Coping Amid Uncertain Times
In my last two blogs, I shared with you how Halley Reh came to be and the trauma that I had to go through. In this blog, as we are amid uncertain times, I want to share with you one of the things that helped me through my anxiety and fear of the unknown.
While I was in the middle of my legal battles with the insurance companies, I didn't know how I could move forward because it was uncertain if they would cover my inventories' loss. My anxiety got so bad that it affected my speech. I couldn't remember mundane, everyday words. I would pause mid-sentence to think of the word that I wanted to say. I knew I had to do something about it so I enrolled in a hypnosis program to help me deal with my negative thoughts and self-deprecation. After the required 3-sessions, I saw some improvements in myself and wanted to continue but the drive was a huge hassle.
One day, while I was working on something mindless and repetitive, I was watching clips of stand-up comedians on Youtube to keep me from getting bored. I don’t know how one of Tom Bilyeu’s episodes got into my list but I thought at the time that he was a new comedian and I wasn’t paying attention to any of the titles since I just needed some background noise. In this episode, he was interviewing a woman who talked about how meditation helped her and Tom looked at the camera and said to the audience:
“If you’re not meditating right now, you have to start. If you’re meditating but you don’t see any difference in yourself, you have to try harder-- because this practice helped me a lot with my anxiety and decision making.”
This statement got me so curious that I started researching how meditation works. I knew monks meditated and I thought it’s part of their religious ritual and not something that everybody else could do.
In my quest to find out how to meditate, I discovered that there’s a meditation center 40-minutes away from where I live. I inquired about getting started in the program and was told that I have to commit to a four-hour, four consecutive days of training which was a complication because, well, just like everybody else, I have a thing called work. So I went to the place where everybody goes to learn something they want to know more about-- Youtube University. I found a video of Bob Roth explaining what transcendental meditation is, what mantra means and why it’s important. But since I can’t go to the workshop in my area, I had no guru to give me a mantra so I researched that too. Basically, a mantra in transcendental meditation is a word that has no meaning that you can think of when your mind wanders during meditation. The purpose of thinking of a word that you know has no meaning is for the brain to stop thinking. The way I understood it, meditation is a method of putting our minds to sleep while conscious. I thought to myself, how hard could this be. Just try not to think of anything for 20 minutes twice a day and focus on your breath. Easy-peasy.
Once again, I went to YU and searched for anyone’s vlog about transcendental meditation to see how they do it. Instead, I found a mantra chant that I could listen to while focusing on my breath. At first, I was hesitant to listen to it, afraid it might become an ear-worm that will play in my head for the rest of the day so I tried to shut my eyes and just focus on my breath for 5 minutes. Ha! easier said than done!
As soon as my eyes closed, a flood of "What if’", "Oh, I gotta remember to do this", "I wonder what would happen if"
…and so on keeps appearing in my head. That was the most tumultuous 5-minute me-time I’ve had! So I did some more research on how to meditate properly. I read that it helps to listen to soothing sounds while meditating. I read that I need to position my body where I could be most comfortable and the most important tip I found is to write a “to-do list” or journal before meditating to put my mind at ease knowing that all things I need to remember are written and something I could return to after my meditation.
I tried again but this time, I decided that I would listen to the chant to see what happens. I wrote down my to-do list, sat on my bed, piled soft pillows behind my back and got comfortable. I got my headphones and closed my eyes and there was darkness. I focused on my breath…thoughts came and went. The chant helped me keep my focus. My thoughts were at bay, I started to feel light. The vibration from the chant helped put my body into deep relaxation. I don’t know how, but it did. My mind was at ease while I listened to the humming sound before I realized I was humming with it. I focused on my body and it was becoming more limp and relaxed. I thought, "This is nice!"
After the timer went off, it felt like 20 minutes just flew by. About an hour later, it felt like I had a nap. I was energized, more focused, more relaxed and surprisingly, the chant wasn’t in my head.
Transcendental meditation is supposed to be done twice a day. One in the morning and another in the afternoon, so I did it again later that day, but this time, I was more agitated because I had too many things in my mind even though I wrote down what I needed to remember.
My thoughts were all over the place. I was once again overcome with fear and anxiety. But every time I catch myself with a thought, I acknowledge it and tried to focus back on the chant and my breath. I do this every day since. One time, in my afternoon meditation, I started to feel so comfortable, it felt like I was floating. When the timer came off, I opened my eyes and I
couldn’t stop myself from smiling! I thought I was going bonkers but I read that during deep meditation, a natural chemical is released in our brains called serotonin. It is the feel-good chemical that is released when we are feeling happy.
It’s been several months since I first started meditating. Sometimes, when I don’t have enough time to do it twice a day, I only meditate in the morning. When my day is really hectic, I meditate for 5-minutes, but I make sure that I do it daily. I still don’t know if what I’m doing is called transcendental meditation or whatever kind of meditation it is — if it even can be called that — but it did help with my anxiety and keeping myself calm. I realize that I was more aware of my thoughts and my mind became more aware of the physical manifestation of stress, fear, anger, and anxiety in my body. When I felt any of these emotions was about to start, I became more conscious of the stiffness in my back, my neck, the shortness of my breath, the pounding of my heart and when the mind starts to focus on the body’s sensation, I realized that the negative thoughts go away. The mind can’t focus on both the body's physical agitation, the feeling, and the thoughts at the exact same time.
Nowadays, I find that I am more gentle with myself and more considerate of others. I find that I am no longer easily irritated and I can control my anxiety when it starts to set in. I find that it is easier to divert my attention to something else when I am starting to think of something negative. Yes, I still feel anxious, fear and anger but I find that it is easier to calm myself down and to get any negative emotion to slowly dissipate. If you're starting to feel panic and fear of the uncertain times ahead of us, breathe. Breathe deep into your nose and out through your mouth like you're blowing air through a drinking straw. We are resilient. We will conquer and we will push through. We will discover a vaccine that will fight this virus and we will all be alright. - Kaye Hartman