That’s me in the photo. But, I wasn’t always the picture of serenity. Far from it, actually.
My story began as a typical teenager with a lot of angst and rebellion. By my twenties, intense emotions morphed into anger and rage. Sometimes my hot temper was unleashed on those I loved with verbal lacerations. Other times, I turned the wrath on myself.
I can recall a time, as a 20-something, I absentmindedly left my wallet in a grocery store shopping cart and drove off. Hours later, realizing what I’d done, I berated myself for my stupidity and repeatedly punched myself in the thigh.
At 47, I’m better at managing my emotions. And good thing, too, or my path might have taken me to a cold prison cell sporting an ill-fitting jumpsuit. (Actually, that isn't a stretch…but a story for another day.)
How did I get from there to here?
Physical exercise, like hiking, running and mountain biking helped. And my insatiable appetite for personal development books helped re-wire my brain and re-write the narrative of my mind. But, the greatest positive change came when I discovered yoga in 2000.
Yoga became my mental health program at a time when my job and personal life was in a constant state of turbulence. Yoga was “my life preserver.” Without it I might’ve drowned.
The real gift of yoga has been learning to be still.
I’d never really valued stillness before. That was for lazy people. I was a proud “do-er!” And, for all my doing in my 20’s and early 30’s I was awarded generalized anxiety, frequent headaches, stomach pain and a plaguing feeling of emptiness.
I needed to find a new way.
I learned mindful meditation was NOT about zoning out and emptying my mind. Instead, mindful meditation is an invitation to pause, become still and notice your thoughts and emotions with a kind of aloof curiosity.
Here’s how it works —
Start by sitting in a comfortable position (on the floor or in a chair) and focusing on your breath as it comes in and goes out. After a few seconds (or longer if you’ve been practicing for some time) you’ll notice a thought pop in your mind. When this happens you can say to the thought, “I see. Thank you.” And, release the thought and return your focus to your breath. Doing this over and over is meditation. Failure is actually built in to the process. How cool is that?
Here are some tips to get you started (or re-started) in your mindful meditation practice:
You’ll need a timer to chime when your meditation is over. I love Insight Timer (a free app) for this. Insight Timer also has a vast library of guided meditations, for when you’re in the mood for that.
Find a place to sit and that is free of distractions and put phone in “do not disturb” mode.
I suggest using a weighted lap pad (as shown in the photo) or weighted blanket. This will get you grounded and relaxed quickly. (Weighted Works has some great custom made products like the one pictured).
If you’re new to meditation, start your timer at 5 minutes and increase it by one minute when you’re ready for more.
I know it sounds like hyperbole — a simple practice with a promise of big results — but in time, you will become more relaxed and at peace.
Why not try a 10-day mindful meditation challenge? Just 5 minutes a day, for 10 days. See for yourself what changes…
All the best,
Kelley Doyle Snyder, PCC, RYT
Life Coach, Workshop & Retreat Leader
Kelley Doyle Coaching