Hello friends and happy mental health awareness month. A month dedicated to encouraging the kind of conversation I hope this platform can facilitate. Awareness is such a powerful word: to be awake, to be clear-headed, to be conscious. When driving a car, the difference between asleep and awake, drunk or sober, distracted or focused, conscious or unconscious is life or death. I'd argue that matters of mental and emotional awareness are no different. If we fall asleep at the wheel, we drift off and we crash, sometimes hurting others in the process. But when we are aware, we can find a roadmap, stay the course, enjoy the journey, and be in control of the vehicle to take us where we want to go.
Awareness is essential on both a macro and a micro level. I believe as humans we are called to be rooted in gratitude and adopt an empathetic worldview. I also believe that being aware of our needs on a personal level is crucial and often overlooked. It is not selfish to recognize and attend to our own needs. If we know what we need we can learn healthy ways to fill those needs helping us positivity contribute to our relationships, responsibilities, aspirations and community.
Two personal needs I'm hyper-aware of right now are energy and focus.
Both of which I'm finding a bit more difficult to access in this challenging season. Working from home, minimal social interaction, and the general stress of the times does not create a natural environment for focus and energy to thrive. This has me re-evaluating my habits and questioning what in my life is giving or taking away these vital resources.
Nutrition, movement, play and sleep all come to mind, but today I want to talk about the biggie - meditation.
I discovered meditation a little over a year ago right around the time (coincidentally) that I was starting to learn about the less, but better mentality discussed in the previous post. Ie making space; removing clutter to create a pathway for energy, focus, and creativity to flow freely.
This, as it turns out, is a holistic endeavor - it’s mental, physical, and spiritual.
Focus and energy directly affect and/or are an effect of my headspace and emotional state. When I experience anxiety my focus is shot. If I’m feeling down, I’m lethargic and unmotivated. I’m more likely to experience anxiety or depression when I can’t focus and/or feel depleted. And when I’m feeling anxious or depressed it’s very hard to gain focus or access energy. A vicious cycle indeed. But here's the good news. When I’m focused and energized, I’m happy, peaceful, confident, hopeful, motivated, inspired, and excited. With focus and energy, I hit my flow. Vibes are high and life is good. So how do we find sustained focus and access a source of renewable energy to keep ourselves physically balanced, mentally productive, and emotionally centered?
When I first started meditating it was presented in the traditional sense - sit on the floor, eyes closed, focused breathing. This did not come easy. Being completely still with my racing thoughts felt impossible. As I practiced using the headspace app trying 5-10 minute guided meditations, I finally began connecting with my breath and starting to feel more present and grounded. I’d meditate in between meetings, before I went to bed, or before a family function if I was feeling stressed. And it was helping. It was like my mental compartment started clearing up, and as it did my spiritual space began feeling more available. Finding it more natural to spend time in prayer, I began seeking help from God and was comforted to find it.
Then came yoga. I had taken yoga classes before with a fitness motive, but as I began meditating and praying daily, my relationship with the practice changed entirely. Feeling more connected with my headspace and my spirituality, the physical movement of my body became a part of a now holistic meditation practice. As this became habit, I naturally began to access moments of meditation throughout my day. In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about meditation as a way to switch from logic brain to artist brain - the artist brain being connected to spirituality and creativity. “The brain is reached through rhythm. Scraping a carrot, peeling an apple - these actions are quite literally food for thought. Regular, repetitive activities tip us over from the logic brain into our more creative artist brain.” Showering, driving a car, running, walking, swimming, painting, dancing, etc neurologically helps us hit our rhythm. It’s why so many of us get our best ideas in the shower and why we experience runner’s high. Journaling is a personal favorite. As my hand connects the pen to the paper, the rhythm moves from my brain into my body and onto the page. Writing things down releases feelings, thoughts, and ideas. Releasing and letting go, I make space. With space to move freely focus and energy begin to flow uninterrupted.
Julia Cameron goes on to write, "We meditate to discover our own identity, our right place in the scheme of the universe. Through meditation, we acquire and eventually acknowledge our connection to an inner power source that has the ability to transform our outer world."
Meditation is not a magic potion or a quick fix, but I've found that if you dig deep enough and explore with openness it can be like a wellspring of fresh, clear water leading to the true source of sustenance and refreshment. A vital resource indeed.