For years I have heard others suggest meditation as a tool for personal growth, self-discovery, enlightenment. For years I have ignored this topic. I felt that I was doing an adequate job managing my life, my challenges, along with my personal growth. So what changed? What prompted me to look into meditation and what I have learned and applied so far? Is there value to meditation? If so, what and how? This is the focus of this post, a sort of, “meditation for those who have ignored this topic.”
The perception I had of meditation was the classic image of someone sitting cross-legged with some special way to place your hands and fingers. Sitting cross-legged was a problem for me since I have lost some of my flexibility. Why did my hands have to be positioned in a certain way. I am sure there are reasons, but I just do not like it being so formal. However, there were those who practiced meditation regularly and spoke about the benefits from it. Like so many ideas we hear about, we need a reason or motivation to consider them. I found this during the pandemic.
It was during the pandemic that I found myself, like so many others, in isolation a lot more than usual. As an introvert, I am comfortable with isolation, and actually seek out isolation at times to charge my batteries (my soul). But the extreme isolation at times began to affect me. I realized that my mind, which was always operating in overdrive, was beginning to go into turbo mode. I had a hard time relaxing. I was trying to think my way into relaxing. It only made things worse. I decided to look into meditation to find greater relaxation and to reduce the stress I was feeling.
My first endeavor was to attend a weekly meditation at a Buddhist center. There was a lot of education on Buddhist concepts which was interesting, but there was no real instruction on how to meditate. However, just sitting in the chair and being quiet was helpful. This format for learning meditation just did not work for me.
It was actually on TV, specifically Netflix, that I discovered a title called “Unwind your Mind” by Headspace. The title intrigued me and I checked it out. Andy introduced himself in the first segment. I decided to learn more about Andy on a separate video on YouTube. He was an American who travelled to the Himalayas and became a Buddhist. As I heard him speak I was so impressed with his down-to-earth approach to life. He had the uniqueness of understanding what life was like for most of us and his methods considered our busy lifestyles.
I returned to Unwind Your Mind and noted that there were several meditations, or episodes, each for a specific topic (e.g. anger, pain, etc). In his first video I was super impressed with the fact that I did not have to sit cross legged. I could even lay down, which I love to do, and can do very well!! I started the first meditation. There was some education that I really enjoyed and could relate to. It was all very practical comments and shared stories that I could relate to. Andy then guided me through a meditation. It was easy to follow, and kept reminding me that it was okay if my mind was still racing, which it was. At the end he suggested that I remain still and note how I felt. I did feel more relaxed! I heeded his suggestion to repeat frequently.
I found a time that I could commit to meditating each morning. I opened Headspace and listened to the sequence of meditations. Each one used a unique method which Andy spoke to, which made it fun and kept my interest. Admittingly, I was finding myself more relaxed by the third week. I was actually interested in meditating now.
Headspace offers a new interactive meditation title on Netflix that I enjoyed as well. It allowed me to identify how I was feeling (limited choices but cool), and how long I wanted to meditate for. The result continued to be that I felt more relaxed. Even though my brain was still on overdrive, I realized that I could focus on breathing which distracted me from focusing on my busy brain and a constant flow of thoughts.
I began to venture out on YouTube and found a wide variety of meditations on multiple topics. I was better able to do these meditations using the informal approach that I learned with Headspace. This was a HUGE plus for me. I liked some of the messages, themes, mantras, so I kept them as favorites and would mix them in with my regular dose of Headspace meditations.
The other result I realized was the ability to focus on specific feelings or situations. There were times I felt more sadness, stress, or anger, so I listened to meditations on these topics. I consider myself still a novice, but I do not have aspirations to be an expert at it, because what I am applying works. Let me share an example of how meditation worked for me.
The pandemic brought with it the good, bad and the ugly. One of the ugly elements I really did not like was how divided our society had become which made me angry. Realizing that although I could not solve this division, what I could focus on was letting go of some of this anger, since it began to affect my life which was evident with a lot of angry thoughts. There is a Headspace meditation on anger which really challenged me at first, which is what I love and is supportive of my growth. I repeated this meditation several days in a row, which was helping me let go of this anger. This specific meditation allowed me to focus on a topic (anger) and use the meditation to help resolve the conflict I was feeling. The result was that I was not feeling anger as much and when I did, I contemplated what I learned from this meditation. I had learned to accept that emotions will stir up which is natural, but what was different is that I was not allowing it to consume my mind.
This is not meant to be an advertisement for Headspace, but I am glad to be referencing them, since it really made a difference for me.
Michael is an award winning author, speaker, facilitator and coach on the topics of Career Coaching, Leadership, Personal Growth & Self-Discovery. Check out “Discovering Michael: An Inspirational Guide to Personal Growth & Self-Discovery” You can also view my latest development book on Leadership, “Leadership From The Inside Out: Building Your Leadership Foundation” which utilizes the concepts covered in this Framework to develop great leaders. Visit my website for more information (growhumanpotential.com) including links to my new YouTube Channel, “The Ripple Effect”, Podcasts and more. You can contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org