“If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.” ~Lao Tzu
For most of my life I had the overwhelming feeling that I was lacking something. I felt like I was not good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough.
I was nothing but an unattractive, chubby girl of little worth. In my late twenties I formed a huge crush that changed my life, for the worse, or so I thought. Against my will, I developed an unbelievable attraction to women. I was horrified!
Being gay was the cherry on top of my pile of shortcomings. This new realization confirmed the belief that my life would be nothing but disappointment, and it totally crushed the little self-esteem that I had.
In spite of my overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, I took the scary steps of falling in love and coming out to family and friends, with positive results.
Even though my fears of judgment and rejection were proven to be fabrications, I was still unable to shake the negative loop that repeated: “You are not good enough. You will fail. You are a disappointment.”
I convinced myself that any happiness that I experienced was momentary and would be gone in a flash. So when my relationship ended in heartbreak, I was able to bask in the glory of being right.
My negativity was justified. My feelings of worthlessness were correct. I gave myself permission to be miserable, to struggle in the dark caves of depression, to continue to live in fear.
But then one day a miracle happened, even with my negative mantra playing loudly in my head: “Loser. Failure. Disappointment.” Even over the deafening chants of pessimism, I heard a whisper: “You can change this.”
I knew that my life needed changing, but I had no idea how to achieve this. I wanted to find the happiness that I felt belonged to everyone else. I yearned for the elusive joy that kept slipping through my fingers. I was determined to find it and claim it.
I tried superficial ways of being happy; you know, the methods that my favorite TV characters used to deal with heartache: I shopped, I redecorated, I adopted a kitten, thinking surely these things would bring me joy. And they did, but it was fleeting.
Next, I tried psychic readings, life coaching, and finally therapy. It was through therapy that I started a meditation class and my life really began to open up. The veil of depression lifted; I felt lighter and optimistic.
Finally, through the regular practice of meditation, I learned that happiness can’t be brought, predicted, or achieved from outside sources. Happiness comes from the inside out.
With this realization, meditation has changed my life in five significant ways.
1. Meditation gives you a great start to your day.
I am not a morning person. I am not one of those people who spring out of bed before the alarm chimes. I would hit the snooze button, pull the covers over my head, and pretend it was Saturday.
Once the cruel hand of reality finally slapped me awake, the morning panic would start. Up in a flash, I’d be rushing to get dressed then out the door. I’d skip breakfast and I’d arrive to work late, creeping past the boss’s office.
But now I wake up at 5:45am in order to meditate. Though I still have to forcibly drag myself from my warm cozy bed, once I sit on my meditation cushion I’m able to relax, breathe, and set my intention for the day.
Meditation allows you to center yourself and reflect on the day ahead. By setting your intentions, you are able to shape your experiences and your reactions to events around you. It’s a daily reminder that you are in control of your life. You can choose the kind of day you will have.
2. Meditation increases positivity.
I practice Loving Kindness (Metta) Meditation. This type of meditation generates and projects loving and positive feelings/energy into the universe. That means sending love, understanding, and compassion to yourself, family, friends, and even strangers.
I’ve found that spending an hour being positive has made me—wait for it—more positive. Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true.
Our energy and actions are like boomerangs. If you put out negative energy, if that is what you focus on, that is what will continuously show up in your life, and that is all that you will be capable of seeing. But when you create positive feelings, everything you see seems to change.
3. Meditation increases self-confidence.
I have no empirical evidence, but I can say with confidence that as a result of meditation I now have some. Seeing the world in a positive light has resulted in me seeing myself in a positive way.
I love myself for just being me. I don’t feel the need to pretend to be what I think others want me to be. I have learned that I am not required to chip away at my square-shaped self to fit into a round hole.
Taking the time to see the world and yourself in a positive light increases self-confidence and confirms that there is a place where you fit, just as you are. There is no need to try to be something that you are not. Meditation is an opportunity to sit with the realization that you are enough.
4. Meditation reduces anxiety.
Meditation is about turning off the negative chatter that creates anxiety. It’s about breathing and letting go. By focusing on positive energy and thoughts, you are able to reduce the anxiety that you might be holding onto.
Through meditation you can relax knowing that any time anxiety rears its ugly head, you have the tools to deal with it. Deep breaths and a quiet moment may be all that’s needed to calm anxious nerves.
5. Meditation affords you a deeper connection with yourself.
When I first started meditation, one of the most difficult things to do was to sit quietly with my own thoughts. I knew myself from the outside in, from the labels I wore like fashionable accessories, trying to be what I thought others expected of me.
There was a disconnection between who I was and who I thought I should be. However, when you sit in silence without external distractions, your inner dialogue is difficult to ignore. The inner voice that tells the truth of who you are gets louder.
Meditation has a way of making you more mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and sense of who you are. It’s easier to create a life of happiness if you are able to connect with your authentic self. It’s a way for you to get to know yourself, from the inside out.
You can easily incorporate meditation into your life. All you need is a quiet place to sit and a couple of uninterrupted minutes, and you can even use a guided meditation (there are tons of free ones online).
The important thing is just to sit quietly without set expectations, free of self-judgment. There is no right or wrong way to do it.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not skipping around with my head in the clouds. There are days when I revert to my old thought patterns, allowing the negative mantra to cry out. But the difference is that now I am mindful of this and have the tools to deal with negativity more effectively.
Five minutes of meditation can have a significant and lasting impact on your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It certainly has on mine.
Photo by Tine72