Self-Care: Meditation, Am I Doing this Right?

Full disclosure, I’m a meditator, and I believe in God. That being said, I’m not here to sell you on my idea of what’s right or tell you what’s right for you, I’m only going to tell you what my process was and hopefully it will be helpful to some.

I’ve been meditating for about seven years, and it has helped to change my perspective on just about everything. That doesn’t mean that life is suddenly easier, or the emotional weight is any less than it was when I wasn’t meditating. I still experience the same frustrations and problems as I did before, only now I see things in a different light.

I believe the main benefit I’ve gained from meditation is that I’m more easily able to connect with my emotions and wants and needs than I ever was in the past. And things have slowed down quite a bit.

I used to drink. Coffee during the day, mostly espresso and about seven to nine shots. They were usually in the form of mocha lattes and also lots of energy drinks. Then alcohol at night, six to seven drinks. These were to slow myself down from all the coffee I drank. Sometimes I’d mix the energy drinks with the alcohol. It was tough. A constant cycle and not a healthy one or something that was sustainable by any means. If I went without either for to long I would get panic attacks. When the feelings I was running from would slowly start to bubble to the surface.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad. I had some fun times but I was never really aware of the consequences of living without restraint and only living for the fun times. The “difficult” emotions mounted on the doorstep not unlike stacks of unpaid bills waiting for the day that I would open them. Only to be bowled over by the amount owed.

As I’ve said above, my emotional debts sometimes came in the form of anxiety attacks. But they usually took the form of a listless floating around without direction and not knowing how to move myself forward in life. In the direction that I didn’t quite have a bearing on. And it wasn’t just myself that I was hurting by avoiding my unfelt emotions. It was everyone around me that relied on me in some way or for some form of support.

For example I was married for eight years. Looking back now I can see what a wonderful and supportive wife I had, but that’s exactly it. The wife I HAD. I neglected her emotions in our relationship in the same ways I was neglecting my own emotions. One day she even came to me and said, “I feel like we’re roommates”. This should have been a clue as to the extent that I had been disconnecting from her and my feelings for her in our relationship.

In the end I ran from her. To avoid the emotional bills that were pounding on my door for the ways I had been living. Unfortunately I ran straight into the arms of a woman who was also on the run from her own emotional debt. As you’ve probably already guessed it did not end well for anyone involved. Accept my ex-wife who is happily remarried and where she wants to be. I’m happy for her and wish her nothing but the best for her and her family.

But it wasn’t until I started meditating that I could even begin to see things from this perspective. Meditation helped me to open the bills one at a time and take stock of my personal resources. And allocate parts of myself, my resources, to myself to help ease the pain of so many neglected emotions.

Ironically one of the areas I had neglected was personal finance. So some of my emotional debt came in the form of monetary debt. In fact, most of what I was doing was reparenting myself around all the neglected areas of my life. Giving myself the care and attention that I had never received from my parents. And it wasn’t all their fault but without the chance to slow down and take a personal inventory, I would have went along in life repeating the same cycles that my parents lived through and theirs before them.

It isn’t always easy. Getting in touch with the parts of ourselves we’ve been avoiding. But for me meditation helped. It helped me to reach out to others for help when I needed it. I was raised by men who were men. Hairy chested, heavy drinking, take what they want and trample whomever is in their way, men. Asking for help was, according to the men (and women) who raised me, “a woman’s trait”. It took a long time for me to unlearn this and many other lessons I was taught.

Later a co-worker of mine at a past job (let’s call him Lance 😉 called this “toxic masculinity”. Something he learned while he was going to a private school. He, much like myself, was soft spoken and sensitive to others’ emotional needs. Something that is not acceptable in a toxically masculine culture. So clearly there was something wrong with us. Which means we were looked down on or just plain abused.

I tried to emulate this toxic masculinity because I thought it would grant me acceptance. But all it did was make me mean. And I burned a lot of bridges during that time period of my life. And again thanks to meditation I couldn’t see any of this until I slowed down enough and the made genuine connections with others like Lance, heard his stories and empathize with his situation. Because it was the same as mine.

I have another friend who, let’s call her laughing princess, when I told her I meditated said to me, “oh, you mean like deep prayer”. What I liked about her comment was instead of fighting over who was right about what to call it, she recognized it as a practice in her life by a different name and we both agreed that it was something that was helpful for each of us.

These are only a few of the areas of my life that have changed and improved because I chose to slow down and take a deeper look into my spiritual experience. Like my friend laughing princess, we can call it whatever we’ve come to understand it as. For some you may be discovering it for the first time. Wherever you are it’s okay. Give it time and space and trust you will find the way. Happy trails :]

Image Credits: “Smokey Temple” by Antonio R Vianello is licensed under CC BY 2.0