I’ll start off by saying that when people used to tell me that they started meditating and that it was changing their lives, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. All I kept thinking was that if I sat alone for any amount of time with my thoughts, my brain might actually implode.
You see, I must keep the wheels spinning for the gerbils that live in my brain. I don’t know if they’re actually gerbils, or wild hamsters, or if they’re just small versions of myself that are arguing all.the.time.
As someone who owns their own business, I constantly find myself working tirelessly but somehow not getting anything done, all at the same time. My ever growing to-do list and anxiety of failure had come to a breaking point. This is not the way I wanted to live my life. The voices in my head needed to be tamed. Those damn hamsters. Or gerbils. Whatever.
Fast forward a week where I go into MOMENT for an MQ. Basically, they measure your heart rate, brain waves, pulse, breath, and can quite literally measure how you react to certain stimulus. I learned that my brain has a hard time slowing down, even if I’m practicing slow breathing; even if my eyes are closed. Especially when my eyes are closed.
The first time I meditated, Anita told me to pay attention to the thoughts that came up. Don’t give them any weight, just notice them, and then let them go. Alright. Let’s do this. Here is a small sample of the things that were going on in my brain. Did I remember to turn the lights off in my house this morning? Did I feed my cat? What should I have for dinner tonight? Fuck I totally forgot to reply to that email … How crazy are emails anyways? Is everyone else thinking this many things at once? Do hamsters live in the wild?* You know, totally normal stuff. But I kept breathing; acknowledged that my brain is obviously a strange place; kept breathing. And you know what? IT FELT GOOD.
Maybe these people are onto something.
A week into meditating I find myself taking time to drink my coffee in the morning, not just re-heating yesterdays cup and flying out the door, but actually sitting down and taking ten minutes. I would go into my day feeling grounded, and knew that whatever disasters might lay ahead, at least I had my breath. Who was this mystical creature I was becoming, ‘at least I had my breath?!’ Is it really this easy?
It really is that easy. Okay, maybe it’s not that easy. Week two, I’m stressed, I’m overwhelmed and it’s only Tuesday. I don’t have time to sit down and be with my thoughts, I have shit to do. As I think this, I hear Anita’s voice telling me to just take a second. So I listen.
In the middle of my studio, surrounded by clothes, tears streaming down my face, I lay down. I shut my eyes, and I breathe.
In, and out, in and out. It takes five minutes of paying attention to nothing but my breath, and guess what? It helped. Of course it did. The hamsters were tranquilized, finally, if only for a moment.
Week three: the home stretch. I feel strangely calm in high stress situations, I’m speaking more clearly, and feel a lot less busy even though I’m doing the same amount of work. I am giving myself time to relax and to be with my own thoughts. Two thumbs up.
You don’t need fancy pillows, you don’t need to be a vegan (but you should be) or commit to talking about nothing but how mindful you are. You don’t need to change your lifestyle, you don’t need to go to a four-week retreat where you can’t speak.
You just need to breath.
You need to realize that YOU’RE IMPORTANT.
Your mental well-being is important to the world so you can keep kicking ass at whatever you’re doing.
The world doesn’t need more stress, there is plenty to go around.
So if you take anything away from my rambling, it’s that meditating can in fact change your life, and wild hamsters do exist. Just no longer in my brain.
*There are over 20 species of hamsters, which are related to voles, lemmings, and mice. Only five species are common as pets. Wild hamsters are found throughout much of Europe and Asia.*