Meditation. It’s a word that has been co-opted to mean anything that provides some relaxation, right? I hear it from my clients and friends all the time - “cooking is my meditation,” “running is my meditation,” and although those activities can provide you with a little r&r, that’s not meditation.
Meditation is simply a stress relieving tool that allows us to go from the realm of “doing,” to the realm of “being.” When we access states of “being,” we release stresses that have built up in our bodies over time. This allows us to become more present, more creative, more productive and more focused. “Meditation,” therefore has it’s own word to describe a set of practices that allow us to access this state of stress-release.
Are you surprised? I was. A handful of years ago I was in a really bad spot. I had moved to NYC to become an actress on Broadway. Where did I end up? Deep in the bartending scene, subsisting on tequila and nachos to mitigate my excess anxiety. I can see now that my panic attacks developed out of this highly imbalanced lifestyle - staying up all night, polluting my body and working myself to the point where exhaustion was normal.
I was afraid to leave my tenement-like, roach-filled apartment. On really bad days, when I had to go for an audition or for work, I self-medicated with alcohol so I could feel normal. I tried to hide it, and my lifestyle allowed me to, for the most part. There were mornings I woke up and had no idea how I got home, but no one really seemed to notice. I knew I needed to deal with it and get healthy. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I tried therapy and it helped, but I didn’t want to go on medication - nor could I afford it at the time without health insurance.
That’s when I found my teacher. She was holding a free introductory talk in Chelsea, a few blocks from where I worked - I snuck out of work that night and listened. I decided then and there that if the Meditation technique she spoke about did 1/10th of what she said it did, I was IN. Today, I look back at that moment and I realize it was a new beginning - no, life hasn’t been perfect, but this tool was so powerful that I immediately saw significant changes in my quality of life. Now I am so lucky to be able to offer this technique as a teacher myself.
Here’s a short list of what I’ve seen change in me over the last handful of years practicing...
Handling my anxiety - no more panic attacks! I was able to get out of my self-medication behaviors and now can easily enjoy a glass of wine socially if I want to, or say “thanks, no thanks,” if I don’t.
Upleveling my food choices - I respect my body and what I put into it in a whole new way. This led to weight loss, increased energy, and better sleep too. I went so far as to get certified as a holistic nutritionist and have been also able to help others on their healing journey through food, which was a total career-change in-and-of itself.
My relationships got better both internally and externally. As I got more grounded in myself, I was able to see how I could be a better daughter, a better sister, a better friend, a better colleague. I started being able to speak up about what I needed in a respectful way, without that little voice inside me second-guessing everything I did or said. I stopped being my own worst enemy, tearing myself down. I also was able to start seeing what relationships in my life were negative and could be compartmentalized, while fostering the ones I had that were supportive and positive.
I realized I don’t need to do it alone - we spend all of our formative years with teachers. Then, we graduate college and it’s suddenly expected that we can “do it all alone.” I realized I needed support - that I performed more at the top of my game when I had a sounding board for what I did. That has included a longtime partnership with an amazing Life and Business Coach, therapy when I’m going through an especially hard time, and consciously cultivating mentorships with professionals who inspire me.
Courage to follow my gut - I was able to get under that silly critical voice inside of me that says “you can’t” and see it for what it is: my ego telling me that it wants to stay safe and in the known, even if my gut is screaming that something else is right. It doesn’t make big decisions easy all the time, but it does keep me confident that when I make a big decision, I know that it’s the right one no matter what.
The ability to notice and appreciate miracles - we’re socialized to think that miracles are things like turning water into wine, but miracles happen every day. Now I notice the butterfly on the sidewalk who is showing off it’s beautiful wings, the “random coincidence” of running into a friend whom I haven’t seen for a while, the additional income that “surprisingly” comes in when I most need it, and more. If those aren’t miracles, I don’t know what is!
Meditation is not a cure-all. If you start to meditate daily, you might not suddenly be “cured” of whatever it is you’re looking to change. But meditation is a powerful tool that can bring significant change to your life across the board. For me, Meditation was the impetus for so many other changes that I believe truly allowed me to get unstuck and begin the healing process that I needed to uplift my experience, and step into the driver’s-seat of my life.