What Meditation did for my Life

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I started meditating in 2015. I had just moved from Australia to the U.K. at the age of 18 years old and knew nobody. I was living in a flat with a cousin that I didn’t know particularly well at the time and I didn’t really have any money to speak of. My life was exciting and different from the life I had known up to that point but at the same time, I felt a profound sense of chaos. The feeling of being genuinely, maddeningly, lost. I had done something that no one else I knew had done yet. Left home. 

I remember one day, after receiving a disappointing rejection from a university course I was hoping to get into, I found myself lying in disbelief on the floor of my apartment. I can still feel the cold tiled floor supporting my weight as I stared at the white ceiling in the middle of the afternoon, utterly bewildered. 

It was around this time, I should add, that I felt for the first time true social anxiety. I struggled to meet people and make friends. All the people I knew and grew up with were a million miles away. I didn’t understand the culture in the U.K. a lot of my humour fell flat and I didn’t know how to talk to people or what to talk about. I started to carry a ball in the centre of my solar plexus that I now know unmistakably as anxious tension. 

So lying on the floor of my apartment in utter bewilderment I realise that I truly didn’t know what to do next. I went searching for something to cling to. Some kind of rock from which I could build a future. I didn’t know what it would be at the time, but what I found was meditation. More specifically, meditation via the Headspace app which I still use today. 

Mediation gave me a way forward. In so much as it gave me an awareness of myself and the world around me that was deeper than I had ever previously experienced. It required two things of me, patience and discipline. It asked of me that I take 15 minutes out of my day, every day, and spend it focusing on my breath. Concentrating on the sensation of breathing in and out. Feeling my lungs fill with air and my muscles loosen from tension as I breathe out. Noticing thoughts when they arise in my mind but not trying to stop them or push them away but accepting them and bringing my attention back to my breath. 

In the weeks, months and years that followed I experienced the nature of my mind changing. I could see things in more detail and hear with greater clarity. Pieces of music I had heard a thousand times over seemed to me to be new and alive with variety I hadn’t previously noticed. I could focus easier on my work and felt less stressed about upcoming deadlines as well as felt calmer in relation to the important aspects of my life. 

Whereas before I would spend hours thinking about what I was doing wrong or how I could appear more socially acceptable I now started to feel comfortable in who I was and more interested in things outside of myself. That awful ball of tension that I carried in my stomach loosened and eventually disappeared entirely. Now when I feel it I know it’s in reaction to something that is making me anxious. I become aware of what is provoking that feeling and I can sit with it in the knowledge that it will pass. 

So many things in my life improved as a result of being able to recognise the world around me and the world inside me. By having a greater awareness of the things that were making me feel uncomfortable those stresses were lessened and my overall happiness improved. This was the gift that mediation brought to my life. 

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