Navigating Towards Possibility

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Today I hit 180 consecutive days of meditation. This is significant to me because it means that I have made a commitment to myself, to show up and be present with myself. Every. Single. Day. For me, the time I spend with myself in the early morning hours, focusing on my breath, is the ultimate act of self-care.

There is this misconception that mindfulness practices, and meditation in particular, are about completely turning our minds off. This is simply not true, and not really possible given how the brain actually works. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn — one of the leading researchers on mindfulness, “mindfulness is a moment-to- moment, non-judgmental awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a specific way, that is, in the present moment, and as non-reactively, as non judgmentally, and as open-heartedly as possible.”

Contemplative practices like meditation allow us to cultivate more quiet spaces. Concentrating on our breath allows us to shift our focus from the constant, and often negative, mind chatter towards our intuition — the gentle, guiding voice within us that we often can’t hear through the other noise.

I realized in the past six months that there is a reason why people talk about having a “meditation practice” — it’s because to show up and sit with ourselves, day in and day out — that genuinely takes practice — and some courage. Meditation was challenging for me because it required discipline, and because it left me alone with my thoughts — and given that I, like so many others, have spent large amounts of time numbing the effects of my life through various binge-worthy activities, why would I intentionally choose to be alone with the very thoughts that often served as the source of my pain?

Because I had this belief, that if I could just move beyond the pain I would find my strength, my joy, my happiness. And I was right.

When I first started meditating last September, I had low energy and felt disconnected from my purpose. I was searching for more meaning in my life. I spent money, binged on food, alcohol and television, all the while telling myself that these were all forms of self care since I was letting myself rest and do what felt good to me in that moment. A regular meditation practice gave me a chance to practice some self-control and develop a ritual. Meditating provided a routine in the mornings that I could build on — some much-needed structure to my mornings.

Focusing on my breath made my overactive mind begin to slow down — it wasn’t quiet, but it also wasn’t going a mile a minute as it had been for so long. Getting up at 5:15 and sitting down to meditate meant that by the time I was finished I was awake and ready to start my day — rather than hitting snooze for the fourth time that morning. I walked through my mornings, calm and collected, rather than running behind and stressing my way through a road rage filled commute to work. 

I’m grateful that six months ago I made the choice to sit down and turn within. What I’ve learned is that beyond the pain is where I began to flourish and live from a place of authenticity and courage. I have learned to savor my life — long meals with friends, a perfectly balanced cocktail or glass of wine — that square of dark chocolate. I still enjoy all the things I used to and I embrace self-care — but now I do so with intention. Pain was simply the gatekeeper to a beautiful world of possibility. Meditation has given me the gifts of focus and understanding to navigate past the noise towards all the possibilities that await.