I’ve never been one to particularly enjoy meditation. I’d tried it a few times––mostly when I was extremely stressed/anxious about something––and while I always felt good after meditating, I wasn’t able to get into a routine. It just felt like another item on my to-do list, another thing to get done. So I just never did it.
But my mom’s a big meditator, and in the beginning of this year, she suggested that I give meditating another try. She shared with me some of the benefits that she’s experienced and I started to seriously reconsider meditating. It sounded like a great way to deal with the stress and anxiety that I so commonly feel when it comes to school. I can be extremely perfectionist and trying to get everything done on time and of quality work can be really anxiety-inducing. In addition, I dance and compete in speech and debate, and managing everything I do can sometimes be a challenge.
So when I heard of the benefits of meditating, I thought that another way to counteract stress couldn’t hurt. I told my mom that I was interested and she recommended that I try the technique that she practices: Transcendental Meditation (TM). She signed me up for an informational meeting, and I went to the meeting a little unsure but came out sold on it.
According to their website, “[TM is] a simple, natural technique practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed” (TM.org). It was created by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi over half a century ago and currently over 10 million people have learned TM.
The major difference between this type of meditation and other meditation is that it’s effortless. It involves “no concentration, no control of the mind, no contemplation, no monitoring of thoughts” (TM.org). This was the biggest appeal for me, considering that meditation had always felt like work.
After learning more about the technique, I decided that it was something that I definitely wanted to do. I went to a one-on-one session where a wonderful instructor taught me how to practice TM. During that session, I meditated and was overcome with so much joy and happiness. It was a truly beautiful experience.
Since then, I’ve been meditating twice a day for about 20 minutes and it has changed my life.
I’ve been more excited about my days and activities. I’ve had less stress and anxiety. I’ve felt more present in life. It truly has been life-altering in just the few short weeks that I’ve been meditating and has brought so much clarity to my life.
For example, at the beginning of returning to in-person learning I struggled with finding the joy in each day. Everything started to feel like an endless cycle of school, homework, activities, and sleep and I fell into a pattern of just trying to get everything done rather than really enjoying myself. However, since I’ve started meditating that has completely changed. I’ve been more excited to do everything that I do in life and have found happiness in just living. This isn’t to say that I go through each day 100% joyful and excited––that’s unrealistic––but I have seen a significant increase in my excitement to go to school, to learn, to dance, to practice my speeches.
Meditating has also led to a dramatic decrease in stress and anxiety for me. Last week, I experienced this first hand. I had a really big school week with multiple tests, a chemistry lab report, and a research paper due. Weeks like these have never been my favorite, and while I’ve always been able to manage them, they always came with quite a bit of stress and anxiety. But last week was completely different––I was barely stressed at all. And this experience has been the case for all the tests/quizzes I’ve had since I started meditating.
What I’ve realized is that meditation has not only helped me deal with anxiety, but has helped prevent it from even surfacing. And I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve enjoyed it so much. In the past, I’d deal with my anxiety right when I got it by countering negative thoughts, saying affirmations, reframing, etc. While this was great for curbing the anxiety’s effect on me in the moment, I’d never quite been able to prevent my anxiety from even starting. But meditation has.
One reason I think that meditating has been so effective with combating stress is because it gives me dedicated time to subconsciously work through my anxiety. The way it was explained to me is that stress and anxiety are essentially “foreign feelings” to our body. The human body doesn’t naturally want an abundance of these emotions, so it will counteract stress and anxiety if we give it the chance. Mediation is that chance.
For me, I’ve noticed that at the beginning of some meditations I sometimes become hyper aware of anything that I’ve felt stressed/anxious about recently. However, as the meditation progresses, that stress and anxiety slowly melts away. I think a big part of this is that I’m allowing my body to get rid of the anxiety and really work through it. Consequently, that stress and anxiety doesn’t stick with me or resurface. We live in such a fast-paced, go-go-go society that we never really afford ourselves this opportunity to release our anxiety.
So 20 minutes, twice a day. That’s all it’s taken recently to make a big difference in my life. And maybe it can make a big difference in yours.