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  • Writer's pictureAnjana Rajbhandary

From Anxiety to Zen: How Daily Meditation Is Transforming My Life

A Simple Technique to Improve Your Life

By 2020, I had transformed from an outgoing person to someone canceling phone calls, interviews, and meetings due to nervousness and fear. This shift in behavior led me to miss out on many opportunities. I didn't want to admit it, but Covid had affected me mentally and emotionally.

In 2021, I started meditating almost every day because I had read numerous studies about how it could transform lives, and I felt my life needed a serious overhaul. Anxiety had been a constant companion, especially before exams, but it became a more regular part of my daily life.

Initially, my attempts at meditation were thwarted by distractions, boredom, and a lack of the promised Buddhist calm. It became frustrating, ironic even, that the very act intended to bring me peace left me more annoyed. I had misunderstood the core purpose of meditation; it wasn't a competition, and my impatience for instant results was hindering progress.

Being from Nepal, where meditation is deeply rooted, I felt more frustration. However, meeting people who swore by meditation and others who found it life-changing made me question my approach. While I wouldn't claim to be a meditation expert, I've learned not to label myself a failure. I've realized that the beauty lies in acceptance that it will take time.

What is Meditation?

According to Ayurveda, meditation is a technique that helps our mind move from internal chatter to quieter levels of awareness and ultimately to silence filled with infinite possibilities. During meditation, our mind and body release toxins, stress, and fatigue- everything preventing us from experiencing our true nature. Meditation helps our mind, body, and soul self-repair and self-regulate. Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to meditate for months to experience the positive changes; you can experience the benefits after the first time, but to reap the true long-term benefits, it is vital to make it a daily practice, even if it is just for five minutes.

In early 2022, I incorporated meditation into my daily routine, practicing it in the morning before getting out of bed and any time I felt I needed to feel calmer. Initially, silent meditation didn't work for me, so I turned to guided meditation. After experimenting with various teachers on the Insight Timer app, I found solace in Sarah Blondin's sessions. Her soothing guidance made meditation more enjoyable, to the point where I memorized many of her words.

Throughout my on-again-off-again relationship with meditation, I sought advice from a friend, whom I'll call "S," a seasoned meditator. She never promised miraculous life changes but emphasized the practice's importance and the required patience. Her words served as a steady reminder to persevere. Last year, another friend, "J," encouraged the practice of daily meditation. I find it simpler to embrace the words of inspiring friends as I aspire to embody their qualities.

Despite my initial struggles to focus during meditation, I've come to realize that it's my time with myself—a moment to distance myself from daily stressors and "be in the moment" with my breath. Recently, I've added chanting to my practice, holding onto my rudraksha mala and reciting mantras like Sat Chit Ananda or Aham Brahmasmi. This ritual, coupled with candlelight, has heightened my sense of calm. Though often, during chants, I think about what I am having for dinner that night.

It is important to have someone to look up to when we aim to change our habits. In my meditation journey, listening to Dr. Sheila Patel's talks has been incredibly helpful and inspiring. I watch and listen to her videos repeatedly, finding them immensely beneficial. The more I engage with her content, the more motivated I am to maintain my practice.

Unexpectedly, the benefits of meditation manifested sooner than I anticipated. A friend's comment that would have triggered anger in the past barely affected me. I found myself more chill and less reactive- less invested in unnecessary drama and capable of letting go of irritations. I wasn't "snapping" like before. Rejections and delays no longer ruffle my feathers, and I've become more understanding of others' situations.

The Science Behind Meditation

Stress is a common aspect of many people's lives, occurring when we perceive any physical, emotional, or psychological threat. When faced with real or perceived threats, our bodies activate the sympathetic nervous system, triggering the fight-flight-freeze response. This response can be life-saving during genuine dangers, such as quickly reacting to avoid an oncoming car. However, many of us live in a state of chronic stress, even without constant threats, leading to inflammation and various health issues.

Meditation offers a solution by focusing on the breath and practicing mindfulness. This deactivates the sympathetic nervous system and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping the body relax and recover. Regular meditation makes switching on the parasympathetic nervous system easier, fostering a sense of calm that benefits our spiritual, mental, and physical well-being.

We don't need to live a life of constant stress. Daily meditation can improve the quality of our lives by directly influencing our health. Adopting this habit benefits us immensely, and it's a choice anyone can make. Many people believe they must be "good at meditation" to reap its benefits, but there is no such thing as good or bad meditation—what matters is simply practicing it with the time we have.

It's natural for our minds to wander during meditation; when this happens, we refocus on our breath, no matter how many times it takes. With practice, it gets easier. Even the most experienced meditators have wandering minds, but they continue because meditation is a discipline everyone gradually learns to build.

In this journey, I've lost some friends but gained new ones who align better with my current mindset. I no longer expend energy convincing others of my beliefs or offering unsolicited advice. The desire to change people has waned; I focus on my life, appreciating what I have and working toward what I want. I've come to understand that people will change when it becomes vital to them, just as it happened to me. People change when they are ready.

I've shifted my perspective; instead of harboring anger towards life's circumstances that I can't change or the world, I am now channeling my energy into identifying and making changes that I wish to see within myself.

I am still learning, but I am enjoying the journey of life more.


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