Several months ago, during an intense but gratifying hot yoga class, I felt the undeniable, and unfortunately, all too familiar jolt of excruciating pain shoot through my knee. ‘Not again!’ I grumbled to myself. Over the last few years I had suffered from bouts of tendonitis in my left knee that would force me to take short breaks from some my favorite exercises including yoga and kickboxing. I stubbornly finished out the rest of the yoga class knowing it would be my last one for a while. Little did I know that at the end of my usual four to six week break I would be in even more pain and my hip would become a problem as well. I went into the summer full of frustration and anxiety about what was causing the pain and wondering if I would ever heal. I went through the x-rays and MRI’s, tried a cortisone shot to no avail, and began to feel hopeless as my diagnosis was considered a severe, overused muscle injury stemming from my IT band. There seemed to be no quick fix for this injury and no certainty as to when the pain would go away and I could resume my exercise program.
I began seeing a chiropractor on a weekly basis and every time I would see her she would tell me I need to relax. “Let it go”, she would say, which would of course made me think of “Frozen” which then made me think of my four year old daughter and I would tense up even more thinking about how I had to get home to her, do laundry, make dinner, etc. Relaxing is not something that comes easily to me. Exercise was the one thing that would force me to be ‘in the now’, and not think about all the other stuff that runs around in my mind every day. It was suggested that I add some simple meditation into my life, it would help me to relax which in turn would help my muscles to loosen up and help my body to heal.
Meditation has never been something that has worked for me. All I can think while I am trying to be still is how I am wasting valuable time sitting here being still.
But I decided to give it a try, especially if it would help my healing process. I am not talking about hour long meditation sessions, I am talking about finding five minutes in the morning to be calm, get centered, and focus on me. After those few minutes I move into my stretches, which are designed to help my injury heal, and I incorporate some yoga which helps with the whole meditation thing. I do not turn on the television or check my phone and e-mails before I begin this process. In the beginning I had to force myself to take this quiet time but now it has become a part of my every day. On days I am too busy or I wake up late I still try to take those five minutes before stepping out of my bedroom and into the wonderful chaos that is my life.
If the thought of meditation causes you to feel more anxious instead of calm, you are not alone. Here are some of the ways I have found to make meditation easier and more manageable:
1) Meditation is your time. You need to find what works for you and ignore all the other advice about how meditation should be done or how it should feel. As long as you feel you have done something good for yourself that is all that matters.
2) Do not stress about being stressed. Some days are stressful, no matter how much meditation you do that is not going to change the fact that some situations are difficult or cause frustration. Meditating does not make you numb, it does the opposite and makes you more aware of your emotions. It is okay to feel things and process them as needed, even negative feelings.
3) Find your happy spot. This was a little difficult for me since I thought my happy spot would be visualizing the ocean, as I am a total summer person and love the beach. But the ocean does not leave me with a sense of calmness. In my mind it is loud and sandy and sometimes so hot that I have no energy. I realized my happy spot was deep in the woods, listening to the birds, seeing streaks of sunlight through the trees, and visualizing the most vibrant green grass and leaves. To help me remember this spot I actually took pictures on a recent hike. If I have trouble focusing on this spot I can look at the picture to remind me.
4) You do not need to research meditation or take classes on how to meditate. You can, and I am sure it would all be very helpful but it is more important to find time to actually meditate and if your time is limited (as I am sure it is), you are better off just starting with what you can do and building on to it when you have more time or are more comfortable with meditating.
5) Being still is a wonderful thing but I also feel I can meditate while moving. Anyone who runs knows that runners high and how great it feels. I think any time you are able to be in a moment and focused only on that moment, is a healthy form of meditation. It may not technically be considered meditation but again, if it feels good to you spiritually, that is what matters most!