Mindfulness & Meditation
Over the last year I have been on a journey of self-awareness and discovery. This is due to the fact that last winter I suffered a horrible depression which left me not wanting to leave my bed. I attended therapy and overcome this, but I am still learning why my mind is the way it is and how I can continue to help myself. Throughout this time, I found a passion for yoga which is one of the few things I could find that really put my mind at ease and allowed me to focus on the present moment. In search of more mind-easing activities, I spoke to a psychiatrist (which, let me tell you is not an easy task in Toronto), he introduced me to the idea of trying mindfulness meditation to cultivate awareness of my thoughts and to help with the management of stress, anxiety and depression.
When I first heard about meditation, I immediately thought I couldn't do it, there's no way my mind can be calm for 10 minutes. But I also had a false idea of what mediation was. I thought mediation was clearing your mind of everything and thinking of nothing for 10 minutes while not moving one inch. Have you ever tried to think of nothing? It's pretty much impossible in my opinion.
In January, I started a mindfulness meditation program at Sunnybrook hospital which is led by an expert on mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. I quickly learned that this type of meditation is not about thinking nothing, but rather focusing on your breathing and sensations in your body, sounds around you, how certain thoughts make you feel and what types of thoughts those are, why we have those types of thoughts, accepting them as just thoughts and why exploring your mind is good for you. During these last weeks, I have followed a daily plan of SMART - stretching, meditating, applying, reading/reflecting and tuning in. Some things are easier to follow than others and some days you just simply forget to do certain things, but overall just tuning into these things helps cultivate awareness and understanding of oneself. Keeping a journal of your daily experiences is very helpful and therapeutic.
The program ended last week, but thankfully I can join a continuous weekly mediation now. I will continue to meditate by myself daily and I will try to attend a group meditation at least twice a month. I feel like meditating in a group setting is beneficial for focus, energy and enjoyment. Sharing your experiences and what you went through afterwards is interesting and enlightening as well. I'm feeling more positive now than I was before I started. I'm not getting upset over small things and feel at ease overall. I am now able to recognize my thoughts and label them, see how they make me feel, explore why I am having those thoughts and move to next thought. Thoughts are not facts. Meditation has helped me to focus as well. I have a hard time paying attention to a full movie but I am doing so much better now focusing.
I meditate to a 10 minute recording of Steven Selchen, the head of mindfulness-based therapies at Sunnybrook, who taught me how to meditate. You can use an app to meditate, you can join a group or you can get a referral and attend a hospital-based program like I did. And just for the record, the people in my mediation group came from all backgrounds and were of all ages. Meditation is for anyone and only takes 10 minutes a day. Treat yourself with a daily meditation in the morning or at night. Take moments for yourself throughout the day to take a breath and just listen and explore the mind. I highly suggest you try it at least once and see how you feel. Track how you felt before the mediation and how you feel after. Was it beneficial for you?