Back in 2011, I signed up for a personal development course that focused on being authentic. Sounds a bit airy fairy, right? But what could be better than being your most authentic self every single moment, no matter what life throws at you?
The first week of the course was all about self-discovery. This made sense as the only way to get to where you want to be is by knowing where you are in the first place. Consequently, I expected the first module to involve some sort of insightful article to read or video to watch. Instead, the first module was on meditation.
They provided a guided meditation and challenged us to meditate once a day for the next 30 days. I was apprehensive at first but the course creator implored that it would be useful. If we didn't see any benefits whatsoever after 30 days then we could just stop doing it. One month of meditation couldn't do that much harm, right? I decided to give it a go. And what happened next was surprising and incredibly beneficial to say the least.
1. My family got worried
No one in my family had ever meditated before. Well, not officially anyway and as you could imagine, they were skeptical. Just like any other mother, my mum was concerned about my wellbeing. She was worried about what effect meditating would have on me and warned me not to get too "deep" into it. I guess this wasn’t too surprising as not many people understand what meditation is all about. Nevertheless, I started meditating and continued to do so as I was curious to see what my mind would be like after 30 days.
2. It was tough but I got better at it
Closing your eyes, breathing and sitting still for 10-20 minutes sounds easy but it’s far from it. Although these activities sound simple in nature, the first week was incredibly tough as a million thoughts flooded my mind. Clasping onto the hope that those thoughts would one day disappear as my mind evolved into one of a zen guru’s, I pushed forward.
Over time, the thoughts slowly dissipated. But they never fully went away. What did change dramatically though was my ability to identify, accept and then release my thoughts. It became easier each and every time I practiced and it wasn't long before I had also extended the length of my meditation sessions.
3. I became aware of the “now”
Looking back, I had coasted through life for over 20 years without ever taking in what was happening around me. I guess I couldn't because I was always stuck in my mind thinking about what I had said yesterday and then worrying about tomorrow. It was as if I was alive yet asleep at the same time. That was until I started meditating.
It reconnected me with my senses allowing me to feel into my body and take better note of what was happening around me. It also taught me how to be hyper-aware, enabling me to deeply focus on whatever I wanted to direct my mind towards, whether that was a client project, or a bird chirping in the trees.
4. I breathe with purpose
Even though we’ve all been breathing since the day we were born, how many of us are conscious of our breath? The guided meditation instructed me to take deep breaths through my nostrils and right down into the bottom of my belly. The interesting thing about deep breaths is that they feel good. Really good! Go ahead and take a deep breath right now. How do you feel?
What's even more interesting though is that I noticed that I rarely ever took deep breaths outside of meditating. Instead I took short, shallow and sharp breaths all day, every day. While shallow breaths are great for keeping you alive, it’s deep breaths which truly invigorate your body.
Nowadays, I remind myself to take a deep breath a few times every day. It's a simple trick which keeps me present and reminds me that I'm a living being rather than a robot inside a human’s body running on autopilot.
5. I listen more closely
Nowadays, many people tell me that I’m a great listener. This wasn't always the case though. While I may have looked like I was listening as I nodded with intent, I was always more focussed on thinking up something smart to respond with.
Meditation taught me how to focus on my breath, body and surroundings. I use these same principles when I’m talking with someone else. It's really quite simple - take a deep breath, observe and actually listen to what they have to say. From there your response will come naturally.
So that’s just a slice of my meditation journey and an example of what benefits may await you. Do you meditate? If so, what happened when you started meditating? And if not, what’s stopping you?