Have you ever had the feeling is if you just cannot stop what you’re doing? I’m not talking about how you get in the middle of activity and you’re so zoned in that you just can’t put it down. I’ve experienced that many a time, whether it’s a project for school, some sort of scrapbooking project, or even a book that I was reading. The kind of feeling I’m talking about is when your mind just doesn’t seem to shut off. I’ve heard people talk about it, I’ve read about it, and I thought I had experienced it… But these last few weeks I finally experience the full effects of it. And I wasn’t really a fan of it.
I’ve always enjoyed staying busy and I consider myself pretty good multi-tasker. But recently I’ve just felt like I’ve had ongoing thoughts that keep circling in my mind, over and over again. And I just couldn’t shut them off. I would wake up in the morning and the thoughts would just start flowing in. I would go for a run and I’d have at least five really great ideas that would flicker in and out of my head as my feet took turns hitting the pavement. By the time I would get home, I would struggle to get all these good ideas down on paper. While I was trying to recall these thoughts, a new thought would pop into my head. Then I would be scrambling to write that thought down before I forgot it!
I would start my morning by getting ready for work – taking a shower, making breakfast, taking care of our puppy, etc. Usually at this point I was more focused on what I was doing, so the thoughts weren’t as loud. On my drive to work, I would talk to my my mom, which was my normal routine. Once at the office, I would set up my day and make myself coffee. I usually have 4-5 projects going on with my line of work, so I’m very focused oh whatever it is that I’m doing. But at some point during the morning, the thoughts would come back.
I want to take a moment to be extra clear about something. These are not like that that’s a bad thoughts. These are great ideas that would come to mind as I was working on something and I would quickly jot it down or tell myself, “ok, remember that”. And then I would go back to what I was doing. But they just wouldn’t seem to stop. Which is great, but I also very inhibiting when your intently working on something else. I just wanted the thoughts to stop. I wanted to be able to press pause and come back to it when I had more free time at lunch or later in the day. But I couldn’t seem to turn them off. This would go on for hours, and continued once I got home. It lasted for about a week, before I had enough.
I used to think meditation was impossible and only something that I could dream of doing. What – you want me to clear my mind and not think of anything? Ummm that’s practically impossible for me (or most people, I would imagine). But I kept hearing about how awesome it was and how I should try it, so I began to consider it.
Then this happened – everything just seemed to start going haywire. You know those days when it all hits the fan? Yep – that’s what it felt like. I wasn’t sleeping, I couldn’t concentrate, and I couldn’t shut my brain off. The racing thoughts continued throughout the day. I spent a week circling through wake and sleep cycles, trying desperately to find a way to shut it all off. As I attempted to fall asleep last Sunday night, I told myself I was going to wake up the next morning and meditate. And I did. I’ll be the first tell you – it was extremely difficult. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was thankful to just relax.
My first day, it took me forever to get into the “zone”. I set my phone’s timer for an ambitious 7 minutes and got in the “position”. You know – cross-legged with my hands resting on my knees, palms facing upward. But then I couldn’t get quiet enough. We live next to a busy highway and the sound barrier wall can only block so much noise. The perfectionist in me kept coming to the surface, with it’s tiny voice asking: “Am I doing this right?” “It’s not quiet enough.” “Should I keep my eyes open or closed?” “What do I do with my hands?”
It took me longer than it should have to silence this voice as well. I remembered one of the tips I had read – count your breaths – so I decided to give it a whirl. One – I took a deep breath and slowly let it out. Two – I tried to focus on envisioning myself on a beach. Three – ok, I think I can do this. Slowly, I felt as if the clouds in my mind began to move just a tiny bit and my mind was a little less chaotic. The timer for the seven minutes of that first day weren’t the best, but they were a start. And you know what? I wasn’t the least bit concerned about whether or not I did it correctly. My biggest concern was when could I do it again?
The following day, I didn’t make time for it in the morning and boy was that a mistake. I felt all sorts of oddness that Tuesday. I had slept decently, so I couldn’t blame that. On top of everything else that was going on inside me, I just felt like I was off balance. I once again felt like I couldn’t keep things in the right place and I felt as if I all over the place. I’m usually really good about multi-tasking and keeping things in order, but I just felt as if my mind was going a million miles a minute. It was a crazy feeling. I came home and tried to meditate then, but found it even harder than the first day to concentrate. I realized that mornings were my only hope for solace.
By the end of the week, I was in a much better state of mind. I began to sleep better – through the night without waking up or having an upsetting dream. I would wake up with a clearer and quieter mind – one that didn’t race as quickly as my footsteps on my morning run. I would come home and either do yoga and meditate, or just meditate. Five minutes of peace and silence (or as close to it as I could get) before my day would begin. Though it was only 300 seconds, those 300 seconds set my day on the right track. I could concentrate on getting ready for work and actually not be disturbed by rushing, fleeting thoughts. I began to feel like my old-self again and it was calming, which of course helped my mood even more. I have now begun to look forward to my morning sessions with myself.
Meditation is a wonderful way to get in connection with yourself whether you’re struggling or not. Some people use it to improve communication and relationships. Others use meditation as a method to sharpen their thinking or master their emotions. Still others are like me – seeking to reduce anxiety and/or depression. Whether you’re new to meditation or a seasoned professional, here are some tips I found helpful.
- No matter what you read or hear, don’t expect your brain to just go blank! Especially if this is your first time. One tip I was given was to use a candle to focus your sight on, helping to clear your mind of other thoughts.
- You don’t have to sit cross-legged or hold your hands in a specific position. While some prefer this position, the overall goal is to be comfortable. It may take you a free tries, but find one that speaks to you.
- Don’t plan on a long amount of time. If you’re a beginner, pick a short length of time and set a timer on your phone. Start off small and slowly increase. I’ve only been practicing a week and I’m only up to 5 minutes.
- Try to practice meditation first thing in the morning. Not only is it quietest during this time, but it’s also when you’re most open. I’ve found that it’s extremely beneficial in helping me start my day off on the right note, connecting with my thoughts before the hustle and bustle begins.
- Whatever arises, just go with it. If emotions do come up, embrace them and feel what they’re trying to tell you. If the same thoughts or emotions frequent your sessions, pay close attention. Your body and mind are trying to tell you something.