Ah, meditation. My thoughts on meditation have evolved a lot over the years. I started consistently meditating about 3 years ago.
But to my surprise, when I really go to think about it, I have a fairly long history with mediation throughout my life. Let's dive into that, shall we?
If I can think back to the first time I ever meditated,
I don't know if I knew I was meditating. But then again, maybe I did. This is kind of a strange and piecey story because I'm telling this from sheer memory.
So if anyone who is reading this was part of this with me, and remembers, LET ME KNOW lol. Id LOVE to talk about whatever you can remember!
To continue, when I was in elementary school, like 2nd, 3rd or 4th grade… I was doing what I always did with my friends on nice days at recess: gymnastics, singing and dancing in the grass lol.
I don't know if I got tired or what caused me to do this…but I remember sitting down with my legs crossed, eyes closed and started saying "ohmmm" over and over again.
Next thing I remember, a couple of my friends sat with me in a circle and we all started doing it.
Like I said, I don't know if we had any idea what we were doing, but we liked it.
Our recess schedule was structured so that you were outside for a period of time with people in the grade below you, then just your grade, then the grade above you.
I don’t know how it started but after a few days, I eventually had girls from both the grades above and below me doing it with us!
Next thing I remember, is that the lunch aid's started to notice what we were doing and made us stop.
I remember being so confused why they were so freaked out about it...Anyways, thats what I can remember from my first experience with meditating.
However, I'm curious if my mom would be able to remember a time I would’ve been exposed to that before. It just seems very out of the blue to me that I would just think to sit down and do that at such a young age.
Then again, I was never the most hyper child.…I loved my down time just as much as play time… I wasn't always trying to play as much as my other cousins my age did.
So idk, maybe I was just doing what I was feeling and had seen people say "ohmm" on tv… I guess I'll never truly know, but hey... c'est la vie.
Moving on, my first "conscious" meditation.
Conscious meaning, I knew that what I was doing was meditating... it was in middle school. They used to call it "going to the beach". Everyone in the class would lay down somewhere around the gym and they’d turn the lights off. Then we'd either listen to a recording or listen to the gym teacher talk and give us guided meditation.
I used to love it but mostly because I'd just lay there and take a nap.
Around that same time, I started doing at home yoga and pilates DVDs with my mom. I can remember being so focused on the movements that I paid no attention to my breath. And when the savasana (aka final resting pose) came around, I would just skip it and go about my day.
When I was in high school, we continued to "go to the beach" in gym class and I feel like I was even more excited to do it.
I found it super relaxing. But again, still mainly because I saw it as a time to get in a quick nap.
Then, I had meditation presented and explained to me in a slightly different way.
I had been on the track and field team since 7th grade. When I was in 11th grade, a couple of my coaches suggested I start throwing javelin. So I did. I honestly had no idea what it was and hadn't seen someone do it until my first day of practice with them.
The coach's name was Coach Krawl and he was one of the best coaches I've ever met. And I'm not just saying that because he was a wonderful person. He was, but he also coached some of the best, most talented athletes that went through our school district over very many years.
Naturally, I was intimidated and nervous to get started, but I did it anyway, practicing with them about 1 or 2 days a week.
My first week or so, Coach Krawl invited us to a throwing clinic that was held at our high school. There, I learned that Coach Krawl was a very well known and respected coach within the throwing world. I also learned, he was a cancer patient/survivor. Unfortunately, I don't remember all of the details about it but I know he had an ongoing battle for quite some time.
Also within my first week or so, I noticed that Coach Krawl did his own thing when it came to the structure of our practice. In other words, I had never experienced anything like it.
First of all, as much as I learned about javelin, I also learned about the importance of getting in the right mindset through meditation and rest. Since I only practiced with them 1 or 2 days a week… there would be times when all week, the only thing I did with them is meditate, stretch, and go out to eat lol…I thought it was awesome!
When we were meditating, I remember that whatever Coach Krawl was saying during it, made me think of it a little differently.
I can vaguely remember beginning to understand how to visualize what I was going to be doing or what I wanted myself to do-- definitely some progress there. Finally, I wasn't as focused on getting a quick nap. But in reality, as much as those memories have stuck with me, I know that when I was experiencing it, I had no idea any of it even really mattered to me.
After graduating high school in 2013, I don't think I even thought about meditating again until after my Mom died in 2018.
At that point, I began to meditate out of sheer necessity. Again, I can't remember the details about how I decided to start. It wasn't that long ago but everything around that time blends together because of the emotional stress I was under.
I started considering meditating a few weeks after my boyfriend (Joey) and I changed our eating habits. We felt as though our brains had this new capacity for learning and taking in information. I just remember that we had a conversation about what else we could do to make ourselves feel better. He was super encouraging and shared with me the helpful experiences that he had had with meditating in the past.
So that day we started meditating for about 3-10 minutes at a time in pure silence, a few times per week.
At first, I didn't really like it.
The silence made my mind start racing and brought up thoughts that I deemed as "things I didn't want to think about". I felt like it was so hard to sit still and I simply didn't think I was doing it right.
One day, I heard or read the fact that it's OK if your mind starts to wonder and think about other things while meditating.
The practice of meditation that truly strengthens your brain is that moment when you catch yourself thinking about other things and you choose to redirect your attention back to your breath.
Naturally, we will go into multiple thought spirals. But the moment you notice you are doing it, you can simply focus on your body inhaling and exhaling without judgement for yourself or your thoughts.
I also learned that sitting in silence and letting my thoughts gently come and go, no matter how much I didn't want to think about certain things, was extremely helpful to me. It forced me to really sit with myself and become conscious of how I was feeling in the moment.
Over time, it made me feel like I could begin to face some emotions, feelings, and situations that I had blocked out for so long. I also began to be able to function better even when those negative emotions would come on. This was extremely important especially since I had just lost my Mom so suddenly.
A few months later, I heard a conversation on a podcast that really made me start to think about meditating even more differently.
I remember literally having an epiphany when driving. So much so, that I recorded myself talking about it so I wouldn't forget.
Then, when you feel that anger, stress, anxiety, etc. come on, you can think to yourself, "okay how do I get back to that feeling that I experienced after meditation?"
We are naturally peaceful creatures. However, we have so much have stress going on in the world and within our daily lives that it's easy to forget and to get caught up into thinking that our natural state should be on edge, and that we should worried all of the time.
Thats just our survival mode talking. And though it's helpful in some situations, it can be extremely counter productive to have it as our default mode. Not just mentally, but also physically and spiritually.
A month or so after realizing these things, I was taught something else that completely elevated my mediating experience.
At the end of October 2019, I went to a yoga retreat that I knew very little about. Prior to this retreat, I had been practicing Vinyasa yoga for about 6 months. But, I had never been to an in-person class. I also never met this yoga instructor nor knew much about the style of yoga that we were going to be doing.
Turns out, that entire weekend was essentially centered around breath. The instructor, Tricia, is not only a yoga instructor but she also teaches class about breath and meditation at Princeton University. (Her class is so helpful to people that Princeton made it a required class for all students and faculty to take!)
I learned so much in those 3 days about how to use and control my breath as well as multiple different way to meditate.
Probably one of the most transformative things that I learned was the importance of the pattern of our breath. She explained and showed us how simply making our exhales longer than our inhales, automatically relaxes and soothes our body. AND vice versa. Taking in a long inhale and doing a short exhale will ramp up your body and the heat inside of it.
For me this was extremely helpful, for my meditation practice, yoga practice, other stress management tactics, and every day life.
It is common advice to tell people to just take a deep breath and relax when they are overwhelmed, stress, sad or mad. But when I would do that, I was way more focused on the deep inhale part and not mindful at all about how long I was exhaling.
I understand now that as I was doing that, I was getting the opposite result of what I wanted to achieve. Instead of calming my nervous system, I was firing it up.
From that moment on, I began to become more conscious of my breath during every aspect of my day. I try to spend as much time as I can throughout my day remembering to either keep my exhales longer than my inhales or at least the same length. This alone has seriously changed my days for the better. Especially during stressful situations.
Currently, my meditation practice is one of my favorite parts of my day.
I love to meditate in the morning and any time I need to recenter or recalibrate myself.
I sometimes still meditate in silence but I also use guided meditations. It just depends on how I'm feeling in the moment, what I feel that I need most, and what I'm willing to do.
After I meditate, if I have time, I write and/or journal. For me, it feels so good and relieving to write about what thoughts or ideas came up during the meditation and reflect on them. Also, some of my best ideas and thoughts come to me while I'm meditating. Sometimes I don't even realize how good or helpful they are until after I write about them.
I've learned that meditation is one of those things that I don't feel like its going to actually help me in the moment.
But if I just do it and surrender to the present experience, it truly always makes me feel better. And it doesn't have to be for a long time.
For example, when we got our puppy, Lemon, she was only 8 weeks old and the first pet I’ve ever owned (other than fish). I was feeling extremely overwhelmed in a thousand different ways especially during the first two weeks.
Every time I felt like I was going to explode, I did this one 3 minute guided meditation on my tv. I can't express how much it allowed me to gain a grasp on my sanity. Those 3 minutes for myself were seriously life savers.
Even now, after we've had her for 6 months+, I still use my meditation practice to calm my overwhelm/anger toward puppy mom life.
At the same time, the longer period of time you meditate, the stronger the benefits you will gain from it. But that's something that has to be worked up to.
The first time you meditate, 3 minutes can feel like 20 minutes. Thats totally typical.
For me, I think I kept my meditations 10 minutes and under for the first 2 years. Now, about 2 and a half years in, I have begun to do 15-30 minutes at a time. To my surprise, that is even getting increasingly easier and I'm beginning to experience even further benefits.
I also have noticed that the more that I learn about meditation and the science behind it, the more eager and willing I am to do it again.
As most things go, the more you understand it, the more you can get out of it. I believe that if I didn't take the time to read and hear multiple perspectives on meditation, I probably wouldn't have the strong connection to it as I feel that I do now.
So, I've put together this list of resources that I have personally found helpful toward my meditation practice. I hope you can use it either start or continue your mediation journey!
WFPB Me Recommended Resources for Meditation:
Heal available on Amazon Prime & Tubi
Headspace: guide to mediation available on Netflix
Headspace: guide to sleep available on Netflix
E-motion 2.0 available on Tubi
Happy available on Tubi
Becoming Super Natural by Dr. Joe Dispenza
UnDo It! How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases
by. Dean Ornish, MD and Anne Ornish
Headspace: Unwind Your Mind available on Netflix
Morning Meditation- Updated Version by Dr. Joe Dispenza on Youtube
Inner Child Mediation by The Holistic Psychologist on Youtube
5 Minute Morning Guided Meditation For Positive Energy by Mantra Mediation
10-Minute Meditation For Anxiety by Lokesh Agrawal on Spotify
5-Minute Meditation You Can Do Anywhere by Lokesh Agrawal on Spotify
Get loved up: Meditation by Koya Webb available on Alo Moves
Connect to Bliss by Eoin Finn available on Alo Moves
Rise and Shine by Avery Whitmore available on Alo Moves