Breathe and Stop: Meditation, Mindfulness, and Finding Calm in the Chaos

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Undoubtedly, 2020 has been a year of tremendous change and challenge. One of my favorite authors, Paulo Coelho, reminds me that, “When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change.” This year has disrupted my expectations and presented opportunities to relinquish fear-based behaviors in order to make room for practicing compassion, trust, and patience—with myself and then with others. As quarantine life continues in what feels like an endless loop, I look to the wisdom of those before me to make meaning in the mundane, live in the present, and cultivate hope for what’s to come.

One of the texts that caught my attention earlier this year was The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The book follows ancient wisdom bestowed and protected by the Toltec “women and men of knowledge” in southern Mexico. Passed down through hundreds of generations, esoteric Toltec knowledge aims to diminish our suffering by addressing the root narratives that fuel our fear-based thinking and replacing them with affirmations that nourish our awareness and allow us to accept love.

By actively practicing the habits of speaking impeccably and intentionally, not making assumptions, not taking anything personally, and always doing my best, I have discovered my willingness to change the way I see, hear, and understand myself and the world around me. Don Miguel Ruiz’s book isn’t really a one-time read. Rather it introduces readers to a different way of thinking that requires perseverance and patience. The work of unlearning problematic narratives, rewriting our internal monologues, and reimagining a hopeful future, challenges our will for and faith in incremental change.

Another source of deep comfort and clarity this year has been my sustained meditation practice. The earliest records of meditation date back to 1500 BCE when it flourished throughout Chinese Taoist and Indian Buddhist traditions and texts. I have to admit I used to be skeptical of the benefits of meditation and breathwork. However, as my life slowed down and there were fewer outlets for distraction, I decided to revamp my meditation practice and give it a fair chance. One year later, I consider this to be one of the most profound and productive changes I have made. Meditation allows me to actively detach from my Ego and to connect with the deepest intuition of my mind, body and soul. My meditation practice has granted me access to new memories, unblocked chakras, and quieted the world around me so that I can understand my truest essence.

Similar to the integration of Toltec wisdom, the practice of meditation requires a sustained commitment to mindfulness and patience. Even just five minutes a day, over a period of time, can bring about long-lasting benefits to emotional, spiritual, and mental health. Contemporary research has dedicated more resources to provide evidence for mindfulness-based meditation as an alternative approach to treating a wide variety of illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. The best part of meditation is there is no wrong way to do it! There are helpful rituals for beginners, but ultimately meditation calls us to be aware, awake, and in tune with ourselves, in whichever way we can achieve that. The secret is in the consistency.

As this year comes to close, I hold gratitude for the moments of challenge that have accelerated my growth and pushed me to look within. As meaning-making creatures, humans are wired to crave stability and certainty; much to our surprise, the universe revels in plot twists and the uncertain. This dichotomy can seem scary and cruel at times. But through the ongoing daily practices of mindfulness and meditation, quieting the Ego, and rewriting and rewiring personal narratives, I have realized that the moments of change and uncertainty that I was resisting were exactly when my most insightful moments of growth have been.

With a lot of patience and a willingness to face the unknown head on, I have expanded the love I give to myself and, thereby, the love I receive and give to others. Through this lens, I cultivate pleasure, presence, and forgiveness each day; and I am invigorated by what the future holds. Now more than ever, I understand French philosopher Michel de Montaigne’s words, “The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself”.

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