By Keisha Langolf, LCSW (below)
Amidst the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to get lost in the noise and before we know it, we look around thinking, “How the hell did I get here?” Even those with the best intentions get led down the social media rabbit hole, liking, commenting, taking random quizzes to find out what Disney princess they would be…you know, out of curiosity and just in case you get cast in the next remake.
From the moment we open our eyes in the morning, we are bombarded with thoughts: the to-do’s, fixing lunches, getting the kids off to school, fighting rush-hour traffic just to be late for work again, all while frantically checking our in-boxes, returning our mom’s text, planning tonight’s dinner and wondering what time you will fit in the workout you’ve skipped for the last week, between homework, shuttling kids to and from basketball practice, and squeezing in a bath so your child doesn’t show up to school tomorrow doing her best impersonation of Pigpen from Charlie Brown.
And, finally…ahhhh! Head sinks into the pillow, you take a deep breath ready to enjoy some shut-eye and drift off into a fluffy, floating slumber. Just then, more thoughts come crashing in, uninvited. You start mentally adding items to the grocery list, the calendar, the people you haven’t talked to and need to call soon, and the endless lists turn to…Should I wear my black skirt or the blue slacks in the morning?…I think my skirt needs ironing, so that’s out…speaking of iron, I really should start watching the amount of sugar intake the kids are getting…I hope they’re eating their lunch at school…school…crap! Did he have a project due or is that next week?….Maybe next week. Next week, the cat has a vet appointment…he’ll probably get sick in the car on the way there, poor thing…it’s time to clean it anyway…we can swing by the car wash after our dentist appointments…shit, appointments….I forgot to make appointments for the kids’ haircuts. Rapunzel? Wonder why that stupid quiz said I would be Rapunzel? Just what does that mean? You think you know me, BuzzFeed?
Yup. Noise. It’s everywhere, all day, all the time. All around us. In our cars, through our phones, in our own minds. No escape. No breaks. And back to “How the hell did I get here?” Is life really just one racing thought piled onto another? An avalanche of “I need to’s” and “What if’s?” smothering us unrelentlessly? That’s exactly how too many of us go through our days and we just brush it off as “that’s life,” “could be worse,” or “survived another day.”
We, too, were guilty of falling prey to this chaotic-cyclone existence. But it’s exhausting. And we got tired. And we decided we didn’t want that anymore. It simply was NOT enough! We wanted MORE! We wanted the noise to STOP! So we started trying #allthethings to make our lives better and happier and more peaceful and more fun.
Like so many, we thought our happiness could be bought or earned through tangible things, external things.
Changing our appearance by losing weight, buying new clothes, trying a new hairstyle.
Changing our environment by switching jobs, moving into a nicer house, buying new furniture, painting the desk, going on the beach vacation.
Changing our people, ending relationships, making new friends, joining a Church, a new club.
But guess what? While those things can all be good, they definitely were not THE ANSWER. Because the relief was fleeting and WE weren’t changed. The old feelings of “I’m not enough,” the overwhelm, the longing for more ALWAYS came back. We were still searching for a LASTING change.
Okay, so yes, we were therapists/coaches/educated professionals, and we still could not figure out our shit.
But, now we have the HOW!
We realized we can’t just “fix” ourselves piece-by-piece.
Hello! Also super exhausting and frustrating and self-defeating and REALLY hard to maintain. So, back to the drawing board we went. And what we found was that the only REAL change has to come from WITHIN. Then all the rest will fall into place. Sounds pretty simple, right? But, how? We had the knowledge of the coping skills. We went through the years of therapy. We spent a fortune on the degrees and self-help books.
Then, a few years ago, I decided to take a class I’d heard about through a relative. Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners. I wanted to learn a new technique I could use in sessions with my clients and mindfulness was the trending buzzword at the time. I finished the 10-week class, all the homework assignments, the daily meditation exercises, read all of the suggested extras, as any perfect pupil would.
And I LOVED it! And then the class was over. And then I stopped. So, what happened? I got distracted by the day to day, life got noisy again, and I fell straight back into my old patterns of existing where “me” time and self-care were just a happy bonus on the rare occasion the stars were perfectly aligned.
You see, I still hadn’t figured out the damn thing. I didn’t yet believe that I DESERVED this. That giving MYSELF permission to prioritize ME, was not just OKAY and HEALTHY, but as necessary to my survival as breathing! The dark shadows of guilt, the fear of being selfish still weighed me down and my meditation practice took the hit.
Then, one day, me and Meditation crossed paths again, and just like with a dear, old friend, I picked up where I left off. And once again, was overruled by my own blocks…not enough time, too many responsibilities, etcetera, etcetera. And finally, I had my a-ha moment! The Universe was REALLY wanting to grab my attention because Meditation started showing up everywhere in my life-in a book I was reading, in line at the grocery store, while binge-watching Netflix, scrolling through random social media posts. Whoa!…maybe Pinterest does know me! I finally GOT it though. I realized that this cycle of self-sabotage WAS NOT gonna stop, until I paid attention! So I did. And I fell in love again. Me and Meditation are now in a serious, committed relationship, living happily ever after!
At the risk of sounding all woo-woo, that’s how I KNOW. There is a very recognizable difference in my life when I am practicing meditation regularly vs. when I’m not. Through Meditation, I’ve learned to CONNECT with mySELF, the TRUE self WITHIN. Through Meditation, I’ve GROWN spiritually. I’m mentally and physically healthier. I’ve learned MY PURPOSE. I’ve felt ONE, and WHOLE, and overwhelming PEACE, JOY, LOVE, ECSTASY. An indescribable sense of STILLNESS and KNOWING.
Through the SHE Meditates Series, Meg and I would like to share ALL OF THIS with you! We want to reach as many open hearts with this beautiful tool as we can. We want to talk about the myths, the magic, the mudras, the mantras, the manifesting and affirmations and intentions, all the things Meditation.
Because there are so many misconceptions, confusion, questions, and this may be a very new concept for many of you, I’ll start with some basics of the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, & HOW’s that I’ve learned during my own journey, education, research, and personal experience with meditation practice.
WHO Meditates? SHE Meditates! No, really, I’ll drop the whole cheerleader persona and give it to you real. Often, when we think of meditation, we automatically envision a group of monks. In caves. Wearing robes. Vowing silence. And gongs. Maybe flickering shadows from candlelight dancing on the walls. While all of this is true (monks may and do practice Meditation), absolutely ANYONE can meditate. You may be surprised at just how many practice Meditation, from high-level executives and business owners to accountants, athletes, teachers, students, yogis, and stay-at-home-mom’s. You also don’t have to be religious to meditate. It may be practiced in some variation by many (actually most) organized religions or by those who identify as “spiritual” as a way to connect to God, a Higher Power, Spirit, the Universe, Source Energy, whatever you may call it, but lots of people who have zero spiritual beliefs also practice meditation. Anyone with an open heart and an open mind can meditate. That’s you, my lovely!
WHAT is Meditation? Meditation is an ancient practice, and I mean, it goes waaaayyyy back. I don’t want to bore you with a whole bunch of history because we all know how Google works, but its roots originated in Christianity, not Buddhism as many may believe.
Meditation is both simple and complex at the same time. It is a practice of being still and quiet with yourself, a practice of sharpening your awareness, building your mind-muscle and ability to shift your thoughts. It’s a way to find clarity, calm, and connection, whether with yourself, the world around you, and/or a higher power.
Another common misconception is that Meditation is supposed to stop your thoughts or keep you from thinking. Nope. Thoughts are going to happen NO MATTER WHAT. However, with regular practice, you can learn to let the thoughts come and go, flow in and out of your mind, without giving them any power.
Example, if I’m meditating and the thought that comes is “I don’t know how the f*%# I’m going to get to work or pick the kids up from school since my car has a flat tire.”
Typically, this thought may cause me stress, anxiety and I would immediately try to formulate solutions and ticking through possible scenarios in my mind. But during meditation, instead, I think the thought, remind myself that problem will still be there when I’m finished meditating (my mind needs this break!), I’ll go back to focusing on the feeling in my pinky finger or my breath or whatever, so I’m not paying much attention to the thought, and it goes away…as if I was just thinking about a lamp or a shoe or something else that has no importance to me.
There are many nuances of Meditation practice. Explaining what meditation is would be as individualized as each person’s fingerprints. There are different types of Meditation practices depending on the intention or purpose for meditating. Some Meditation practices are silent, some incorporate music, binaural beats, or nature sounds. Some incorporate mudras (hand gestures or positions) or mantras (speaking sounds and words). Some use visualization techniques and are guided by someone telling you what to do and focus on throughout the meditation, and others you can practice on your own. The possibilities are limitless and there is not a right or wrong way…it is a PRACTICE and the practice can be very personal and vary from Meditator to Meditator.
WHERE am I supposed to Meditate? That’s the glorious thing about Meditation. Depending on your intention, you COULD meditate anywhere or when doing anything. ***However, if you are new to Meditation or if you are using Meditation for sleep or relaxation, DO NOT meditate when driving or when you have anyone else you are responsible for or who is in your care***
I like to meditate in my bed or sitting in a chair, sometimes while stretching or doing yoga. Meg has a designated Meditation spot in her house. My sister meditates while cooking dinner or doing dishes. One of my clients has a meditation pillow he sits on. I’ve meditated in the sauna at the gym, in my office, in parks, on the beach, in the shower. As long as you are meditating responsibly (as mentioned above), again, limitless options and personal preference.
I’m already so busy. WHY Meditate anyway? I’m telling ya, the busier your life is and the more you feel time-strapped, the more you need a Meditation routine in your life!! It is a way to start your day with a high vibration, recenter yourself during a midday break, or end your day on a relaxing note. Give your mind the break it needs!! Here are just a few benefits of meditation: relaxation and better sleep, decreased anxiety and blood pressure, increased energy and focus, managing symptoms of pain, panic, and racing thoughts, increased self-confidence and self-awareness, healing and letting go of trauma and negative thoughts, connection with your inner self and/or higher power….the list goes on.
I’m so ready! HOW do I do this thing?
Yay! I’m so happy you are ready to give yourself this gift. Be ready to fall in love:)
***REALLY GET EXCITED because NEXT WEEK, as part of the SHE Meditates Series we will be RELEASING 4 FREE Guided Meditations, created and recorded by US, specifically for YOU! Keep a lookout for details.
And in the meantime, here is a list of just a few VERY basic starting tips…but remember that the most important thing of all is to just let it flow. It is a practice that is NEVER finished, so be patient with yourself and have some fun with it.
- Awareness: Get comfortable and close your eyes. Bring your awareness to your physical self and being, in the moment. You may hear a car passing or feel the sun on your face, the breath flowing into your nostrils, your chest and lungs expanding as you breathe. You may mentally scan your body, focusing on and feeling each sensation from your head to the tips of your toes.
- Support or Anchor your awareness: Choose a focal point. My favorite is my breath because it is always with me and it is always anchoring me to “this exact breath in this exact moment.” Can’t get any more present than that! And when your mind starts drifting…and it will, you have something to bring you back to the NOW.
- Don’t block thoughts or emotions: Just let them come and go, flowing easily, without care. When your thoughts come or if you find your mind wandering or getting distracted, just GENTLY bring your focus back to your breath or anchor. This is sometimes the most difficult for some because as humans, we want to control everything. This is the part where you get to learn to surrender that control-try not to manipulate your breathing patterns and try not to get frustrated when thoughts come. This isn’t you doing it WRONG so don’t give up. As a matter of fact, everything gets magnified when you meditate! You feel an itch you didn’t feel before. You notice the hum of the A/C kick on when you usually don’t hear it. Just acknowledge it, and bring it back to the breath. My Meditation teacher told me that even if my mind wanders 100 times in 20 minutes of meditating, that is just 100 times, I get to practice building my mind-muscle and letting go. Just keep practicing!
- Experiences will vary: Between people and also each time you meditate…every experience will be different. I’ve seen colors and felt overwhelming sensations of love and peace during meditation…but not every time. I’ve had flashes of visions and light…but not every time. I’ve felt like I couldn’t tell my ass from my elbow, and I’ve felt like I was floating in space…but not every time. I’ve been energized after meditating, and sometimes I fall asleep. I’ve had vivid dreams, a-ha moments, orgasmic feelings wave over me, felt my body vibrating and buzzing…BUT not every time. Every single time is a NEW experience. Which makes it even more fun! A new adventure that only you can create in that moment!
- It is not the amount or length of time you meditate that makes the difference, but how regularly: Even if you start with 5-10 minutes of Meditation each day, that is 5-10 minutes of practice! During my class, we were instructed to practice as much as possible until we were able to meditate for durations of 20 minutes. Now, I may spend 10 minutes or I may meditate for hours…just depends. Even 15 minutes may be alot for some people. Again, personal preference. I use the “Insight Timer” app to keep my time for me. Some days a few minutes can feel like forever and other days it goes by in a blink!
Now, I challenge you…JUST START! Do it every day with an open mind and open heart and you can experience the magic yourself. See what all the hype is that I’m going on about. Set this ONE intention and join us. You DESERVE this. You were born to live your life with JOY and PEACE and LOVE! You are SO ready and 2020 is YOUR year!
You’ve got nothing to lose! Just Strength, Healing and Empowerment to gain!
And as always, if you have questions or comments, reach out! We love supporting you in any way we can. Like, share, subscribe, and follow us on Instagram @warriorwithshe, Facebook @shecounselingandcoaching, YouTube @ SHE Counseling & Coaching, or visit our website at www.shecounselingandcoaching.com