I find it hard to switch off.
Doing nothing or chilling out, for me, is forced relaxation. Sometimes I promise myself a night on the sofa with a movie and a hot cup of tea a week in advance. I also have to push down the guilt and the internal nagging—”you should be doing something productive.”
Honestly, I’m proud of my productivity. I tackle life with ease and look forward to having things to do. If I’m given more responsibility, I feel proud to be recognized as an achiever. Never do I think about the aftermath, or more accurately—the burnout. In fact, I find laziness in people a huge turnoff. However, I absolutely admire people who can set aside time to unwind, relax, reflect, and not feel bad about it.
My psychologist recently gave me a helpful trick when I told her I find it hard to just do nothing after work on the weekend. She said she’d help me slow down. She told me that the best thing I could do for myself was start my day with a walk, along with these wise words:
“While you are on this walk, try not to look at your phone or listen to music; just walk and appreciate your surroundings. Notice the sound of the wind and the birds. This is a form of meditation.”
I chimed in with, “I meditate.” When she asked how often, I said, “Not as often as I would like to; actually, I used to meditate a lot more.” Almost daily.
After our conversation, I realized that I was meditating aspirationally—to manifest the life I wanted.
I wasn’t meditating to be mindful or to slow down—ever. Now, I had to commit to doing the work again.
This time, I set out to use meditation as a transformative tool.
I have been meditating with purpose for the last few months and have put in the work to understand my practice, daily.
Research shows us that mindful meditation can support us in managing stress, anxiety, and depression. So, it makes sense to meditate with purpose in the same way you would commit to a fitness regime or yoga lessons.
I’ve spoken to people who’ve told me they’ve “tried meditating,” and it just doesn’t work for them. Sometimes, it takes more than opening an app or finding a guided meditation on YouTube to find the right method for you.
It may take designing a unique process that works best for you and then working through meditation at your own pace. After all, what’s the harm in trying? You never know; you could unlock a whole new level of meditation for yourself!
Here’s How I Make Meditation Work for Me
1. I release stress
Every day, I open the Notes app on my phone. Once I get into my car or hop on the train, usually after work, I write down everything without censoring myself—a practice called “stream of consciousness.” Writing down what bothers me throughout the day, the issues that make me uncomfortable, the things I hope to achieve but don’t, and how I feel.
When I take these notes, they’re messy. That’s fine. Thoughts are messy too. But they allow me to release the tensions of the things that would otherwise remain bottled up.
I also draw in the Notes app if I’m not in the mood to write.
These scribbles and drawings will make little sense to anyone. They’re an expression of how I feel, and often I don’t understand them myself. But it makes me feel good to get them out.
I also use colors when I draw; they help me express my emotions and release the day’s stress.
2. I let my thoughts breathe
Once I have everything written or drawn, I let it be—let it breathe.
I give myself at least two or three hours before I go back in to draw my inspiration for my meditation.
3. I draw inspiration
I often highlight the emotional barriers I experience when dealing with challenging situations. If a person was rude to me or wouldn’t let me speak, I highlight that their behavior does not reflect mine. We can only exercise patience and not internalize the negativity that these situations evoke.
4. I set intentions
Once I have let my notes breathe and reflected on them, I slip into a light meditation and set my intention.
In the case of the example above, my intention would be simply to relax and find the light to rid myself of the negativity of others’ behaviors.
I’ll begin by doing a light visualization, including any colors that come through the drawings when releasing the negative thoughts. Then, I change any aggressive colors to shades that bring me joy. I suppose you could call this a loose practice of color therapy.
If I don’t draw or use any colors, I simply visualize a shade that feels good to me in the moment.
Once I complete this light stage in my meditation, I sink into a deeper state of meditation with a firm intention.
I find that stream of consciousness works well for my meditation practice and allows me to feel positive and confident.
In the morning, if I’m feeling anxious but don’t know where the anxiety is coming from, I don’t do a thoughtful meditation. So then I use the mindful practice of walking my psychologist advises (this is especially helpful if I’m also short on time).
I am present in the moment while I am on that walk, and I experience only the environment I am in, in its current state. This simple method helps me begin my day relaxed and at ease. Before things get crazy at work, the walk calms my anxieties so I can then continue with my day.
It can feel like a chore when you’re just starting out and routinely sit down to meditate. Believe me, I’ve been there. When I get into that slump, I try my best to reframe the practice of mediation as purposefully feeding my mind.
If you have time to feed your belly, you should take the time to nourish your brain. It drives your choices and takes you on your life’s journey.
The ingredients of preparation are setting intentions, while slipping into a deep state of meditation is like cooking a meal. Yes, it takes time, but it’s a beautiful and joyful experience once you dive into it!
Since my introduction to mindful walks, I haven’t looked back. I only look forwards, and with great excitement! This is because I know when I face challenges, I’ll have the tools to work through them.
Remember, you are in charge. So, take ownership of your meditation practice—make it creative, and fun, and fall in love with doing the work!
Even today, what I find through mindful meditation often surprises me.
Try it. You might be in for a surprise too.