It was a Thursday afternoon around 2pm when my head began to throb in a sharp, centralized pain. Concerned, as I am not commonly plagued by severe headaches, I started racking my brain as to why this headache suddenly appeared. I ran through the common causal questions: Did I eat enough today? Check…when do I ever not eat enough? Did I drink enough water? Check. Did I remember to drink coffee todaaayyy…………..? Oh shit.
Now, the obvious remedy to this situation would be to go into my work’s break room, make, and drink a cup of coffee and then carry on with my day. Once the caffeine kicks in I’ll be fixed up like AAA patching a flat tire; however, in this instance, I took an alternative approach. Rather than feed my dependency, I stood up, excused myself from my desk, and with only my headphones and iPhone in tow took a seat in the office’s Wellness room. I navigated to YouTube, and, as I try to do every morning — I’d be a liar if I simply said “every morning” without hesitation — I plugged in. No more than 15 minutes later I emerged, alleviated of my headache and ready to get back to work with a balanced, focused mind.
Meditation is something I introduced into my life towards the end of 2012, during my Sophomore year in college. And since, as it did in the coffee-less scenario above, meditation has benefited my life in a multitude of ways. Reduced anxiety, stress relief and a greater overall balance in my life are some of the tangible — if you will — benefits the practice has provided. However, the impact meditation has had, beyond these “identifiable” benefits is what brings me back to the practice day after day.
Throughout the majority of my adult life I have lived with social and performance anxiety. I was even prescribed Xanax during the later years of High School. And whether it be dry-heaving, mid-play, at center court during a basketball game or choosing to spend a night in by myself while all of my closest friends were going out, anxiety would manifest itself in a variety of ways. Anxiety is a character in the story of my life and I have no shame admitting that.
However, in the years since I introduced meditation into my daily rituals, anxiety’s presence in my life has diminished substantially. Whereas anxiety previously figured prominently in my story, it is now a fringe character, appearing occasionally every few chapters; naturally, as any character in an epic should. I firmly believe meditation is the driving force I have to thank for the decrease. And as a result, the authentic, unbridled Jacob is now the star of my narrative. Don’t you think that is the way it is supposed to be?
Anxiety is a reality for many of us. It is the most prevalent mental illness in the United States and According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America; roughly 18% of the nation’s population over the age of 18 are affected by it. Yet, anxiety should not be a factor that drives daily decisions or causes us to live a life out of sync with our true intentions and desires. Anxiety is open-ended question and in meditation I found my answer.
With adherence to a few tough parents out there, I’m sure most will agree when I say that we are all our own harshest critics. As a result, we often take ourselves too seriously, are in a rush to ascend the summit of success, and have (at least) minor breakdowns at anything less than perfection. Adhering to the mile-high standards and expectations we set for ourselves is undoubtedly a stress inducer (and a probable cause of anxiety as well), which can take a major toll on our well-beings.
Now, do me a favor and think of a memory or a period in your life — it can be from as recently as yesterday, to decades ago — when you acted candidly without allowing stress to impact your actions; when you were your optimal self. For me, this period in my life was every summer, at Camp Walden, where I was adored as “The Muffin Man”. For years, I yearned with desire to have this summer persona shine through during the school year. Yet, year after year, only crumbs and pieces of The Muffin Man would emerge.
Maybe it was the pressure of grades, external career expectations, or something dormant in my subconscious that I’ve yet to realize holding me back. However, I do know that year after year since beginning my practice I have found larger chunks of my optimal self in daily life. This growth has enabled me to transform relationships that previously would have plateaued at acquaintances into lifelong friendships. It encouraged my desire to step outside my comfort zone and explore the world. And ultimately, I now act in way I can look back at fondly at the end of each (most) days.
The impacts meditation has had on how I deal with anxiety and stress have been crucial, but most importantly meditation has brought a unique awareness and balance which I cherish. My life is my life; my path is my path — I still have goals, ambitions, and dreams. I am not a pie-in-the-sky Kumbaya don’t worry about a thing person (nothing wrong if you are), but where pre-meditation Jacob would have languished at a failure or allowed stress to compile at a misstep, post-meditation Jacob appreciates those happenings in their own right.
The truth is that I will arrive when the time is right. I want to live abroad, I want to build businesses and execute ideas that have a positive impact on people’s lives — as I hope this article has done for you in some way. Yet, the balance meditation has instilled in my life has allowed to me to keep my eyes forward straight ahead on my road, not in constant comparison of my surroundings. Being a in a rush gets me nowhere. Meditation has shown me that sometimes in order to speed up we need to slow down. Like a car zooming past you — or visa versa —only to wind up stopped at the same red light, eventually we all reach our destination, the only difference is the way we choose to proceed.
Meditation is the linchpin that underlies my well-being and the shepherd that guides my consciousness. The novel of my life is unique, but my case study with meditation is not. I believe that anyone and everyone can benefit from as little as five minutes of meditation a day. A quick Google search will provide countless articles and excerpts supporting my testimony.
I ardently encourage anyone dealing with any form of mental illness, publicly or privately, to give meditation a shot in addition to the other methods of treatment you currently use. I promote meditation even if you are void of internal troubles, but are simply in need of a new catalyst to kickstart your next initiative.
Download Headspace. Go on YouTube. If you read this article and feel inspired to begin, but don’t know where to start or just want to talk more, reach out! If you know me personally, shoot me a message (Text or Facebook). If you have no idea who I am feel free to send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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