Journey to Mental Clarity

Originally posted as “Benefits of Meditation: One Teacher’s Journey To Mental Clarity” at Elephant Journal

Meditation has been a part of my life on a daily basis for nearly seven years.

I was drawn to meditation through a life or death situation. I had been a dual diagnosed addict since age 13 and was lying on death’s doorstep by age 23.

I knew that something had to change, and I was desperately seeking a solution to my problems. When I prayed for a solution, I received a mentor who suggested I start meditating every day.

I imagined people have been meditating since the beginning of time. Until I started doing it, I used to think it was reserved for the great sages, those who lived out East who did pilgrimages to hidden caves where they took respite for 20 years.

Those have done deserved to be honored, but it is also true that meditation is for everyone in all places and at all times. It is an endeavor all can and hopefully will take on in their lifetime, for it is our birth-right as multi-dimensional beings to have this practice to bring us back to balance in our minds, bodies, and hearts.

I started out slow with guided meditations for beginners one to five minutes a day. After a week of doing this, I was noticing a marked difference in the way I thought, talked, felt, and acted. I started to crave meditation like a woman roaming the desert in search of water. Meditation became the bedrock of my days. It was the first thing I did in the morning, and every day felt like it was guided by an inexplicable calming force.

This practice opened my heart to new possibilities and revived dreams once squandered by addiction. I started to explore the inner most depths of my being, and from that I listened to what my heart was beckoning me to do. When my heart begged to journey to India, I listened. When my heart asked that I take a leap of faith and start teaching yoga full time and abroad, I listened. When my heart asked that I create art through pen and paper, I listened. My life is much fuller today because of my meditation practice, and there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t do it. I am going on seven years of sobriety because of it.

During my travels in India, I had a great mentor named Krishna. He described meditation as, “the art of non-doing.” I like to think of meditation as a way of connecting to our ultimate truths in each moment. It is a ritual that gives us a greater view of our ego mind, reminding us that we are not our thoughts or our body but something much greater.

When we tune into the frequency that transcends the ego, suffering begins to wane in both the mind and the body. When we operate from the space of our Higher Self, we are better able to be in the moment and fully aware with nobility no matter what may be going on.

One thing I tell my students when they begin a meditation practice is to let go of trying to do it perfectly. There is no perfect. You can’t mess it up. Just begin. And you’ll see how meditation benefits your mind and body.

Close your eyes, and pay attention to the breath. Begin with one minute and allow the one minute to extend out from there over the next several days, months, and years. That is how I started, and it has grown over time. My daily practice today consists of mindfulness for 45-60 minutes or so a day. Not because I have something to prove, but because this is what I feel is right for me at this point in my life.

Things will change and we will change as time goes by, but if we can commit to staying disciplined to the practice, it will transform our whole lives. It is a foundation on which many a solid structure can be built upon. We do not meditate for gain but rather to disrobe all of the false-truths we have manufactured from our parents, teachers, media, internet, monkey mind, ad infinitum. Through this un-doing we are boundless, free, and liberated in our mind, body, and soul.

Here are some benefits I have experienced in my own journey through this ancient practice:

1. Improved mental clarity: Before I started meditation, my short term memory was fading, and I felt like I was in a general malaise most of the day. After practicing daily for just one short month, I noticed that my mental acuity was much stronger and my memory improved.

2. Increase in optimism/Decrease in depression: I have to admit, I sought out meditation to help improve my anxiety and depression. Along with yoga and moderate exercise, mindfulness meditation has become a holistic soother. Within a few months of regular practice, my anxiety was drastically reduced and my mild depression had ceased. I started to view the world with rose colored glasses, and I was more likely see the positive side of all situations.

3. Improved diet: Through mindfulness meditation, I started to become aware of how my body felt after I ate. I noticed that certain drinks and foods made me feel uplifted, light, and energized while others made me feel sluggish, bloated, and foggy. I lost my taste for poultry and all red meat and began to crave a whole foods diet. I felt renewed by food that nourished my mind and body.

4. Stronger immune system: It is not new news that relaxing and reducing stress aids in restoration in the physical body. The mind and body are directly related. I started to notice when my body was sending me signals to slow down or speed up. Listening to the ebbs and flows of my body has created a beautiful synergy between the two, and I have gone from getting sick several times a season to rarely getting sick at all.

5. Improved breathing: One of the first ways I started a practice was focusing on the sensations of the breath on the insides of my nostrils along with a four count technique. Inhaling to a count of four, holding the breath, exhaling to a count of four, holding the breath. My lungs began to increase in their capacity to breathe deeper, fuller breaths, and this served as a tool to slow down my mind and heart rate when I would get stressed by life. If I were, say, stuck in rush hour traffic and noticed my breath was becoming shallow, I would slow the breath down and return to a more balanced rhythm of breathing.

6. Increased compassion: When I am still enough, I remember that I am loved. All beings are loved, and we need to give and receive this love on a daily basis. Through meditation I am able to see the similarities in myself and others. There is a marked difference in how I view another because rather than seeing this other as a separate being, I can sense that they are one with me.

7. Increased spiritual awareness: When I close my eyes and go within, all of a sudden I can feel the Creator. Meditation has taken me from a place of thinking that spirituality was something outside of myself to bringing it to something that was tangible and within. I not only could send this within me, but could now see and feel it within others.

8. Heightened psychic awareness: We are all born with some sort of sixth sense. I believe that we can learn how to cultivate these senses through mindfulness practice. I was always a sensitive human being before my daily sessions, but after I started, I realized just what these abilities were for. This developed and over time and continues to develop in my life. It is a unique experience for everyone that I talk to who share similar experiences. This is part of the process of getting to know one’s self. Why not maximize our potential? Let’s really dive into what we are capable of!

9. Going with the flow: I was a planner before meditation. Very type A. I couldn’t stand not knowing what was ahead, and I needed to dictate every detail down to the last second. Anything not planned would send me into a panic. Meditation calls for us to let go on a very deep level. It calls for us to be here now, as Ram Dass so beautifully stated.

After two years of meditation, I started to live very differently. I stopped planning. Sure, I had goals, but I allowed them to be like the branches in the breeze. I held space for my days to be led from a deeper space of wisdom cultivated by my meditation practice. I allowed my whole being to be danced by this intrinsic wisdom. Suddenly, I found myself living in different countries, finding a career that I absolutely loved and love even more to this day, meeting beautiful beings all over the globe, and evolving beyond what I even thought was possible on a personal level.

10.  Synchronicity awareness: The world becomes alive through meditation. We begin to notice when the Universe is trying to get our attention through repetition. Whether it be something that occurs multiple times within a day that grabs our attention or is said through 5 different people on our way to work or a time on the clock that is echoed through street signs only moments later. Some say that increased synchronicity means that we are getting confirmation that we are on the right path.