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“Focus on the Breath for Just a Moment…”

Learning with Lee Anne

As I go through my 20s, I’m starting to learn about a lot of things that I was never taught in school or by adults while I was growing up. Though I wish I could have learned some of this stuff earlier, I’m still glad to have the opportunity to learn them. Reflecting on these moments strengthens my understanding of myself, so feel free to follow me as I broadcast my journal of thoughts about certain moments of my life. Allow me to illustrate for you my struggles and the lessons I’m learning about this thing called adulthood.

Meditation

According to my Headspace app, I’ve meditated for a total of 15 hours since July 6th of this year. A crazy accomplishment because before July, I knew nothing about meditation. I thought it was about feeling calm and thinking about nothing, which seemed impossible to my chaotic mind. Sitting in silence usually sends my brain down a rabbit hole of overthinking.

It turns out that meditation is a skill that needs to be learned. It’s more than just a moment in time — it’s a behavior that needs effort to be integrated into everyday life.

Just for context: my mind can be a tumultuous and sometimes aggressive space of self-doubt, self-inducing fear, and sometimes self-hate. This along with anxiety occasionally makes me feel extremely fragile. Cue in meditation.

I wouldn’t say meditation is a cure-all answer, but it’s a very helpful tool for helping me survive my self-destructive thoughts. Of course there is not only one answer to helping take care of my mental health, there are many answers, and for me, meditation is one of them.

Even after 15 hours, I still don’t think I’ve really “mastered” meditation. This could be my self-doubt speaking, but it could also be the 24-years-of-not-knowing-how-to-deal-with-negative-thoughts part of me speaking. A huge overarching lesson I’ve been learning in my 20s is how to deal with all the negative things I just named about my brain.

I’m grateful that we’re in a time where acknowledging and taking care of mental health is emphasized, but I didn’t have this kind of messaging growing up, so I’ve only learned to suppress things instead of cope with them in a healthy way. As a result, I’m both:

  1. Learning how to have a healthy relationship with my anxiety/self-doubt
  2. Unlearning the idea that negative thoughts are my own fault and I just need to flip a switch in my brain to be better

I’m unlearning many toxic ideals I’ve grown up with, and I’m lucky to be aware of it enough to find better answers — like meditation.

My favorite takeaways from meditation so far:

  • Imagining life as a blue sky and the negative thoughts as gray clouds — sometimes we get so caught up on a single gray cloud, but when we take a step back we can see how big the blue sky is in comparison to the negativity.
  • Imagining my thoughts in the form of cars on the highway — if we imagine ourselves on the side of a road, watching cars come and go, we can think of the cars as our thoughts. Sometimes there are particular ones that we latch onto and get distracted by, but when we remember to take a step back, we can remember that this one negative thought we are so hung up on is something that will eventually go. Everything comes and goes.
  • Placing space between myself and my emotional thoughts — sometimes it feels like our negative thoughts are completely consuming our entire being and it’s because we’re so entangled in it by using “I”, “me”, and “my”. By labeling these emotions and seeing ourselves from a third party view without holding any judgment, we create a space between us and the negative thought that allows us to breathe and feel free from restraint of the negative thoughts.
  • Taking the time to take care of my brain — just as we make sure to eat healthy and exercise to take care of our physical bodies, we also need to take the necessary steps to help our mental health; the latter is something we often overlook. Even just taking 10 minutes a day to dedicate to ourselves by meditating is easily put on the backburner when it should actually be our priority.

In the end, meditation is what you make of it and how you interpret it. Only you know what you need so if you ever decide to try it, go into it with an open mind knowing that you can shape your meditation experience to however you need to.

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