A New Normal
What do I mean when I say “new normal”? It comes from meditation. It’s that thing that happens when you realize that while you are the same person. But, meditation has completely changed you for the better.
What benefits do I see from meditation?
I’ve been a meditator so long that there are times when I wonder if it’s still doing me a huge benefit.
I mean, I meditate for an hour every morning, and often another half hour in the afternoons. (And not always easy to fit that kind of time into my life, but it can be done, people. It can be done.)
Just when I think that, however, all the ways in which meditation has benefited my life come flooding into my mind. They are what keep me going back to my cushion day, after day, after day, after day.
I’ve talked about the reasons I meditate, but I’m not sure if I’ve related why I started meditating in the first place, or even WHY I keep going.
I’ve always been an anxious person. You can’t tell on the outside. I hide it well. But my personality type (INFP) means I lean toward anxiety. Serious anxiety.
Other women in my family have had it, too. Some have even had to be hospitalized. Some or all have taken medication for it.
And it’s not just my family. I have friends, coworkers, and colleagues who all describe feeling mid- to high-level anxiety. Every. Single. Day.
I didn’t want to be another person who marched to the doctor to ask for a prescription to fix it. Nor did I want to endure the ensuing health problems from living a life of stress and anxiety.
I began a regular practice of meditation for spiritual reasons in 2008. I quickly realized, however, that meditation tempered my anxiety – measurably.
Let me give two examples of how I knew it was working.
I knew something was very wrong when I had 20+ calls from family members one Saturday night in 2011. For a few moments before calling my sister, I centered myself. I braced for the tragic news I knew was coming. I didn’t know what, but I knew it wasn’t good.
When I reached my sister on the phone, she informed me that my oldest brother had passed away. I felt the currents of electric suffering bolt through my heart.
I let my sister cry tears of anguish as I listened. I knew I wanted to just “be there” – to bear witness to the raw emotions that I knew everyone was feeling. I felt a huge sense of loss and my own hot tears wet my cheeks.
But through it all, I was aware of my breath. I was aware of the subtle energy of the universe telling me that it would be all right. Not in that moment. Not for a long while. But it would be all right.
My mantra came to me as I got off the phone. As my senses were still numbed from the shock, my practice came into full gear. My mantra echoed in my head. I knew – I just knew – that my brother was safe. His spirit was all around. Just in a different form.
My meditation practice helped me
I went into meditation that evening. I recited my mantra, which also became my affirmation as I wrote my brother’s eulogy and traveled across the country to be with my parents and family.
My practice helped center me and kept me from breaking down as I witnessed so many around me feel the brunt of their emotions wash over them uncontrollably.
I found myself wishing that if they had known a centering practice, that this terrible event might not have rocked their foundations so markedly.
There was also acceptance. Acceptance of the situation. And the knowing that I would return to my own center sooner, rather than later.
In other words, my practice helped me to process my emotions, bear witness to others’ and return to normal, sooner.A #meditation practice helps to center yourself, accept things (and then change what you can), and reduce #anxiety. Click To Tweet
Dealing with life coming from all directions
Another example comes from a few years ago. I was directing an after-school program.
I was responsible for coordinating field trips, ordering supplies, hiring (and letting people go), scheduling, creating curriculum, being a liaison between four different agencies, facilitating and creating trainings for staff, and more.
Needless to say, I was rather swamped with things to do. I also had the stress of knowing that my funding could run out within a year.
I was helping younger students, directing tutors, dealing with parents, and tending to a child who needed a band-aid. We were on a field trip, and I was trying to sort out groups of students to make sure they were with the right tutors.
I also had to make sure that everyone had a ticket, that our group paid the correct amount, and that students and tutors alike had snacks and water for their journey. I had the help of a colleague (thank goodness) to help with this field trip.
Afterward, I remember my colleague coming to my office and point-blank asking me “my secret.” She observed how I was incredibly calm and centered all through the field trip.
I told her of my meditation practice. I also told her that I was aware of my breathing throughout the day. On and off, I will come back to the breath, as a way of re-centering. That got her started, too, on a meditation practice.
My new normal
Now, my new normal consists of being less anxious. I recover from it more quickly when I do feel a wave of anxiousness.
My new normal means that I have more compassion for others. I can be more present, and more aware of not only my emotions, but the emotions of others.
I am more focused, and creative. (Have you seen the other parts of this website!?)
I am more responsive and much less reactive.
And that is why I knew I needed to teach meditation. It’s a new way of being. And it feels great.
I also wanted to thank all of you who participated in the online survey I sent out. You are so incredibly helpful.
You are helping me to help you!
I promised that one of you would get a $25 gift card for your time. I did a drawing of all the emails and my sweet blogger friend, Janine, had her email drawn. Congrats!