25. July 2019
Three years ago I really fell into the trap of my own mind for the first time. I was not well, I was overloaded and full. Full of thoughts, musings, reflections, worries, hypotheticals, reproaches, prohibitions and much more. It came as it had to come: after a breakdown, the diagnosis was made: major depressive episode.
The distressing symptom in my case was brooding. When I opened my eyes in the morning, I started doing it. And then it went round and round. Back and forth and back and forth I pondered my life, developing and discarding options and torturing myself. I could not distract myself at all. Thoughts cannot be stopped at will, I had to learn that bitterly. Making peace with thoughts. But there is a way to make peace with yourself and your wildly circling thoughts. I discovered this possibility after I recovered a little from depression: The possibility is called meditation.
No, I didn’t suddenly become esoteric or join flimsy gurus. I learned to meditate and gradually integrated this practice into my daily life. How this works and what it brings, I would like to describe to you now.
Meditation has always accompanied mankind. Every religion contains one or more forms of meditation, for example, prayer. Movements and sports that are performed intensively are also meditative. We also experience many creative activities as meditation. This is because meditation means being with oneself and consciously staying with oneself over a period of time. What meditation is:
And what not:
What are the benefits of meditation? Research on meditation has gotten a lot of traction in recent years. It is also seeping into our hectic lifestyles that meditation and the peace it brings has benefits for us in the bag. Studies and various scientific articles are proving the effectiveness of meditation for reduction of psychological symptoms, pain reduction and stress management.
Later in the post, you will find a detailed guide to your first experience with meditation. With this guide, you can start your first meditation experience. But first, let’s talk about the basic principle of meditation. Meditating involves holding a focus for a self-selected period of time (from one minute to days). The focus in meditation is on our inner being. The essence of “being” is sensed. This sounds complicated, but it is not so much.
Important: It is not about pondering or brooding over oneself. On the contrary, it’s about simply being there. There is no goal, except for a moment of calm and pure being. One does not arrive at the “knowledge” of how to achieve happiness in life through meditation. But one prepares a fertile ground for being able to perceive happiness, even if it is still too small.
Seek an anchor
To stay completely with yourself, it is best to look for an anchor (especially in the beginning). Conveniently, each of us really has such an anchor, namely our own breath. It is always there, we don’t have to do anything special for it. In meditation, the awareness of the breath keeps us with ourselves. Just by the fact that we all breathe, meditation is really for everyone. That’s good news, isn’t it?
Tip: Breathing exercises are also basically meditative and are a wonderful way to get started.
Read here interesting facts about breathing exercises.
Thoughts, feelings and other sensations are noted during meditation, but not evaluated. During meditation, one lets everything that comes pull without paying much attention to it. The breath helps us to do this: when we notice that we are digressing and distracted, we can simply return to the breath and begin to focus anew.
Meditation is a conscious choice
Even if it only works out for a split second that we’re with ourselves because our thoughts keep dragging us out of focus over and over again, the following maxim always applies: “Any meditation is a good meditation.” Because if we learn to notice that we are being pulled away by thoughts and feelings, then that is already a key. Namely, we can decide: Do I let myself be pulled away into the vastness of my mind or do I return to myself? Do I follow my mind like a faithful puppy, or do I consciously decide against it?
Meditation is always gentle
I like to be good at what I do. I have a high expectation of achievement. I think many feel the same way these days. This attitude is also not bad per se, because it has already brought me far in life. In meditation, however, I am allowed to put this demand for perfection aside. I may be gentle with myself and look at myself lovingly. When the thoughts get back on their merry-go-round, I gently take myself by the hand and get off the merry-go-round.
You can meditate in complete silence, but you can also find (e.g. on Spotify) the right music for you. Some also prefer guided meditation, as it makes it easier for you to focus on the present moment. This is where mindfulness meditation comes in handy, as it is usually guided. You can also recite a mantra to yourself. This can also be very focusing. My favorite mantra comes from the book “The Mindfulness Training” by Marc Williams:
“May I be free from suffering. May I be healthy and whole. May I be able to live my life with ease.”
Stool, floor, chair… Whatever suits For me personally, the bed has proven to be a less conducive place for meditation. I tend to nod right off. I also have trouble sitting cross-legged because my feet fall asleep. So I usually sit on a large pillow or on a meditation bench (for all you handymen: The little bench is easy to make yourself!)
Give meditation a chance I can really understand that you are skeptical. But maybe this article has made you want to just give it a try? Many of us strive for more inner peace and serenity. We would so much like to find our center. I think meditation is actually a pretty simple way to fulfill these desires, don’t you? Give meditation the chance to enrich your life. It can do no harm.
I don’t know what life will bring me. Maybe another depressive episode? Maybe health for the rest of my life? I only know that meditation equips me for all life circumstances: I learn to perceive the good more and to let go of the bad. This creates a balance in my life that is a good starting point for all surprises and challenges!