One Year of Meditation
After meditating every day for a year, Lucy explores her journey so far.
Depression and anxiety have been something I’ve unfortunately become familiar with in my adult life. Most nights I’m woken by my own dark thoughts. I worry about what will happen when my parents die, or how I’ll ever possibly make a decent income, or ponder if I’m ‘enough.’ As anyone with anxiety will tell you, your brain can run wild. Misguided and often unfounded, these thoughts do nothing productive.
Before practising meditation, I viewed it as something thin, Caucasian, blonde LA inhabitants had colonised, much like yoga. However, after many years of sleepless nights, I decided something had to be done. Having tried and failed a number of different sleeping aids, I revisited the idea of meditation. I remembered reading somewhere it takes roughly six months to change a behaviour, so I decided to challenge myself to meditate every day for one whole year.
Meditation and mindfulness often go hand in hand.
Meditation is a wellness practice. It involves focusing on sensations, sounds, breath and visualisation.
Ultimately the goal is to focus your mind and to develop an awareness of your thoughts without judgement.
Mindfulness is simply the quality of being present. The technique practices being fully engaged. Distraction free thoughts are the aim- easier said than done though right?
Going into meditation with no prior experience, I was very apprehensive. How could sitting still and attempting to quiet my mind possibly help me wrestle with my deepest, darkest thoughts?
As it was my first time meditating, I decided to go with a guided mediation app named Headspace. There are a number of free meditation apps or a quick YouTube search will allow you to access hundreds of helpful guided meditation videos if you’d like to try it yourself.
For the first few weeks, I struggled. I was forcing myself to sit still and demanding my thoughts to be ones of positivity and joy, lamenting when I inevitably got distracted. I soon realised I was being tremendously hard on myself and felt that familiar feeling of failure when I couldn’t clear my mind for ten minutes.
Little did I know I actually was taking care of myself and doing something of great value. By taking a short time out each day, even three minutes, I was telling my mind and body that I was important and my mental health was important. That felt amazing.
As weeks turned into months, I began to notice small changes within myself.
On my best days, I found I was becoming more focused and calmer when I was meditating and less judgemental of myself. If I was having a bad day, I found myself looking forward to meditating. On one occasion, I had a particularly bad argument with a friend, resulting in a hyperventilating panic attack, I forced myself to log onto my app and sit for three minutes. I felt calmer and more stable after just that short time.
Some days were of course more valuable than others. Some days culminated in sitting down for 10 minutes and wondering what to have to dinner that evening, or what outfit I was going to wear the next day. I am not perfect, and meditation does not expect people to be perfect. I was however taking a small time out each day to look after myself. Taking time out to care and tend to yourself should be celebrated and made into a victory.
The longer my meditation streak went on, the less I was putting pressure on myself to do it. I found meditation had become a metaphor for life – you do not need to do it perfectly, just being present is enough. It’s grounded me when my mind was running erratically. It’s given me a sense of calm that I haven’t found anywhere else.
Meditation is not about removing the negative thoughts – that’s unrealistic, we are human after all, we are allowed to have bad thoughts. It is about learning to live with the negative thoughts and that’s all they are, thoughts. Imagine staring at a blue sky and all of a sudden, a dark raincloud comes into view. Meditation encourages you to see and acknowledge that dark raincloud and then let it pass by until you’re left with your beautiful blue sky again.
There are so many situations that are beyond our control, however the thing we can control is how we respond to those situations.
As a Black woman, my needs, thoughts and feelings are often deemed insignificant and looking after my mental health is a radical act. In a world surrounded by chaos, (metaphorically) sitting still and tending to your mental health is crucial.
All illustrations by Lucy Turner
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