Do you know that meditation is often recommended for mental health? When I used to teach meditation, I remember a question that I think we don’t talk about very often: why meditation and mindfulness are seen to be positive.
The actual question for me went something like “why is meditation is supposed to help with my mental health when the last thing I want right now is to be more “fully present” in a life full of pointless and depressing experiences?”
When she put it like that, she had a point, and I paused. She had heard that meditation should help. But people don’t talk so much about why it’s recommended. Why meditation even exists as a recommendation.
So let’s dive into the WHY.
Meditation literally means “training of the mind.”
These days, I think of it as ‘un-training’ as much as training. From birth, we are brain-washed to believe, expect, desire and feel certain things. As a child, I knew boy-things were blue and girl-things were pink. Boys weren’t allowed to feel like girls did. Success meant a 9–5 dayjob, a marriage and children. We are taught to be quiet, to be meek, and to dull our feelings with alcohol, exercise, television or the latest phone game.
Meditation is, in my eyes, anything that ‘resets’ us from this “trained-to-be-a-certain-way” state letting me be my true, wild, inner self.
Some people use meditation as a method to be present at any moment.
Others use it to be present purely to the tiny glimpses of joy in their lives (such as guided imagery that takes me through a forest and I feel a bit of relief away from the depressing things in real life).
You do not need to use it to focus on your emotions.
You can focus on your breath, a candle, your cat, or your feet as you walk. But if that feels too depressing, maybe think about a baby laughing or a cute kitten or find some funny youtube videos and just sit and let yourself be present to you that moment where you smile or laugh.
Not sure where to start? This is my go-to video of pygmy goats having fun.
My favourite meditation is a practice called “Metta.” This means “loving-kindness” and I think of it as a compassion-focused practice. When I’ve experienced depression in the past, bringing my attention to things which feel a tad nicer than just being present was super helpful for me.
I also believe that meditation isn’t just sitting in quiet.
I recently heard an interview with Glennon Doyle, where she spoke about the “untamed wild” inside us, and I made the connection that this is why I meditate.
“The zookeeper started talking about cheetahs that were raised in captivity, right? The little girl raised her hand and said, “But does Tabitha miss the wild?” And the zookeeper said, “No, no, no, no, no. Tabitha was born here. She doesn’t know any different…
…I look over at Tabitha and Tabitha is a different animal away from the zookeeper. Her posture has changed, she’s looking regal, she’s looking fierce, she’s stalking the periphery of the fence, looking beyond the fence. You could just see this energy rise up into her, and Tish looks at me and she goes, “Mommy, she turned wild again.” I thought, “Oh, that’s what happens because Tabitha has never seen the wild. It’s in her.”
Yes, being calm, having space in my head to think, living a grounded life… all of those are brilliant. But my purpose, my motivation, is to connect with the secret weapon that is my sense of personal power: my inner strength.
Meditation isn’t just a tool to stop feeling sad, to manage your emotions in front of your boss, or to tick a daily goal off.
It is time for us to connect with our internal source. For me, depression is characterised most strongly by the sense of hopelessness. And if there is one thing my inner wild does, it reminds me that I am a changeable being, capable of making ripples in this world, and shaping my own experience. But only by tapping into my inner power.