A friend of mine has been suggesting mindful meditation to me for a very long time now. The idea of it intrigued me because I, Jessica Molina, overthink everything, and when life gets too stressful, my brain works overtime to analyze every little detail of every situation. Sometimes on the weekend, I even catch myself thinking, Four hours of your weekend have passed, Jess, you better use your time wisely. Crazy, I know, but that's my brain. So I figured becoming mindful about my thoughts might help me to learn to control the little sucker.
For the past year, I’d attempt meditation for a day here and there, but never really committed. I felt like there was a war going on inside my head. I couldn’t get my mind to stop wandering. I just resigned myself to believing I was one of those people who could never get the hang of meditation. But I kept reading about all these benefits associated with the practice (like that it reportedly can help you become more self-aware and reduce stress), so I told myself eventually I’d try again.
Well what better time to give it another try then with the new year? I decided commit to a 30-day practice to see what effects it would have on me. Between balancing my personal and professional schedule, making sure I get my butt to the gym, and seeking sublime happiness (aren’t we all?!), I just wanted to find peace in the midst of chaos, and meditation seemed like it had some of the answers. If there are any overthinkers out there, I’m sure you can relate to the struggle of getting so caught up in your mind that you end up creating problems that don’t even exist. It's an absurd, annoying way to live, which is why I felt a more in-depth mental connection would make my life a little easier.
I knew I needed to ease into the practice because if I just jumped into a 30-minute routine I’d be setting myself up for failure. So I started with the app Headspace, which offers a free 10-day introduction into meditation. Each day I was guided through a brief 10-minute practice where I was taught how to pay attention to the sensations in my body, surroundings, and most importantly, to be conscious of my breathing. I highly recommend the app for anyone trying out meditation for the first time. There are cute visuals that help to give you a better idea of what’s really going on with your mind during meditation. Even in the span of 10 minutes, my mind managed to wander at least 50 times, but the 10-day countdown kept me accountable and on track. Once the 10-day intro was over, I switched to podcasts from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.
Initially, when my mind first started to wander, my first response was one of aggression: I internally reprimanded myself to get it together, stop thinking, focus on my breath — basically, the exact opposite of how one should respond when trying to meditate. But a big tenet of meditation is kindness, not just toward others, but also toward yourself. Soon I became aware of my internal mean-girl voice and started to consciously make sure I didn’t beat myself up for starting to make a to-do list in my head. Instead, when I recognized what was occurring, I gently reminded myself I was thinking, and went back to the breathing.
Over the span of a month, the negative voice popped up quite a few times, not solely when I was meditating, but during other instances when I was working or attempting projects where my skill was on the line. Apparently, there’s been an internal mean girl causing me doubt for a long time, but because I seldom spent time in complete silence, I never really figured out how and when she’d pop up in my brain to rain on my parade. There will always be moments of uncertainty in life, but now I think I’m starting to get a better understanding of when and why that starts to happen. Hopefully, the more familiar I become with the mean girl within, the more easily I'll be able to shut her up.
And that’s just the type of magical breakthrough I was hoping I’d get out of meditation — recognizing that life will get stressful, but reminding myself in the moment to stop, breathe, be present, and say "Girl, you are getting all stressed for no reason” is insanely helpful.
Now after a month of meditating I’m really glad I started and am definitely planning to keep this going. I’ve learned to be more in tune with my body and emotions. I recognize how frequently I speak negatively to myself and that just won’t do. As for stress, I’m slowly getting it under control. Mindful meditation is all about being in the moment, and sometimes a moment just feels hella stressful, but connecting to my breath is a way of grounding myself and not allowing the anxiety of the world to take over. It also urges me to tackle one thing at a time. I’m just starting to see baby benefits, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store as I continue down my meditative journey.