Meditation · Mental Health · Mindfulness

Meditating during stressful times

Last week, I did not create a post, which is a rare occurrence. Writing a blog about meditation, mindfulness and happiness caused quite a stir with me last week as I was having a busy time at work, experienced some amount of poor health and had so many dreams at night that I didn’t feel well rested. So I didn’t write. However, it is important to document these types of moments and so here is a belated post. Too often we can read about meditation as a way to achieve peace that we forget that sometimes we can also view utter chaos during our practice. When there are so many thoughts, it can be difficult to practise mindfulness and meditation. Today’s post is about practising meditation when you’re stressed and busy.

One evening last week, on my train journey home from work, I found myself thinking, ‘I can’t wait until I’m back home on my meditation mat to find some peace’. I immediately caught the thought and found myself smiling. I was so desperate for an appropriate moment to hit the pause button, that I almost forgot that any moment can be a good time to pause. There I was, sat on the train with nothing useful to do. So why not fill that time with what I was so desperate for? A moment of press pause from being in autopilot. I took a breath and began to meditate. I didn’t need to wait to be home to find that deeper place within myself.

I found myself observing what metaphorically appeared to be a circus or carnival in my own mind. There was a lot running around in my head. The amount of requests and demands of my time were like many people talking, laughing, and walking from one place to another. The tasks were like different games or rides, flashing lights trying to get my attention, several carnival folk yelling ‘roll up!’, clowns throwing pies in my face, acrobats flying into the air. Rings of fire burning bright. Music, arcade games beeping, bright colours, the scents of hot dogs, popcorn and corn on the cob. Basically, my brain was in sensory overload.

When our brains are so busy, it can be easy to just go back on autopilot and allow ourselves to be carried away with the circus. But to do so would be exhausting. Meditation allows us some space. At first it may only be a small amount of space, gradually growing into something more vast. But whether a small or large space, it is space nonetheless and can be very welcome.

A few days later, I practised again. I was only doing short bursts of meditation for the past week. After all, some is better than none. Dealing with some difficult moments, practice brought about some upset. The metaphorical circus scene was replaced with a bleak and empty beach on an overcast day. It seemed lifeless except for the waves and when a wave would swell, it was the surge of my emotion. Meditation isn’t always peaceful. It’s about observing phenomena and understanding that what is, simply is. I could feel myself strain to feel a different emotion, but knew that I had to accept my state at that point of time. Our downcast moments are just as real and as valid as our happier moments.

Meditating during difficult times is an interesting experience. I find it to be insightful into who we are and our innermost self. Where we suffer, there is vulnerability and a part of ourselves that wishes for healing. By being aware of these aspects, we can better look after ourselves. Most importantly, we really must remember to be kind to ourselves at such times. If a meditation practice becomes too much, we should stop and come back to it when we are ready. If we’re tired or in poor health, then we should shorten our practice if we can’t manage its usual length. Mindfulness and meditation can be really gritty at times. The most important thing is to look after ourselves. Balance is key.

A bit of a haphazard post today. I wish everyone well and if you are having a difficult or stressful time at the moment, remember to take a moment for yourself. Even if it is a short moment, grant yourself some room to find some space and breathe.

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