I firmly believe that we have the ability, with our minds, to create our own heaven or hell on Earth. Unfortunately, many of us succumb to creating the latter by consistently living in our thoughts, either past or future. When those thoughts are on repeat for days, months or years, and the pain becomes too much to bear, we turn to remedies outside of ourselves to numb or soothe the pain.
Nobody is exempt from this struggle either. Just last month, rapper Mac Miller passed away from a drug overdose. This news was devastating to his family, friends and fans, yet it is sadly a story that is too common. Prince, Michael Jackson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Petty, Whitney Houston, Brittney Murphey, Amy Winehouse, Anna Nicole Smith, Heath Ledger and many more have lost their lives because of a drug addiction that overtook them. Countless other celebrities have lost their lives to suicide, and while death is never easy to understand, it is even more challenging to make sense of when a person who seems to “have it all” feels so much suffering that only drugs and/or death can soothe them.
It requires an extremely low view of oneself or one’s circumstances to act in such a way. However, nearly everyone, at some point in their lives has experienced difficulty seeing their own value as a human being. We often attach our worth to our physical appearance, material possessions, accomplishments, status and so on. Yet, simply being a human being qualifies you as the most precious gift on this Earth.
How can we cultivate this belief within ourselves though? We can hear it over and over, but until we internalize and own it, the words will have little meaning. Cultivating this belief requires cultivating a relationship with oneself. Say whaaa? Yes! Of all the relationships that we have, the one most often neglected in the one with our self. This may even be the first time that you’ve considered that a “self-relationship” exists.
We spend more time with ourselves than with anyone else and with a new thought coming at us every 1.2 seconds, there is a lot of conversation going on. What is the content of that conversation? What is the story you are telling yourself? It is tempting to believe every thought that runs through your mind, but they don’t always have your best interest in mind and further, they are rarely accurate. If a friend voiced their self-deprecating thoughts around you, you would likely stop them and give them a more accurate perspective of themselves. What happens when your own internal thoughts don’t have an outside voice of reason to correct them? You begin to believe them, and what you believe drives your actions. This is why it is critical to become a student of yourself and eventually, your own best friend. Sounds a bit esoteric, I know, but it is key to creating lasting contentment and perspective in your life.
But, HOW? I’m glad you asked! The “how” is through meditation/mindfulness. Learning the practices of mindfulness and meditation has been the greatest gift I’ve ever received. Since experiencing the profound effects of mindfulness, I can’t help but think how the practice may have affected the life of Mac Miller and numerous others.
While the practice of mediation is a very simple practice, it is far from easy. If you decide to embark on the self-discovery journey that meditation offers, the beginning will be especially challenging. In fact, for me, my anxiety got worse before it got better. Becoming aware of just how much damn thinking I do was startling and overwhelming.
Just like anything you learn, it will take dedication and time, and the fruits of your practice will speak for themselves. You will begin to notice when you chase a thought, fabricate an unnecessary story, try to interpret someone’s actions, or make a judgement about someone or something. And that is all you have to do. Notice. Let it go. Notice. Let it go. Notice again. Let it go again. I want to reiterate that this is much easier said than done, but I am confident it will be as life-changing for you as it was for me. You can start today too. I’ve written out a short intro to meditation practice for you to try as well as some additional resources to explore the practice even more.
Intro to Meditation Practice Time: 5 minutes Tools: Timer
1. Read all of the instructions first ;)
2. Find a comfortable, yet tall, upright seated position. Back rests are encouraged.
3. Turn your phone on airplane mode (VERY IMPORTANT)
4. Set your timer for 5 minutes
5. Take three deep belly breaths
6. Find a soft gaze a few feet in front of you or close your eyes
7. Let your breath become natural and notice where you sense it most (belly, chest, tip of nose, etc.)
8. Watch that sensation of your breath for the remainder of your time
9. You will 100% get distracted by a thought. As soon as you realize this has happened, bring your focus back to that breath sensation.
10. Repeat this redirection of your attention as many times as necessary
11. No judging or criticizing yourself. Just notice. Let it go. Repeat.
12. When the timer goes off, go about your day.
13. That’s it!
I’d love to hear your thoughts if you try it and answer any questions that come up. Just remember, the most important thing is simply starting.