On my “about me” page, I describe myself as equal parts nerd, wannabe rock star, domestic goddess, and hippie. If you know me well, you’ll agree that as different as those things are, I’m a little bit of all of them. It’s easy, living a blissful life here in the mountains, to let the hippie chick take over sometimes. I love the benefits of a good yoga session. I see an acupuncturist at least once a week, learning a lot about Eastern medicine and my body. I’m all about organic products, growing food, and conscious living. I’m open to alternative ways of thinking- but I never gave a thought to meditation.
I’m not a New Age-y person. I’m not really into palm-readers or crystals or metaphysical experiences. I believe in God, and in the idea that there’s ultimately a plan for me in place and something greater than myself truly in charge of it all. Destiny and “meant to be.” But I also believe in the power of the mind- that our brains are far more capable than we allow them to be. I believe in intuition (my mom’s got it), and in unexplainable bonds between like-minded people (hi, Amanda!). I know that intentional positivity changes things- I write about it daily! And in times when I just can’t get a handle on my emotions, it would be nice to take a moment to quiet the noise in my head and hit the reset button. I’m not seeking enlightenment, but I’d love to learn to rediscover balance and bring myself back to center when I know I’m off-kilter. And that’s how I ended up in a guided meditation session with my therapist last week.
It’s not my nature to easily shut off the buzzing in my brain. It’s a constantly evolving series of lists, things to do, “don’t forget” items, anxiety, memories… always with some random song I heard two days ago providing background music on repeat. Even in my most relaxing acupuncture sessions, when my body is limp and my muscles are happily rejuvenating themselves, thoughts swirl like a tornado through my head. Truth? Part of why I’ve been hesitant to try meditation is because I secretly believed I wouldn’t be able to do it.
My therapist is a woman with whom I’ve spent hundreds of hours of time. I’ve shared a lot of personal moments and deep feelings with her. As difficult as it was for me to ask for help the first time, I’m at ease with her now. So it took me by surprise that I was feeling nervous before our meeting. I’d confessed my fear of failure, and she expected it. She knows the capable, competitive, “I can do it myself” side of me well. I trust her, so I tried to walk into her office with an open mind.
It happened to be one of those sessions where tears welled up in my eyes soon after we exchanged the usual pleasantries. For whatever reason, I’d been struggling recently- I felt that I’d lost perspective regarding multiple heavy topics: friendships, starting a family, my own confidence. If there was a time to learn a technique to calm my soul, it was now. Dr. King’s intro to what some people call meditation was reassuring; she included prayer as one of the things people do to seek peace. I decided then that “meditation” could mean what I wanted it to mean and relaxed.
I’m thankful for an easy relationship with my therapist. She gave me her chair, which I discovered is far more comfortable than the couch I’ve been sitting on regularly since 2009. She asked me to try to relax, to just breathe and let my body unwind- my mind would follow suit. I allowed my muscles to untighten, my breath to deepen. And then, she simply read to me from a book.
Dr. King’s soothing voice was enough to relax me- she’s good at using calming, quiet tones without sounding fake. What she read was basically a vivid description of a mountain, solid and stable, despite the season, despite changes in weather, despite the time of day. I related immediately to the mountain metaphor- I live in the rugged West for a reason. I could picture a craggy monolith, softened with the green grass of summertime. As she read, I was aware of external distractions like the air conditioning going on, a siren from the street. But I focused on her words, and the concept of the mountain.
The analogy wasn’t lost on me. I’ve been experiencing unpredictably bad weather, a significant change in seasons. Some days, birds fly overhead and the sun kisses my cheeks; other days, I’m being pelted by freezing rain or lost in a fog. The changes can be sudden and harsh. As she spoke about the stability of the mountain, rooted in place, I felt grounded- able to withstand a thunderstorm or a strike of lightening, able to appreciate the wildflowers blowing in the breeze and the flow of a happy river. The world around might be tumultuous, but the mountain doesn’t have to be affected. It’s still a mountain- solid to the core.
After the brief reading was over, I slowly moved my fingers and toes, gently opened my eyes. I hadn’t felt “disconnected” during the last 15 minutes, so I was surprised to realize that I could have easily fallen asleep. I felt relaxed, far calmer than I had 20 minutes ago. The period of “meditation” was essentially a lesson in relaxation. There was no chanting, no out-of-body experience, no lapse from reality. But by breathing deeply, I slowed my body down. Focusing intently on one concept allowed me to temporarily forget the rest of the madness in my head. And afterward, it all seemed less overwhelming. The things I’ve been stressing about were still in my life, but I felt more at peace about them. And that was my hope for this experience.
At my request, Dr. King sent me home with a CD of the mountain reading. Will I start trying to use this technique more often? Absolutely. Will I pray less? Nope. I have faith that both things can exist in my life in good ways- one places trust in a higher power, and one places trust in myself. I put a lot of effort into thinking positively, and see the change that behavior has brought to every day. It makes me think of the movie, “What about Bob?”– Bob walks around, telling himself over and over, “I feel good. I feel great. I feel wonderful.” I can envision myself as solid, impervious to bad weather in my life- and suddenly, it’s true. When it’s hard for me to see through the fog, I can take a moment to take a breath, close my eyes, and hit the reset button.
And if thinking about being a mountain with my eyes closed doesn’t work, I’ll just take a nap.
I always feel better after a nap.
What are your go-to methods of relaxation? What is your “mountain” metaphor on a tough day? Share with me!
Love the mountain analogy, Amber, and I found I was reminding myself to take a deep breath, roll my shoulders back, and relax as I read this post. Thank you for the mid-work day reminder to chill out!
It’s easy to forget to breathe sometimes, isn’t it?
One of my favourite metaphors for life is the ocean. That it is ever flowing and moving; that it’s tide is a cycle that it connected to something bigger; that sometimes it’s rough on the surface, sometimes there are currents that pulling inextricably in a direction, sometimes it is so still and peaceful. But it’s always the same thing, despite it’s many moods.
p.s. love your blog 🙂
I like that one, Robin! I might like that better than the mountain. Thanks for reading!
NAP!! When I’m president, everyone will get one. Every day. Sometimes twice. So…why is it that I almost never get one myself?
“Be the mountain.” I guess mine would be “Be the dirt.” Happy, happy, happy, when I’m dirty, dirty, dirty.
NAP. I see one in my future. I am the nap.
LOL No fair. I have six kids in a small apartment here…hardly the place for meditation or a nap. I’ll be the NAG instead.
I am so glad to hear that your therapist introduced you to a meditation that resonated so strongly with you! As you say, I also don’t think meditation can never replace prayer, but it can provide comfort and calm like nothing else. I often do yogic breath work, or “pranayama,” when I’m feeling stressed, sad, cranky, or upset. My favorite is a simple 4-count breath: inhale 1-2-3-5, exhale 1-2-3-4. Do this for a few minutes with your eyes closed and you will feel remarkably grounded and centered. I actually just did this in my car earlier today (with my eyes open!) when I was driving downtown and could feel myself getting upset and frustrated – it didn’t eliminate my feelings, but I felt more in control of them, and it helped to keep me from passing my crabbiness onto others.
Big love to you as you work through this stormy period, Amber. I am all for positive thinking and keeping a lookout for the beauty, but it also takes strength and courage to honor your truth when you’re struggling. I’m sending you light, warmth, and love.
This is beautiful. I love the mountain image. I’m stealing it! xoxo
My favorite line when talking about the storms or sunshine: “It’s all the same to the mountain.”
Thanks for this post, Amber. I really needed it. I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed and I know I need to refocus my spiritual practice when that happens. Thank you for sharing this exercise with us:) It was a brave and lovely post xo
I think relaxation techniques would be really helpful for you for anxiety- that overwhelmed feeling. I hope you are doing well! xx
Loving your post – great captures – thanks so much for sharing:)