This past Friday, I went to a free mindful meditation class in Copley Square, near downtown Boston. I currently attend a 5-week podcasting class; a classmate of mine operates a meditation studio called Mindful Boston, and invited me to her community meditation nights. I always thought about the idea of meditation, but never got around to trying it. In all honesty, it wasn’t until I heard J. Cole’s KOD album, that I thought about meditation more seriously, and then the opportunity to go to a class came after. My ways of dealing with pain and stress were always temporary or damaging, like binge eating, listening to music for hours, or sitting in a quiet room and just cry. I felt like none of those things were working for me positively, so why not try meditation and see if this eases my stress and anxiety long term?
Wow, I should have done it a long time ago. I know sitting, standing, or lying down in silence sounds like an opportunity to sleep, but it was so healing. Although there were moments when I was fighting sleep, I remember hearing the instructor’s soft voice during the entire hour of pure silence. From the cues to breathe, to the peaceful visuals she placed in our heads, it was almost like I could control what was going on in my mind, and take all the thoughts I was worrying about, out of the way. After that class, I found a few apps like Calm and The Mindfulness App, and sit in a quiet peaceful place before bed to continue methods of meditation.
This, my friends, is just one example of self care that I didn’t know about.
Now, let’s go back a few sentences. I mentioned the few ways I used to (and sometimes still do, shamelessly) cope with pain, that were temporary, damaging or both. Unfortunately, I thought those actions were examples of self care. Seriously. I spent four years in college doing those things, and there should be no surprise why I ended up with major depression by the time I graduated. It wasn’t until then that I realized self care had nothing to do with temporary happiness, treating myself to unhealthy indulgences or staying in bed all day because I have no energy to deal with the outside world. It takes a lot of work.
When I meditated I had to force my mind to relax, ease my muscles that were tense, and train myself to ease into a peaceful place. The aftermath of it felt similar to a prayer, but the experience was different because I was dealing with my stress without speaking. It wasn’t easy, especially when my life is constantly hectic and my mind never takes breaks, but I made an effort. I felt so good after the class, and I was filled with a new perspective on life. However, I made a big mistake of using my new energy to buy fast food as a “treat.” I knew I shouldn’t have done it, but that shows you that I still have a lot of work to do.
The work includes self-discipline, challenging myself, asking for help, new experiences, and facing fears. My greatest challenge in my self care journey now is my weight because I’m constantly struggling with the discipline portion of it. Yes, a nice burger or a piece of cake sounds heavenly, but I have to stop thinking that consuming my guilty pleasures equates to self love. I know how I am with food like that, and I let myself down whenever I want to award myself or numb any pain or sadness. Truly treating myself is getting some watermelon, tangerines, a glass of wine, listening to music I can dance to, and other things that doesn’t ruin my progress. A self care journey is not meant to be perfect, it’s a learning experience with mistakes along the way.
If your self-care journey has to incorporate hours of television, partying, and numbing pain, that is your journey. I can’t tell you it’s wrong because it works for you. Just from my experience, I know that temporary actions doesn’t help me deal with whatever issue that goes on for me, mentally, spiritually, and physically. Exercising is long term, meditating is long term, drinking water, and taking care of your skin is long term. It doesn’t hurt to try this new approach to self care, and you may slowly see a beautiful change in your life.
I want to leave you with a video from Will Smith, as he talks about the relationship between self love and self discipline: