BY FAYE LESSLER
There are lots of reasons to begin a meditation practice. Many turn to this ancient form of prayer in the hopes of stemming anxiety, managing anger, reconnecting to their inner voice, improving self-esteem, or simply as a way of finding quiet amidst a busy day.
Me? I got into meditation through yoga. I started going for the physical exercise and ended up falling in love with the sense of calm, centered peace that I felt at the end of each class. I began to practice meditation outside of yoga, too—by breathing through claustrophobic subway commutes, stealing a few moments of stillness before heading into an event, or taking a deep breath before responding to a frustrating comment.
Nowadays, I prefer to pre-meditate my meditation, by setting aside time for it on a weekly basis. I look forward to 10 minutes of quiet meditation on my yoga mat before classes on Monday and Friday evenings. I find that I need a break from the busyness of the week by the time Wednesday rolls around, so I work from home on those days and try to take an hour in the afternoon to light some incense, meditate, drink tea, and journal while soaking up the sun in the yellow winged chair that sits in the corner of my bedroom.
No matter the hows, wheres, or whys of your practice, the thing that all meditators must accept is that meditating a few times will not fix you forever. Heck, it might not fix you for a day or even an hour. Meditation is a practice. In order to gain anything from meditation, one must actively make space for themselves to do so. Continuously showing up for yourself is an important part of it.
When I am on a streak with my meditation practice I can feel the difference. I wake up ready to put pen to paper, I go out into the world prepared to enter difficult conversations, and I fall asleep within moments of my head hitting the pillow. Meditation makes me confident, it gives me a baseline of calm from which to operate and see the world. But when I allow my practice to fall off the bottom of my to-do list, it only takes a few days before I become an anxious, self-doubting, cranky, and severely introverted mess of a human. I am fortunate to be a fairly mentally and emotionally resilient person, but let’s face it, being human in 2020 is enough to chip away at anyone’s well-being.
Depending on the day or who you ask, some will claim that meditation is easy, while others will maintain that it is extremely difficult. It is both. The practice of carving out time and quieting your mind can feel akin to climbing Mt. Everest on some days, but once you are there - sitting, breathing, being - it becomes easier.
All it takes is ten minutes of making it your job to think about nothing other than the rise and fall of your chest, the feeling of your lungs filling up with oxygen before emptying out again, over and over. If you can gently train your thoughts on this most basic act of living, you have achieved meditation.
There are days when this state of being comes easily and my thoughts float away, leaving quietude and peace behind. There are other days when just breathing is difficult, when self-doubt disrupts the flow and stress won’t stop nagging at the edges of my mind. But that’s OK. It’s in the practicing where the meditation actually happens, rather than in the success of the practice itself. It’s the intention that counts, the attempt to bring yourself back to center that opens up your heart, if only a tiny crack.
Written by Faye Lessler, a California-born, Brooklyn-based freelance writer and advocate for regenerative sustainability. She enjoys writing mission-driven content while sipping black tea in a beam of sunshine.