If I could control everything, life would be really good.
But I can’t. I’ve tried.
As much as we plan, deliberate on decisions, insulate ourselves with good people and positive experiences, there are always going to be factors outside of our control that invade our peace and happiness.
I’m a big fan of peace of happiness. And it really irks me when I find myself in a funk where both are M.I.A.
I would like to believe I can control my emotional reaction to these invaders…but that’s easier said than done, even and especially for a therapist who thinks she’s got this crazy show in check.
In the midst of the recent funk, I tried all of my usual methods. I hiked, ran, yoga’d, journaled, and had lots of coffee with super positive people.
But, I couldn’t stop the incessant negativity from draining me completely.
I was still in a funk, albeit a functional funk, with this lingering cloud of mild apathy and way too much sleep.
It became clear that it was the sheer lack of control I had over the situation that was both the trigger and the barrier to feeling like myself again.
I am a control master. It’s how I feel okay in a world of unpredictable chaos. Accepting and coping with certain toxic realities is outside my comfort zone.
So…I’m in this funk in early November on a weekend without my kids, which can get extra depressing because I will often go 48 hours without leaving the house or seeing another human being (I work from home).
In the middle of a Netflix 15-second countdown between episodes of some crappy television, I guilted myself into checking my email for anything urgent.
And, there it was:
“MEDITATION FLASH SALE”
Amanda Jones had reached out to interview me on a KUTV segment about the Rockstar Summer Skeet Shoot a few months back.
When we actually met for the interview, I had this gut feeling that she was going to play a larger role in my comeback. I just didn’t know how at the time.
I didn’t even read the email. It was a sign and I was saying yes. I scrolled down to the button to book a session with her and took the next available slot.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but the session far exceeded any expectations I could have gone in with.
Yes, people like me have to learn to meditate. And then practice. A lot.
That little tilt-a-whirl in my head is usually going a thousand rounds a minute in a dozen different directions.
I’ve tried some DIY meditation and guided audio in the past, but I could never get into it. I just came up with more to-do’s that I needed to get onto a list ASAP lest they be forgotten every time I tried to clear my mind.
Amanda quickly got to the root of my current struggle. It may have helped that we share the same ayurvedic constitution (similar to a personality test – you can figure out your dosha, too). As a fellow Vata, she had personal experience with some of the ways I get myself into trouble (or “out of balance”).
But let’s get down to the meditation practice itself.
Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi
We start out with dharana, or concentration. The aim is the “binding of consciousness to a single spot”; being fully present and focused, such as on a scent, your out breath, or on the flame of a candle.
With practice, we move from dharana into dhyana, or meditation; a deep, continuous flow of consciousness. Some call it a “state of no mind” and describe the transition as becoming one with the object of your concentration.
With much practice, we can then move from dhyana into samadhi: enlightenment, connection and bliss. Samadhi has been described as a “state of being intensely present without a point of view.” Our judgments and filters fall away and we experience the present moment wholly and directly, leading to self-knowledge.
I resonate with the concept of samadhi. It is when my mind is calm and my emotional attachments and reactions fall away that I feel most grounded and at peace. It is in those rare moments that I make the best decisions.
We get better at what we practice.
Meditation (in my humble view) is simply a practice of stilling the mind, and rediscovering that we are always capable of experiencing samadhi – at any moment, we can choose to become whole and fully present.
My 6-Step Meditation Practice
After distilling the theory and basics, Amanda guided me through some basic steps that I could repeat on my own to start practicing:
- Sit up straight and dignified. Roll the shoulders back.
- Place the index finger an thumb together on the knees. Point up for connection, down for consciousness.
- Find one focus (dharana). I have been using lavender essential oil.
- Observe thoughts as clouds without judgment and let them melt away, always coming back to the object of focus. I stay in this space as long as possible, pushing a little further each time.
- Silently call out to myself, “Emily”, bringing consciousness to the mind’s eye. Again silently, I repeat my mantra (which hit the nail on the head and released a whole lot of guilt during the first session): I am enough. I have enough. I do enough.
- When I feel ready, I end my practice with my intention, which so far has remained constant: May I be present in this moment such that I can see the next best step for me.
The first time through with Amanda guiding the meditation, I immediately found my own clarity around several surprising topics ranging from relationships to business.
When I got home, I immediately took action on one of these insights.
As a Vata, I am ambitious. I have big goals and plan them out to the very last rigid detail. So, naturally, I had these giant sticky yellow post-it sheets up on my walls in my bedroom.
My intentions were good, but lacked wisdom. I wanted to be reminded every day of my goals and the steps that I needed to take to achieve them.
However, instead of motivation, I often felt this sense of guilt about how long it was taking, especially when I engaged in much needed self-care activities, like taking a bubble bath, going to bed early, or watching a rom-com.
My goals were literally looming over me, and the plans reflected zero flexibility.
The yellow post-it sheets were promptly moved out to my home office and replaced with my new mantra: I am enough. I have enough. I do enough.
I’ve been practicing nearly every morning for the past month.
Most days I only last about 10 minutes, but even that 10 minutes dedicated to stillness and self-compassion first thing in the morning tips the trajectory of my day toward productivity, peace, and positivity.
And since I started practicing – literally from the very first session with Amanda – when the toxic dumps come in and try to invade my life, I don’t feel anxious and the negativity doesn’t last more than a few minutes.
I feel more resilient.
I have this very calm focus I can return to at any moment, where all of the thoughts and emotions can be observed and then melt away, leaving me feeling light and wholly me.
Meditation doesn’t require my hiking boots or a coat or even stretchy yoga pants. It’s accessible at every moment, providing a sense of insulation from whatever chaotic crap the universe might have in store for me.
That’s a pretty impressive outcome, which is why I have been so committed to returning to that space every day and continuing to do so every morning going forward.
If you’re on the fence about meditation, or gave it a try and didn’t see the point, may I suggest finding an insightful teacher.
If you’re in Salt Lake, I of course recommend Amanda. She also has a new ebook out, Finally, Peace (just $1.99 to right now, which is kind of an amazing deal if you get even one day of peacefulness out of it).
It’s so cool to hear about how meditation helped you move away from guilt about your goals, to motivation for those same goals. And that the insight came from practice and a better guide.
I’ve been considering coaching or meditation or some sort of “help” in 2017 because, frankly, 2016 was not great in terms of working on ‘self’. From a financial perspective, sure, we did well…but that’s just me doing the same things in the same ways. I don’t know if I can even count a growing bank account as “growth” in a personal finance sense, let alone a more meaningful way.
As always, you have me thinking. Thank you for that.
It sometimes seems that “self” is in conflict with intense progress on non-self goals, like launching a business, writing a book, or stashing cash to retire early.
It’s an interesting conundrum. Can you truly divide your focus and energy toward more than a single focus and still make headway? What’s the tradeoff?
All of my major career and financial accomplishments in the past have required sacrifice on the self side of the equation and an almost obsessive focus in one clear direction. And, yet, when I consider continuing to sacrifice self in exchange for more of that “success”, the definition seems to have shifted.
Perhaps there is a sort of Maslow’s hierarchy of achievement and self-actualization at the top of that pyramid is the multiplication of our outcomes beyond all prior limits by investing in and expanding our own internal resources, capacities and perspective. The equivalent of shifting our goals from finding shelter and food every day to creating a positive legacy in the world.
I’ve been working with an amazing coach for more than a year. The meditation has had it’s own unique benefits on top of that. I vote for trying both – and perhaps tracking what kind of financial AND ancillary ROI those experiments bring 🙂
I think your Maslow-esque hierarchy of achievement is a book waiting to happen. Seriously.
Of course, the catch would be writing the book without sabatoging one’s self in the process. 🙂
What a great read! I never knew it could bring such peace. I’ll have to try those steps.
It costs nothing and only takes a few minutes a day – seems like a safe bet! Thanks, Nadia!