I’ll never forget the first time I tried mindful meditation. It was like someone switched my brain off for 30 glorious minutes. I felt the benefits immediately and knew it was the piece of the puzzle that had been missing from my holistic approach to recovery. However, as with yoga, I’m quick to forget the benefits as I take that precious time back for other activities. It was only when I moved to the U.S. that I recommitted to a continued practice, which has been invaluable.
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How I Discovered Meditation
I first came across meditation when counselors at my job recommended it to me. I’d been seeing them for stress, anxiety and depression — all of which were affecting the quality of my everyday life. I was fortunate that these same counselors provided a daily, mindful meditation practice at work. Keen to try anything to alleviate my stress, anxiety and depression, I attended the next available class.
For 30 minutes, the teacher guided us through mindfulness meditation, walking us through how to connect to our body, feelings, sensations and emotions. I entered this realm of detached awareness; I became more attune to my physical body and less caught up in my mind, a place where I have relentless — and sometimes overwhelming — thoughts. I felt completely relaxed and tranquil. My shoulders lowered, my headache eased, my thoughts slowed down, and I entered a trance-like state, which lasted throughout the day.
The Benefits of Meditation
The benefits of mediation were immense to me. I so often get stuck in my mind that I can’t see past incessant thoughts, feelings and emotions; they often consume me. Meditation teaches me that I have an opportunity to pause, observe my feelings, and create a little space between the present experience at my mind.
But the problem I have with meditation — much like with yoga — is that despite the benefits, I am very quick to take this dedicated time back. I find other things to do, and I tell myself, “It’s okay. You can go next week.” Before long, it can be months before I recommit, and my mind becomes unruly again.
Committing to Regular Practice
Feeling totally overwhelmed when I moved to America, I stumbled across Refuge Recovery, a mindful-based addiction recovery community. A fundamental aspect of this community’s approach to recovery is meditation. This is described as “…present-time, nonjudgmental, investigative, kind and responsive awareness. To be mindful of the present-time experience of our thoughts, intentions, and actions, we must continually train and redirect our attention to the here and now. Mindfulness teaches us to see clearly and respond wisely.” Finding Refuge and recommitting to meditation provided that much-needed relief again.
Since that meeting, I’ve made a habit of meditating every day over the last nine months, and my recovery has thanked me for it. My anxiety has improved, some of my stress has been alleviated, I feel less depressed, I treat myself with more kindness and compassion, and I’m able to have a break from my mind.
What a Meditation Teacher Says of Mindful Meditation
I spoke to Gary Sanders, who helped found Refuge Recovery and teaches at Portland Insight Meditation Community, about the benefits of mindfulness to his recovery. He said:
“My mindfulness practice is what made everything kick in and make sense. All the years of therapy, the men’s groups, my personal library of self-help books, plus all the great stuff I heard and picked up along the way — it all finally clicked into place when I got serious about my meditation practice. It all transformed from just words and ideas into experiential knowledge. I realized truth. Not my stories and ideas of how I thought the world worked, but the truth of the way things actually are. A big part of seeing things clearly was to finally realize that I was not my thoughts, emotions, addictions and compulsions, that I didn’t have to take them personally or believe them to be true, that I could just watch them arise and pass. And this is what mindfulness is: watching all the phenomena that arises without judgement. Boom! This is freedom. This is true recovery, emotional sobriety.”