The Meditation Challenge

The following is part of the intro to the eBook I’m writing on meditation.

I started having panic attacks after I separated from my now ex-husband. It was an incredibly stressful time for all sorts of reasons from family shame, to personal shame, to how to survive as a single Mom and pay the bills and how I was ruining my son and his entire life, and my husband at the time was in what I will call his “bullying phase” . In general, it sucked…bad. And I was felt like I was losing my mind, and anything else that was supposed to be attached to me. It was at this time, that I was diagnosed with “general anxiety disorder”. Something that I thought for sure would go away after the divorce was done. My counselor who I had known for a number of years had tossed this term around for a few years prior so in her mind, I was finally getting it.

I tried medications because I thought it was my only option. The first one made me homicidal and suicidal (two of the top side effects of that particular medication) within the first 48 hours. It was so far beyond horrible, I can’t even tell you. The next one made me feel like I was constantly outrunning the world. I would walk and feel like I had to stop and let myself catch up to me. My doctor said, “Yes. That’s because it’s supposed to get your mind to slow down”. My friends, this was NOT going to work for me.

I couldn’t believe it. I was a medication failure and felt like I was just plain stuck with feeling horribly stressed and nervous about. Every. Single. Thing. In life, forever. It was crazy. I felt like I was crazy. I’d forget where I parked my car leaving the mall and start to panic. Knees shaking, heart pounding out of my chest, hearing my pulse throbbing in my head, wanting to scream out loud and cry at the same time, kind of panic. It was awful, and I felt totally and completely stuck, which made it even worse.

A friend of mine said, “have you tried meditating”? “Yes. I’ve tried meditating, I can’t do it. My brain won’t shut up”. “Yeah” she said. “that’s why you do it”.

That is when I started researching alternatives. Meditation was statistically the best way to deal with anxiety. I’m still wondering why my Doctor didn’t suggest that instead of trying medications, but in her defense, I went to see her because I needed help now, not in a few months. And, she’s a medical Doctor and alternative health is not typically a forte.
The first summer I started meditating my asthma symptoms decreased by half. There was an unexpected benefit! My anxiety was still rearing its ugly head but less often, and the little things seemed to be getting littler. My circumstances in life hadn’t change, but slowly it seemed to become a bit more manageable.

Over the years, I have fallen off and gotten back on the meditation wagon. It has not been an effortless journey. I will tell you what I’ve learned through the process:
1) it takes focus and direct intention
2) you will not develop the habit overnight
3) you will start and stop and start again, over and over, because you’re human
4) it will indeed change your life

The anxiety (I no longer term it as my anxiety because I choose to not own it) has improved greatly. Most people are shocked when I tell them I have anxiety, but every time I watch a plane fly through the sky and see it explode in my mind, I know the journey continues.

Fast forward to today. Until the infamous fall from the deer stand last October, I had been meditating daily for almost a year. Prior to that, two to four times a week. My practice has always had an ebb and flow. There have been times when I have a very committed practice, and then there are times when I totally fall off the wagon and don’t see my meditation seat for weeks. It’s not good for me to skip it, and I clearly know this. However, after this many years of practice I’ve found I can actually take a break and it doesn’t ruin me. I can stay grounded, centered, focused, calm, and when I start to waiver, I know it’s time to park my ass and get back to it.

Since surgery, it’s been a struggle as I can’t do this way that I used to in terms of the form I sit in, the yoga poses I use with it, etc. My ego-mind is picky, which I am practicing to overcome, as I realize it’s just a ploy to get me off track and keep me off track. Sneaky ego, very sneaky.

The ego will do that – mess with us. Not because it’s a jerk, it’s just scared. The good news is after this length of time my ego is equally as willing to sit with me and stay mostly quiet while I sit and stay mostly quiet. My mind wanders because it’s what minds do. It’s ok.

I encourage you to either begin, or begin again, with a meditation practice. You can call it prayer, deep breathing, centering, mindfulness, or whatever you like. It’s all the same thing, just different words.

I will recommend three things:

  1. Practice daily. Trust me on this one. I know I said I can take a break once in a while, but I’ve been doing this for 15 years. Start with a daily practice.
  2. Be relentless in your sitting still. You can use all sorts of things as meditative once you have an established way of being inside. In the beginning, you’re in training, so train. Sit still.
  3. Increase gradually. Try one day for five minutes, and then try that every single day until you can sit for five minutes and be relatively quiet. Then move to 10 minutes and repeat. Then 15 minutes, and so on. Give yourself permission to try again every day. You’ll get there.

Meditation requires patience with yourself. I have very little of it, but continue to practice, mostly because my life makes me.

I challenge each and every one of you to a meditation month! Every day for 30 days. It will indeed, change your life.

Blessings Galore, Anne

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