very active mind. This serves me well to complete projects on time, run an organized household, and grow my own business. Yet for many years the constant flow of information from my environment also caused me great stress. I often felt stressed and overwhelmed. Thankfully, I learned meditation as a tool to stay focused and calm amidst the many moving parts of my life. This article reveals the first portion of my meditation journey (and how you can start a practice of your own for greater energy, focus, and confidence, too).
I’ve actually been thinking a lot about my own meditation journey lately. This is in part due to the dramatic uncertainty of the future. I’m also aware of extremely polarized thinking in society. Plus, I just finished up the 3H Project as a way to teach meditation to beginners.
The thought that keeps surfacing regarding this topic is this:
Meditation is a lot like a yoga practice in that it consists of basic skills that require ongoing repetition.
You’re not going to get better at any skill–no matter what the field–if you don’t use it regularly and deliberately. Remember, there are three steps to mastery.
- The first is ongoing learning. You’ve got to understand concepts and techniques to make any changes (or to learn a new skill)
- The second is establishing good habits. This reinforces the reasons you want to embody a new skill and gives you opportunity to make choices that align with your goals.
- Third, deliberate practice hardwires those new neural networks in your brain. Said another way, your new skill becomes the program via which your body operates.
In the case of meditation, mastering this skill improves creativity and efficiency. It lends to more compassion for yourself and others. It’s also a way to remain composed in the face of the unknown. Keep reading to glimpse the humble beginnings of my meditation journey. Then, stay tuned to learn more about various meditation techniques and how this skill still plays a valuable role in my life 20 years later.
Photo Credit: Ember and Earth Photography
THE BEGINNING OF MY MEDITATION JOURNEY
My meditation journey began almost 20 years ago when in college. I was studying Kinesiology and loved every minute studying the body and how it moves. This created a great foundation from which to teach yoga. Our curriculum covered nervous system function, yet we didn’t talk much more about how the mind affects the body.
This meant I was physically healthy, but emotionally a wreck. I was devastated by a recent break-up with my boyfriend of 4 years. I was working two jobs to pay my way through school. Despite my high caliber grades, I was unsure of what to do post-graduation.
- Deep Healing: The Essence of Mind/Body Medicine
- Your Body Believes Every Word you Say
- Perfect Health: The Complete Mind/Body Guide
As I got more into the practice, Tamara also passed on Deepak Chopra’s Soul of Healing Meditation CD. I didn’t spend hours in silence. Instead, I used the 15-minute guided meditations as a way to unwind after my long days. They offered pockets of peace amidst my crazy life. For that I was extremely grateful.
One quote that sticks out in my mind to this day is:
“Everybody is doing the best they can from their state of consciousness.”
Knowing this, I forgave myself for many past mistakes. Only, I hadn’t quite let go of that loud, inner critic always pushing me to do more and be better. This voice was still the dominant narrative in my head. And it pressured me relentlessly to figure out what to do with my degree.
BRAZIL: THE SPACE FOR TRANSFORMATION
Eight months after graduating, I found myself in Brazil teaching yoga at an eco retreat. This was the perfect gig for an outdoor lover like myself. I taught morning and evening yoga classes to visitors from all over the world. Then during the day, I got to venture into local terrain alongside the guests.
We took boat rides to various inlets and hiked in the lush mountains. We dined at the nearby village for lunch or kayaked in the sound. One of my favorite memories was sitting in the sauna one day, which had one wall entirely of glass and provided an epic view of the entire bay. As I the sweat beaded down my body, a pod of over 100 dolphins swam by! It was incredible!
Then one Friday afternoon, the owner arrived unexpectedly. He announced we would be closing our doors tomorrow just after the week’s group departed.
To say I was panicked would be an understatement! What the heck was I going to do now?
My career seemed to be ending just moments after it began!! My ego couldn’t handle going home right away. I felt like a failure. I also didn’t want to put in the amount of energy I knew it would take to start something new.
So I decided to remain in Brazil.
Within weeks, I found myself befriended by a fellow yogi named Renatta. She was just about to leave for a 10-day silent meditation retreat and she invited me along.
I had no idea what this event entailed. However, I knew a few things:
- I was somewhat familiar with meditation. I knew the goal of yoga is Samadhi–uniting with our Higher Self and becoming one with the infinite aspect of our beings. I figured this could help deepen my yoga practice and simultaneously help me build a new skill.
- I needed to buy some time. I had no idea what to do next and I felt extreme pressure to make a decision soon. Attending this retreat would at least give me another 10 days to establish a plan.
- The event was offered by donation. I had just graduated from school and was currently unemployed, so funds were tight. This further added to my stress levels. Since this provided food and shelter for two more weeks abroad, going along was a no-brainer.
I was in!
DIVING DEEP ON MY MEDITATION JOURNEY
Upon arrival at the mediation center, I felt comfortable. In fact, it was much like the venue in which I had previously worked.
- A center-wide gong woke us all up before dawn.
- Our meals were cooked for us by loving volunteers
- Even our shared sleeping quarters were clean (and frequently cleaned) by local staff.
Only, this time, my only job was to be silent and learn the Vipassana style of meditation. This would be easy, or so I thought.
I laugh in hindsight at my naivety.
In fact, I’m currently reading a book about Pixar entitled Creativity, Inc. The author writes this of his experience at his first silent retreat:
“The thought of spending several days in silence seemed unimaginable, even weird. I was intrigued and sort of bumbling along, when two days into it, we went into full silence. I wasn’t sure what to do. The voice in my head chattered continuously, and I wasn’t sure how to process it. On the third day, my mind abuzz from all the non-speaking I was doing, I almost bailed out.”
Ed Catmull didn’t bail, and neither did I.
LESSONS FROM STILLNESS
Yes, those first few days at the retreat were rough. I cried. I fought with myself. I battled numerous inner demons that were kept at bay when I was too busy with work or having fun to notice them.
In silence, I confronted them directly.
By day 4, I realized I was more than my body, bigger than my thoughts. I finally accepted that everything is always changing, and would be changing, and I couldn’t stop that. In fact, it was my past attempt to control these changes that caused me so much pain.
Basically, I was able to make peace with what I could not control.
This was incredibly liberating.
In my relaxed state, I could be open to new ideas. This gave me a fresh way to view problems and receive possible solutions. It gave me a broader way to view myself and my surroundings.
It was in these 10 days of stillness that I heard the message loud-and-clear: “Kym, it’s time to go home.”
The best part was I could now do so without self-criticism, fear, or doubt.
Photo Credit: Ember and Earth Photography
TIPS TO START YOUR OWN MEDITATION JOURNEY
While there are numerous tips to successfully get started on a meditation journey of your own, they really boil down to three basic elements.
(1) Set time aside daily
Meditation is a practice that builds the skill of focus. It trains your heart and brain to be coherent, which basically means your inner workings communicate more clearly and efficiently. This requires repetition.
The good news is that you don’t have to go hide out in the mountains for 10 days to get started. You can start with a 5-20 minute practice. You can also use this time to sample various meditation styles to find one that works for you. In the 3H Project, we use guided breathing techniques and visualization exercises to help you get started.
Regardless of the time of day you select, or the meditation style you choose, your commitment to take action now is most important.
(2) Transfer your new skills
Awareness is a foundational element of yoga and meditation alike. And your awareness increases with these practices. Yet it’s not just time in the quiet that matters. You’re meant to enjoy life. So, the second tip to start a meditation journey is to observe where meditation infiltrates all areas of your life.
- Where do you notice moments of peace?
- Are there times you can discover space in your day?
- Do you have an activity in which you get so engaged you’re totally present–not thinking about the past or future?
- When does your body or mind relax?
Start asking these questions and be open to how those answers arrive. This leads to tip #3.
(3) Reflect on your progress
Greater freedom, focus, and ease are natural byproducts of meditation. Reflection is the activity that allows you to notice those benefits. This can be done through writing in a journal or telling a friend about your experiences. Either way, you reinforce the changes you’re making on a subtle level through meditation and you’re able to hear answers to the questions you’re already asking.
This is where the clarity and confidence can skyrocket in your life as a result.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
Starting a meditation journey can seem daunting. The terminology is unfamiliar and society often pressures you to do more, not less. The good news is that the principles are universal. Meditation is a tool you can use to boost your focus, creativity, health, and satisfaction with life. And you do so by placing your attention on the present moment without judgment. Even though my meditation journey started long ago, it’s a practice I still use to this day. I’d be honored to guide you as you get started on your own path with it via our 3H Project.
Take Action Now:
- Check out our step-by-step program that teaches meditation basics.
- Sample a few of our guided meditations.
- Contact us directly with questions or concerns about getting started. We’re always here to help!