Drama runs deep in these Romanian veins of mine. (Technically my sister likes to point out we are more Irish than Romanian, but for the sake of this story, lets say I’m one hundred percent dramatic gypsy Romanian.)
Last year when my sister started meditating every morning, I told her that I hoped that she wasn’t going to turn into one of those annoying meditating people who talk about how great meditation was all the time. And the truth was, I was secretly (or not so secretly) annoyed with her for being able to commit to meditation. Mediation was something that I only told people I did, a little spiritual white lie if you will, but really had never partaken in. Meditation was in the same category as Soul-Cycle, eating raw, or drinking green juices.
I wanted other people to think I was partaking in regular meditation, but had never really committed. Frankly, the very thought of meditating scared the crap out of me. It felt like an insurmountable brain puzzle.
I believed meditating would mean that I would have to learn to stop thinking, and gosh darn it, that felt impossible. Absolutely impossible. Frankly, ludacris.
My dad likes to tell the me about how when he taught me to ski as a kid, he could hear me talking to myself the entire way down the mountain. Just a fast, constant commentary from a four year old on life, the trees, my boots, the snow, how well I was doing, how great I felt. Anything and everything, I was born to talk.
But this gift of gab could turn on me into the terrifying clown that cackles in your nightmares, because sometimes I just could not get my mind to relax and calm down. It was like the rotisserie chicken, spinning around and around, on high speed, day and night. And a lot of my thoughts were useless, harmless ones that came and went like little puffy clouds, but others thoughts would terrify me to no end.
This is an except from my brain:
Wow. It’s nice today. Oh look at that ladder. Don’t walk under it or you’ll die. Don’t be dumb, you won’t die. Don’t be dumb about ladders, you’ll die. Also, you might never find a boyfriend. Why do you need a boyfriend? Boyfriend can be nice. Or terrible. Are these thoughts creating my reality? Oh shit, Deepak says that my thoughts create reality so now I’m going to die under a ladder without a boyfriend.
You get the idea. Managing my brain has often felt to me like herding cats. All different thoughts going different directions, and I would get sucked into the under toe and panic, waiting for the things I feared most to come true.
So when we went on vacation to the South of France this summer, my mom, my sister and I, I watched in amazement as my sister reacted just a little bit differently what could have been a major family drama chaos meltdown. (We’re all Romanian, and thus, all dramatic.) We got stuck in horrible bumper-to-bumper summer traffic and were rushing to return our rental car to catch our train back to Paris.
My mom and I were basically beside ourselves in a full sweat, out of our minds with panic over the fast approaching time and train, but my sister remained calm but alert. She drove in and out of traffic and never once clapped back at us for panicking.
We missed our train, but my sister remained poised throughout the chaos. This meditation thing might actually work I thought to myself.
Somehow meditating had made her more flexible. And I looked at her with amazement as if she had grown a goddamn pair of angel wings and had learned a synchronized angelic dance routine to my favorite Beyoncé song. (Side note, my favorite song is Grown Woman. It’s my anthem. Get it. Not right now, but after this, go download it.)
So I decided to start meditating too. I downloaded and App called Headspace and started with their free beginners pack.
The first couple of days, I followed the directions, and wondered when something would start happening. I would leave the ten minutes sessions feeling about the same as when I had started, with the addition of feeling accomplished for sticking my headphones in my ears and sitting my ass down in the chair for ten minutes. (Go me! Go me!)
Now, the first time I truly noticed a real change was about month into the process. I got into a fight with my mom and was acting like a total crazy person. I believe the argument I had started with her was about me believing that she had cut into a sweet potato improperly. Crazy shit, really. And instead of doubling down on my insanity, as I normally would have, I had this felling of “pause” in my brain. It felt like someone had handed me a remote control. I finally felt like I had more space in my brain.
Slowly over the next few months, I would leave my mediations feeling somehow lighter. More focused. Less anxious and more present to what was happening right in front of me, instead of only preoccupied with what was happening in my head.
I now see that meditation, much like eating my vegetables, isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. Meditation has become the real nutrient for my brain that keeps me grounded and healthy. It’s what allows me to not flip out at the people I love, or when I do flip out, be aware enough to come back and not get sucked into the under belly of my own thoughts. I recommend committing to meditating for 40 days, every morning, and really being open to seeing what shifts for you. I highly recommend using a guided meditation in the beginning. Just like when I started going to the gym, having a trainer to give me clear directions and encourage me, made me less self-conscious and less anxious over all.
I’m not going to lie, I can still feel totally self-conscious and overthink meditating, but much like at the gym, over time I am starting to see that it’s not just what happens during the exercise itself, but how I react to my life after that truly shows me the benefits.