Seems a bit dramatic, doesn’t it? I probably would have thought so too, a year ago. Sure, I was all for meditation. As a wellness professional, I preached its stress-relief benefits for years. I believed that meditation improved well-being. That’s just it though–I believed it in theory, but I didn’t really know it. Not first-hand.

My emphasis leaned heavily on the body’s physical health. I never missed a workout. Meditation, well…I dabbled. A workout accomplishes something. What does just sitting there noticing the thoughts in my head do, especially when I have a sink full of dishes to wash? Sure, I meditated, but it didn’t amount to much more than a small item at the bottom of a long priority list. Meditate for 10 minutes? Check. I used my Calm app, hoping that it would clear my head a little. That’s what I recommended for people–“Just see if you can make it ten minutes.” I assumed it ended there.

Now I meditate every day without effort. Meditation has become even more of a natural habit to me than exercise because I crave it on a higher level; because it feeds my soul. Now, I’m learning to teach it. So how did I get from there to here?

At the pandemic’s beginning, I felt the pull to stillness and simplicity, so I answered it. With more time on my hands, my meditations extended beyond the ten-minute mark, and then some. The longer I sat in stillness and silence, the more I craved it, and so my time extended to the point where I no longer knew or cared what the clock said. Sure, my mind wandered, but that was all part of it. And the longer I sat, the wider the gaps grew between my head chatter.

I’m going to get a little deep now, so if that stuff turns you off, no worries–just stop reading. But I have to share this. I’ll burst if I don’t.

Eventually, realization quietly ascended from underneath all my layers of self. I focused on the tingling in my hands, which sometimes spread to my arms, legs, toes, and top of my head. Maybe it was what Eckhart Tolle describes as the “inner body.” I had no idea what it was, but I knew it was good. And as I kept focused on this field of energy, I began to learn.

Meditation became a silent prayer for me. Meditation is prayer. It’s gratitude that stings my eyes with tears. It’s forgiveness that makes my heart sing. It’s sitting with pure Divine Presence and saying, “Here I am. Do what you will.” I’ve never been more sure of the presence of God, loving me, enfolding me.

I focused on the space where my heart lives, and I learned to heal. At times I sobbed or laughed for seemingly no reason. I must have looked half insane. I never used to cry. Now I do so joyfully. Meditation touched something in me that reminded me of the Earth’s inherent goodness. It told me that this goodness is the life that courses through every being on the planet, and a delicate, invisible web that connects all humans.

Because of meditation, I find beauty. It’s in everything. It’s in the present moment, not in regrets of my past or longings for my future. It’s in every one of my body’s cells that pulses with miraculous life. It’s on my walks through the trails around my house, alive and vibrating with color. It’s in my children’s eyes when they smile at me.

The doorway through which I went from belief to experience happened when I began realizing it through the senses. During hours of silence, I found that silence isn’t emptiness. It’s surging with warmth and light. And I began to trust enough to let go of control and expectation; to trust in life and its purposeful rhythm.

And then the surface stuff in my life–the stories I tell myself–don’t seem to matter much. The titles, roles, accomplishments and belongings that culture values don’t shine near as brightly as this peace. Meditation creates refuge in the silence between my thoughts.

You won’t have epiphanies every time you meditate. Sometimes it is just calming down. Sometimes it’s grounding yourself from turbulent emotions. Growth is hard work, and I can’t always tell when it’s happening to me. But meditation is not a means to an end, it’s just awareness–with no expectation. You just keep showing up, and you trust.

I don’t want to give a romanticized impression of it. Meditation does not free us from the suffering and negative emotions that go with being human. But I can tell you that the way I now tend to respond to these challenges has changed everything. Meditation has gifted me with clarity that carries into every corner of my life. I feel like don’t get upset as much. I feel like I’m more patient. I feel like I’m not always racing to the next place, the next experience. I see people. I stop and make eye contact with them in grocery stores, on streets, and in waiting rooms. I see their light and their humanity.

With meditation, I dug beneath my layers of self and found no labels or stories about who I’m supposed to be, or about how others are supposed to act. I found timelessness, peace, and gratitude for each moment I’m alive. And I’m never going back.

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