“For many years, I wandered through the desert in search of a narrative that was not mine. I did not feel I belonged here. I was borrowing a landscape until I found my own. But when I stopped searching and settled into the erosional peace of the redrock desert, I found myself quietly healed by an immensity I could not name. I took off my clothes and lay on my back in a dry arryo and allowed the heat absorbed into the pink sand to enter every cell in my body. I closed my eyes and became simple another breathing presence on the planet. “
Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds
Do you love yourself? Not just tolerate yourself, co-exist with yourself, or even just have a heightened consciousness of who you are and how you operate in the world? Do you adore the way you act, the being that you are? Do you delight in the ways you show up in the world and the words that spill out of your mouth and the beautiful, detailed thoughts that your brain constructs?
For many of us, self-hate is the default. Self-criticism. Self-judgement, self-censorship. For years, I struggled with this myself. My internal dialogue was a raging battle, a constant back and forth between the crushing weight of the things I thought I should be doing and the unbridled anger at myself for the things I’d felt I’d done incorrectly, or not well enough. There was no peaceful middle ground there; my mind had no space for self-love, for appreciation and gratitude for the millions of things I was doing right, no place for compassion or appreciation for the tiny miracles of the everyday. It was full to the brim with the worry, fear and frustration I was allowing in, and there was simply no way I could fit in the self-love conversation.
That’s why I believe that the first step in practicing self-love is an emptying of the mind. There’s no way to add to an overflowing cup without spilling – you have to first allow some of the noise to drain out of your processing mind before you have any flexibility to start more powerful mindset practices. For me, meditation has been the tool to my self-love success. Meditation allows me to empty my mind momentarily, and practice intentional reflection. Only when the negative self-talk is silenced can I focus on the positive: using that quiet time in the morning to honor myself and my accomplishments, to feel immense pride in who I am and to look lovingly at my self, like I would a dear friend.
It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow. What if instead of focusing on your external commitments, celebrations or the champagne and strawberries, you spent some time with yourself? Quiet the mind and create the mental and energetic space for a conversation with yourself about the miracle that you are. Acknowledge your innate gifts, the qualities that you love about yourself, the accomplishments you’re most proud of. Keep the meditation (or journalling, or vision boarding) in the positive, no self-hate allowed. Give yourself the gift of love, rather than focusing only on sharing love with a significant other. You deserve it.
You’ve probably heard that meditation is good for you. You also know that regular exercise, eating right, and quarterly check ups at the doctor are good for you. They don’t always happen.
It feels at times like we’re being inundated with information about how to live healthy, happy lives. It can feel overwhelming. It pours into our inbox, gets pinned on our Pinterest boards and even designed into our Bullet Journals. Why? Because more than ever, we’re asking for the information. We’re all wondering how to be our healthiest, happiest selves.
And we’re going about it the wrong way.
Instead of seeking wisdom, we’re seeking knowledge. They aren’t the same things. There are endless supplies of knowledge in the world. We can be searching, skimming and saving information for the rest of our lives and feel really freaking good about ourselves along the way. But despite how productive it makes us feel, all of that absorption of knowledge means nothing without application of it to our daily lives.
Despite being told over and over again that meditation is good for us, many of us still struggle with actually DOING it. I get it. It’s hard. When I first started meditation, I felt isolated, nervous, even a little scared when it came time to turn off external distractions and just be in silence. And that feeling is exactly why I pursued the practice. If it’s making me nervous, I believe it’s because there’s something for me to learn there – and I was right.
Since making meditation (which is rooted in thousands of years of wisdom, by the way!) a part of my daily practice, I’ve felt a number of things:
*more connected to source energy
*calmer, with fewer waves of anxiety
*frustration at the inability of my mind to slow down
*wild appreciation for the speed at which my mind can and DOES function
*more creative and inspired
*an appreciation for quiet
*and even bored, occasionally.
Sometimes, I’ve felt all of those sensations within the same meditation session. The point is that it has had a profound impact on my mind’s ability to function – and I’m still a beginner. Some days my practice is 3 minutes long, and I’m gritting my teeth the entire time. Other days, I can meditate with ease and enjoy the process for 20 minutes.
So the secret for how to suck at meditation and how to NOT care that you do? Understand that your practice is just that – a practice. Be okay with being a beginner, and remind yourself that nobody else sees or knows your practice. It’s just for you. And even three minutes of frustrated attempt at quieting the mind is good for you. Keep at it. You’ve got this.
Have you tried meditation before? What was your experience?
I was in a yoga class a few weeks ago when the instructor told me how she had been taught by her own instructor that child’s pose, the place of relaxation and rest when the class gets too tough, was the most courageous pose of all.
I have known since I started my practice years ago that yoga doesn’t reward bravado. Your time on the mat isn’t about being the best in the room, stretching the farthest, staying in an inversion the longest.
Our human tendency toward pettiness or jealousy will still rise to the surface at times, though, making it difficult to eradicate when we need to rest. It’s all too easy to start comparing yourself to others in the room. To feel like you won’t give your body the rest it’s screaming for because you don’t want to appear weak, or to be judged by others in the room. The problem with this line of thinking? Once you allow it to infiltrate your brain, it opens the door to millions of other self conscious thoughts.
By allowing fear and doubt to dictate your decision making in your yoga practice, you’re unleashing it on the rest of your life.
So have courage. Retreat to child’s pose when your body feels weak and weathered in class. Put your head on the mat and focus on your breath. And take that pose with you outside of the class.
When your heart feels heavy and overflowing, allow it to rest. Give it a break and some space. Same principle applies to your mind. To your friendships and relationships. To your inspiration, your creativity, your journalling practice. Whatever it is that you’re butting up against and wherever you might be encountering resistance, consider rest. With your forehead on the proverbial mat, gulping down air and releasing judgement, you’ll find a new way to return.
You’ll re-enter the flow when it feels right and natural, and those around you will always welcome you back in.
Establishing a routine and following it isn’t easy: but it WILL reap major results.
I’m 28 and just starting to embrace routine. I’ve been rebellious and reallllly stubborn most of my life, and resisted calendars and schedules because I felt suffocated. I recently decided that whatever I was doing wasn’t working-I had no time for myself, and always felt exhausted and pulled in a million directions. I figured I had nothing to lose by trying a scheduled routine.
I was as shocked as you are at the immense relief I felt and the way it changed my life.
Now, I rise at 7 am for some yoga, coffee, reading and mindset work. I get to breathe in the first morning light right alongside my pup, and we get lots of bonding and cuddle time. I also have enough time to get ready for the day, which is critical to my sanity since I work from home. By beginning my morning in this way, rather than snoozing until my first meeting, I’m able to settle into my work calmly and energized when 9 am rolls around. Side note: No, I’m not perfect. Every day doesn’t start this way – but the ones that do feel that much more magical.
Evenings have their vibes, which for me is much more flexible. I do try to end and begin the day with a book, rather than my phone, and I take a few moments to use my favorite face oil and slip into my most comfortable pajamas.
What have I learned? If you are able to organize your day around your routine, you’ll be better prepped for anything the Universe sends your way. Whether your routine is simple or complex, let yourself dive into the ritual. The act of doing can be peaceful in itself, and a source of calm continuity when life can so often feel volatile.
Going into your morning or evening routine with the right attitude is everything. Don’t see this as another to-do on your never-ending list. Instead, learn to value this time as unapologetically yours, and relish every moment. It certainly makes getting up a few minutes earlier much easier to bear! On that note, if you’re not into it, don’t try to force it in your routine. Going to the gym has never worked at getting me out of bed in the morning. Books? Absolutely.
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend was heading to work and couldn’t find me in the house. After ten or fifteen minutes, he walked into our closet to grab his jacket and found me reading on the floor, next to dirty laundry and underneath hanging clothes. He looked at me like he was confused if I was a human being, or some creature sent from another planet to confuse him.
I see that look pretty regularly, but it still made me laugh when I realized how ridiculous I must look.
I needed space to focus on myself for morning meditation, the book I was desperate to finish, and a space where I couldn’t hear our puppy whining through the walls. And it worked! Plus, closets are actually cozy.
Unless you live an amazing life, you probably don’t have a dedicated and hella zen meditation hut in your backyard. If you do, please invite me over. Even finding space in our home home to work, journal or think without being surrounded by a million distractions is difficult at times. If you’re anything like me, it might help to remind yourself that your world is FULL of places that can become whatever you need. Room of Requirement style.
In your closet, laundry room or car
Obviously, small spaces are my favorite. As long as it’s (relatively) clean, comfortable and well lit, you can find five minutes of peace in the corner while your dryer is on wrinkle release.
In line at the DMV
You know you’re going to be there for 3 days anyway. Just pop in some earbuds and listen to your favorite meditation app or your favorite podcast. Try Mortified if you’re looking for something hilarious–laughing IS joy, after all.
On your back porch
In my case, it’s a small concrete slab. But at the edge of the slab is grass, dirt, and just enough sunlight to convince me that I’m in a forest (if my eyes are closed).
At a coffee shop
Honestly, coffee shops were not always my favorite place to just sit by myself. I love them know because they’re always buzzing (literally and figuratively once you drink several iced coffees in one sitting) with excitement, and I’ve learned to embrace the buzz. Instead of being distracted or stressed out by that buzz, think of it as the sound of humanity. Embrace it, and let the energy in the air energize your body.
While grocery shopping
Fun fact: I love grocery shopping. And I love walking while I’m thinking. something about the motion of pacing feels like it unlocks a lot of creative energy in my brain. Next time you need some milk/bread/eggs/Hot Cheetos, bring a notepad or open your voice recorder on your phone. Dump out whatever comes up and let your mind be empty while you stock up on supplies.
Where is your favorite place to recenter, detox, refresh, or laugh? Tell me!
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