I’ve always been an anxious person. I’ve had many close friends tell me that I’m “too sensitive,” and often times I was judged for my reactions to situations. But as I get older, the smallest things would cause me to fly off the handle and act rashly such a change in someone who is naturally very calm.
Recently, though, I decided to take a class on meditation and explore what it can do for my mental health. Much to my surprise, it has helped me a lot.
Below are the ten things I learned from meditating for a week:
1. Your mind is not your personal property.
I’m prone to getting my feelings hurt, or being insensitive. And sometimes I would need someone to tell me to “not be a baby” when I needed them to understand how I was feeling. But then it occurred to me that the people who care about you want you to feel good, so it helps them if you are happy and that not only does no one want you feeling bad, but everyone has the right to their own space. We don’t own our thoughts, and we don’t have any right to judge anyone else just because their mind is different than ours.
2. You have the power.
I’m also a bit of an impulsive person. (My ex-boyfriend was a master at calling me out of the blue to catch up because I would get so excited, my mind would go into overdrive and I’d plan 20 dates with him that week.) I was really surprised to learn that meditation actually helps you take notes on your own reactions for future use. I’d be thinking about something and then realize, “Well, this is how meditation seems to be helping me right now!” It also helped me stop and think through a problem instead of just bouncing off the walls or acting impulsively.
3. Negative is better than neutral.
Negativity and positivity are the same things, but negative feels worse and positive feel better but there’s no real difference between the two. That means to make your life happier, you should switch from a negative mindset to a neutral one (the ground state of meditation) rather than focusing on positive thinking. It definitely makes sense because focusing on something positive just works as an escape from reality, or can cause complacency. And when you’re in an unrealistic mindset, that’s when you run into problems you didn’t see coming just look at Election 2016 for proof!
4. Everything is impermanent.
It may very well be true that everything is temporary, but that’s not something we can see rather we can only see what we’re experiencing right now. It took me a while to realize this and accept it, but when I did I began to realize that everyone around me was going through something and felt upset about it, which made me start thinking about my life in an “all things are impermanent” way. And then I saw that no matter what happens from here on out (no matter how happy or sad), it will always come back around to where I am now.
5. You’re not alone.
I’ve been in therapy (from time to time) throughout my life and I have high functioning autism. It takes a long time to trust someone with your problems, but I had no reason not to trust my therapist because she was very open and honest with me and she was even able to ask me questions like, “How come you always need ‘me’ right now?” It’s true that everyone deals with their own issues, but it doesn’t mean we have them the same way or that we shouldn’t talk about them with friends or family members.
6. Don’t hold on there’s no point.
I’m pretty good at taking things one day at a time. But then I started meditating and it occurred to me that I don’t want to get caught up in the future because it won’t help me change the past and if I can change the past, that won’t do me any good either. It sounds simple, but it took me a while to realize it. If we don’t hold on to anything, then there are no decisions we have to make which means no worries!
7. You don’t get much time so enjoy it while you can.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take care of yourself, but I do think you should treat yourself well. I used to worry about how my friends were doing, how my mom was doing, and what if something bad happened when I was on vacation but there are so many people around the world who are facing worse situations and not worrying about it. It made me realize that no matter where we live, no matter what kind of problems we may have, we still have each other to help us through them so don’t be afraid that your life is worse than someone else’s because it’s completely normal.
8. What you do is not important, it’s how you do it.
I’m a runner and I love the idea of being a free spirit who can do whatever I want, whenever I want but that doesn’t mean everyone else feels like me. Some people don’t seem to care about their own possessions and only care about what they buy for others which is why we live in a capitalist society where we all think differently and should be willing to compromise with each other. But while it may not be our responsibility to change the world, if you realize that people have different values, you might be able to get along with them more easily than you think!
9. We do not decide what life decides.
For example, if I want to get in shape, I can try my hardest to speed up or slow down on my runs but it will never happen. It’s like a car that wants to go at 55mph and my legs are telling me to go at 60 mph! It’s almost impossible for us to change our minds lest we want things to happen the way they naturally do. And most of the time we don’t even realize that we have this power until a crisis arises and we have no choice but to change for the better. (I think of a crisis as a moment where everything changes.)
10. The past and future are not real just awareness.
I know what it’s like to be obsessed with the future because I used to think about all the things I wanted to do and how great my life was going to be once I achieved them but now I know that these are just my own thoughts trying to make me feel better about where I am now. (And sometimes these thoughts are not even good for me because they lead me to make bad decisions.)
I used to think about the future because I was scared to face my problems, which makes me anxious, depressed, and helpless but now that I’m more comfortable with myself and have learned to listen to my inner voice, I’ve noticed that things happen as they need to happen.
We all experience the same things, it’s just that some of us are better at dealing with them than others. And in my experience, people who are better at handling their problems don’t need to medicate themselves with drugs or alcohol to feel better they just have a deeper understanding of how things work. The truth is that you never really have to change anything because life is not changing on its own.