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Do you Hear That?

Our world can be loud. I mean really loud! So loud that at times you feel like you want to cover your head with a pillow just to block out the constant barrage of sounds, images, and thoughts. Then reality kicks in and we know that as much as we want to escape from this noisy world that we live it's not really possible. Or is it?

I am the type of person who can easily suffer from mental and emotional overwhelm if I allow my mind to have free reign to run wild. Nighttime can be an exceptionally difficult time, because the moment my body ceases to move, my mind decides that it is time to take over the show. This overtime shift can be exhausting. Quite often I would wake up in the morning feeling as if I hadn't even slept, yet my lovely Fitbit said that I had gotten a solid 8 hours of sleep. How is that possible?

For a period of my life, I would turn to sleep aids, a few extra alcoholic beverages, or even Cannabis products. And even though these things would in fact put me to sleep, I would still wake up feeling exhausted and have the residual feeling of fogginess that those coping mechanisms left behind. I even tried reading in bed, which for an overthinker definitely didn't work. I would find myself so engaged with what I was reading, that I didn't want to put the book down. So what on earth was I supposed to do. How was I going to quiet my mind?

Well, it was during one of these late-night reading sessions that I found a clue to quieting everything around me. You see I had picked up the book Think like a Monk by Jay Shetty, and as I was reading it I became interested in the idea of mediation as a relaxation technique. Hell at this point I was prepared to try just about anything, so why not give it a try.

Now I had preconceived ideas about what meditation was and how it was supposed to look. I was supposed to sit cross-legged, hands resting on my knees with my middle finger and thumb joined in a circle. I was supposed to look all Zen and shit. Once I was in this position I would clear my mind and the answers to all the problems of the Universe would flow into me and I would be all knowing. Ok maybe I watch too much tv, but I definitely had a feeling that it was a lot more fluff than what my life had consisted of up until this point.

What my reality consisted of though was much different. So I sat down and crossed my legs. Ouch, my hips were sore, it sure wasn't very comfortable. I placed my hand's palms up on my knees and closed my eyes. Ouch there was that hip again, and how on earth would someone sit with their hands like that for very long, it wasn't practical at all. I wondered if I was sitting up straight enough? Was I breathing the right way? What was I supposed to be thinking about, or not thinking about? Inside I could hear my brain screaming that if I couldn't even meditate right, how was I ever going to gain the wisdom of the Universe. Frustrated, I got up and abandoned the meditation. Maybe I wasn't ready for it.

I went back and picked up the book and started reading again. Had I missed something? As I read I found a key insight into why I had been struggling. It was because I had a fantasy about what meditation was supposed to look like. I was judging myself and the process instead of just engaging in it. Here are a few things I discovered.

  1. Meditation is hard. Yes that's right it's hard. It isn't easy, but it is Simple.

  2. Thoughts are going to come into your head, and they'll probably be really stupid, unimportant thoughts like where that lost sock might be.

  3. Once you recognize that thoughts are going to come in to your mind, stop judging when they do. Don't be so hard on yourself.

  4. Treat those random thoughts like feathers floating in the air. Recognize them as being there, but just let them float away as fast as they come.

  5. Breathing is the anchor for meditation. When you are focused on your breathing you stimulate your para-sympathetic nervous system. It stimulates our brain to calm down, and creates physiological changes in our body including reduced heart rate, lower blood pressure, and reduced anxiety.

  6. When the thoughts come, and they will, you can always come back to your breathing.

  7. Meditation is whatever you decide you want it to be, not what you think it is supposed to be. It can be short or long, laying down, or walking in nature, it is whatever you choose for it to be.

So how do you start? What worked for me was to start for short periods of time first, 2 min, 5 min, 10 min, and work your way up. I tossed out my ideas of what it was supposed to be and look like and just focused on being present with whatever I experienced. I also downloaded an App on my phone called Insight Timer. It is absolutely amazing. You have access to guided meditations (which I take advantage of at night), you can choose specific topics such as Gratitude, Sleep, Self Love, etc. You can choose Male or Female guides which I like, and you can select to join meditation programs as well.

So has my world gotten quieter? Absolutely and now the pillow is under my head not over it. So if you find that you are struggling with being able to silence your mind and the world around you, I encourage you to give meditation a try and remember that it isn't supposed to be perfect, it is just whatever you need it to be in that moment.

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