Meditation is one of those things women either run to or run from. Some sisters ease into it like they were born to sit still in peace, breathe and be fully present. Others come to meditation kicking and screaming, thinking it’s too “woo woo,” doesn’t align with their religious values or doesn’t suit their personality.
The truth is: we need some form of peace in our lives — and meditation is my peace. Many women — myself included — have felt sadness or depression, held onto worries that spin into a self-destructive loop, or lived on autopilot, too afraid or too exhausted to confront the truth that it’s overwhelming to struggle through the hard times without some sort of North Star. About a year and a half ago, I knew I needed to make some real changes because I was frustrated with so many things — my work life, my home life, the state of this country, you name it — and I was desperately seeking peace and that elusive North Star. I needed to figure out who I am and what I stand for outside of the many ways the external world defined me. I couldn’t do that without taking an enormous step back and getting honest with myself. I summoned the courage to make significant shifts in my life and it all began with meditation.
The benefits of meditation are well documented: at the top of the list is stress relief, but there’s also a general sense of happiness and well-being, improved sleep and energy levels, evidenced treatment for anxiety disorders and the greater ability to focus and show up in your own life in more positive and meaningful ways. Meditation can transform your life but it’s not a one-size-fits-all practice. It’s something that people come to from their own viewpoint and life experience.
Years ago, I would attempt to meditate but I couldn’t get through five minutes without giving up, saying to myself, “One day I’ll figure it out.” During a particularly low point, I made a commitment to be still and learn the whys and hows of meditation. What did I have to lose? I made the decision to completely surrender and I discovered that the peace I was seeking was always there but I had to find it within. As a result of putting in the work and committing myself to my meditation practice, which has become a game changer, I began to notice a difference in a few weeks and I decided that I wanted to teach other women to meditate. Today, I am enrolled in meditation teacher training, which I will complete within a year.
There are days when I begin to meditate and my mind starts to play it’s own movie. All I can think about is that deadline I need to meet, that dentist appointment I need to schedule for my son or that workout I didn’t get around to doing yesterday. But I never give up and I trust the process. My practice restores and energizes me and I am now walking in my truth, attracting incredible people and experiences I wasn’t necessarily open to or ready for before I began meditating.
If you’re ready to start meditating or like me, have started 1,000 and given up a 999 times, just know this: learning to meditate and gaining extraordinary benefits from your practice is not as difficult as you may think. There are five essentials of meditation which are explained perfectly in a book calledSoul Centered by Sarah McLean, the founder of the McLean Meditation Institute in Sedona, Arizona:
1 It’s okay to have thoughts when you meditate
2 Don’t try too hard
3 Let go of expectations
4 Be kind to yourself
5 Stick with it
The biggest lesson for beginners is: the nature of our minds is to think and thoughts during meditation are normal. When you allow the thoughts to come up, you can acknowledge them, bid them farewell and return your focus to your breath over and over again. Over time it gets easier and easier to quiet the mind and embrace what you discover in the silence. Some days are better than others but the key is to stick with it and don’t give up. When you meditate consistently — even if it’s only for 10 minutes each day — it will reveal things about you and it will become an inner compass that transforms the way you see yourself and the way you respond to the world.
The joy you’ll feel from embracing meditation is profound. You’ll feel calmer, kinder and slower to react to nonsense. The peace you’ll feel when you meditate will spill over into your every day life and your interactions with others. You’ll be able to make much more reasonable and rational decisions because you’ll be tuned into want you want and need, and you’ll really know yourself. The true joy lies in the fact that you’ll become clear about your intentions and you’ll begin to walk through life being fully present. It’s a beautiful gift.
Want to begin your own meditation practice? Here are a few resources to help you get started:
- Visit the App Store and download the Calm app: The #1 app for mindfulness and wellness with the mission to make the world happier and healthier.
- Check out Black Zen, a wellness blog dedicated to improving the health and well-being of black and brown communities, and Listen to the Black Zen weekly wellness podcast on SoundCloud or iTunes.
Leslie M. Gordon is a writer, communications and marketing strategist, and the creator of Get Your Sol Follow her on Twitter.