It is hard now to remember what it was like in my own mind and body before I started practicing Mindfulness Meditation six years ago.
But from what I do remember, it wasn’t pleasant.
I remember that I felt crazy and overwhelmed most of the time.
I also remember a feeling of consistent anxiety—I always felt “busy” and couldn’t stop.
I felt like it was impossible that things might work out. It just seemed there would never be enough money, time, or love to go around.
It was like everything was on the brink of falling apart all the time.
And of course, I worried about this all of the time.
This led to me not sleeping, and not sleeping led to me not feeling like I could function, and not feeling like I could function led to me yelling at the people I loved, a lot.
I remember one specific morning when I hadn’t slept much for months. I was just looking at my children and feeling like I had zero clue how to be a parent.
The entire thing just made no sense to me.
I felt like I was unraveling.
At times I felt like I couldn’t even make it through another day.
The constant frantic worry that everything wasn’t going to be alright was ruining me.
I knew I had to do something.
This is when I signed up for my first meditation retreat.
I drove to the retreat crying the whole way. I had never left my children overnight before, and I had never gone away by myself simply for the purpose of doing something that was good for me.
It hurt, but in a good way.
The retreat I attended had a three day option and a six day option. I had chosen the three day option, telling the organizer in frantic terms that “there was no way I could leave for six days, because how would the garden get planted, and who would feed my children, I had to be at work, my mother was coming to visit…”
After two days at the retreat, the Meditation teacher made an offhand comment about choosing to “cancel” the rest of my life and stay the whole six days of the retreat.
In that moment, I made the decision to do just that.
While sitting in meditation everything in my system was calming down. I was seeing suffering as just that—suffering that arises and dissolves.
It was not a problem I had to fix, just something to observed.
I knew I was healing myself through meditating, and I wanted to keep going.
I called my partner and mother and told them I wasn’t coming home. I called my work and said I wouldn’t be there.
I stayed and meditated for another three days.
And what this taught me was to not believe my mind.
What seemed so true just a week earlier—that it was “impossible” for me to be away from my family for six days—wasn’t true at all.
My belief that everything (my family, home and work) would fall apart without me was a complete lie.
Everything became better.
I calmed down and stopped believing everything that ran through my mind.
My partner and I felt closer through my trusting him to care for the kids in my absence.
A helper came and stayed with us and got the garden planted.
And in the end I quit that job, seeing it wasn’t serving my needs.
Now I share what I have learned with others.
Yesterday I drove 400km to teach meditation in a remote, rural community. During my solo drive, I was acutely aware that I was alone in the car, just me and the road and the forest and my music.
I was shocked with how quiet my own mind was.
There were no worries.
Sometimes, I noticed an ache in my shoulder or leg, and then I returned to humming along with my tunes.
The students I was instructing were new to meditation. After the first meditation practice they told me how busy their minds were. They commented about the millions of thoughts and worries that flowed through their consciousness in just the short 10 minute meditation we practiced.
I told them this was normal.
I told them practicing mindfulness meditation on a regular basis would change this wiring.
I told them that I am grateful everyday for cultivating a mindfulness meditation practice in my own life because it saved me from myself.
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Nickolai Kashirin at Flickr