Regular readers of this blog might be aware that I've been going through a hard time lately and that recently, I began counselling. What very few of you might know, is that my first counselling session actually led to me discovering something that I had previously written off as very much not for me.
You see, as that first session drew to a close, my counsellor asked me whether I had ever tried meditation as a stress reliever, and whether I'd like to do a quick meditation right there and then.
Now, guys. If you read this blog, you'll know that I have a brain that does not shut up. Finding my inner Zen seemed like an impossible task, given my mind's propensity to throw in all kinds of random images, songs and scenarios at any particular moment. And, truth be told, I had attempted meditation a couple of times, before. I usually either got the giggles (nervous laughter, rather than any kind of comment on the act of meditation, I swear), or I failed to get my noisy brain to be quiet enough for it to be at all effective.
So, to say that I was sceptical would probably be an understatement. But, I was also angry, depressed and dealing with a whole heap of grief, following the events of the last four months. So, I shrugged my shoulders and told my counsellor: "Why not try it?"
A weird thing happened. After the first few moments of awkwardly chewing on the inside of my mouth, to stave off the giggles (I swear, I giggle nervously at the most inappropriate times...), my body seemed to sink into the chair and my breathing slowed. I relaxed so much that my head dropped down and my mouth hung open (seriously, I think there might have been some drool issues...).
I started to see things through my mind's eye, and not just the usual plethora of absurdities my brain likes to treat me to throughout the day, but a clear image of myself in silhouette, with certain parts of me lit up, like thermal imagery. I saw a sharp, green rectangle in my belly and a deep red slash across my chest. And then, as I breathed slowly and relaxed further, the rectangle became an oval. It began to shrink. And, somehow, with it shrank the gnawing stress pains I'd been having in my stomach for weeks. The red line through my chest began to soften and my breathing seemed easier. I'd been having terrible trouble with my asthma in the aftermath of all that had gone on in my personal life, but right there in that moment, I could breath freely and deeply. An image of the former friend who had caused me so much pain, appeared in the front of my silhouette's head, before slowly disappearing towards the back of it, as though my subconscious mind was trying to tell me that it was time to try to forget and move on.
Now, I'm not exactly the sort of person you'd expect to be going all New-Age on you. Like I said, my brain is usually full of bizarre images and noisy thoughts. I stress over things way too much to think of myself as someone on the path to enlightenment, or anything like that. But as I walked home from that first counselling session, I felt my footsteps were lighter than they had been on the way there. And not just because I'd talked everything through (although that definitely helped; hearing someone unconnected to the situation say "this is not your fault. The other person was in the wrong," was something I had desperately needed).
Pictured: Me before the counselling.
The thing is, I couldn't get the meditation out of my head. The sensation of letting go associated with it, the things I had visualised during it, the lightness I'd felt after it... I hadn't really ever felt anything like that before, and I wanted to feel it again.
And so, I went to my natural habitat: YouTube (by the way, I have a YouTube channel, which you should definitely check out, if you haven't already). It turns out that there are literally hundreds, probably thousands of meditation videos on there, just waiting for you to click play and drift off...
Since that first successful meditation, I've been on, to use literally the biggest cliche in The Big Bumper Book Of Cliches, a journey of self-discovery.
You may now take a moment to judge me for using that phrase.
I have lost my "You may now take a moment to judge me" Phil gif, so have Dan instead.
The thing is, I'm still very early on in this new discovery. Meditation for me is still very hit and miss. I've started trying to do it at least 2 or 3 times a week before bed and in one particular week, I went from a night in which I fully relaxed and my subconscious mind caused me to see things I had long forgotten and access feelings I had been keeping bottled up, all of which was surprisingly freeing, to a night in which I became so enraged by the narrator on the video I had playing, pronouncing "anxiety" as "angshuty," that I ended up stopping the video and going onto Twitter for an hour, instead.
Guess which night resulted in a more restful sleep?!
Sometimes, my noisy brain still doesn't entirely let me drift off into a meditative state. There are nights when I'll be lying in the dark, eyes closed, limbs relaxed, all ready to go, when a voice in my head will start sniping: "Dear GOD this video is soundtracked by a lot of pan-pipes. What is it with bloody meditation and pan-pipes?! And this person is standing way too close to their microphone. How can I relax and find inner peace when I can literally hear their lips smacking when they talk?!"
And on those nights, I'm learning to either ignore that voice for long enough that it gets bored and goes away, or to stop and try again another day.
Because, I've come to realise that for every night where I don't entirely let go and have a blissful, relaxing experience, there'll be a night on which I do. A night where I'm genuinely surprised by where my mind takes me, or by how relaxed my body feels when the meditation is over.
I guess what I'm trying to say, is that trying this thing that I really didn't expect to work, has been something of a revelation. And it only confirms to me that we should try new things and test the limits of we think we might be capable of.
As for me, well, I have a long way to go. The anger and frustration I've felt as a result of the way people I loved have treated me is beginning to slide into sadness. It's no easier to deal with, but I suppose at least I'm moving through the grieving process, however long it takes.
I'm just glad that I now have an extra tool I can use, when things all get too much. I can close my eyes, press "play" on a guided meditation video and just... Relax.
Well, as long as the narrator doesn't stand too close to the microphone.
It's a work in progress...