A Meditation Journey: Before and After

25 June 2019 | beando_admin

Cath, one of our teacher training students, records her experience of meditation before and after the course. 

BEFORE – 26th April 2019

Catastrophising

One of the ‘fun’ things my brain does is to automatically go to the worst case scenario. On an extreme day, this is as drastic as being sat quite happily in a coffee shop and suddenly my brain going ‘but what if there was a machete attack right now’ and running through an entire scenario of what I would do and how I would survive. It’s not usually that drastic, it’s usually just ‘what if I spilt this coffee now’ or lying awake at night running through 12 different scenarios for an event two weeks away. It’s pretty tiring and as I am always preparing for the worst, I get pretty anxious as it sets off the fight or flight response. On the bright side, in case of an actual emergency, stick with me as I probably already have a plan in place!

I don’t talk about my meditation practice a lot as to those who have never tried it (and to some who have!) it all seems a bit hippy-dippy! There was a time when I did too, but I read psychology papers about the proven benefits for mental health and figured what did I have to lose giving it a go?

In Sanskrit these constantly churning thoughts are called ‘vritti’, literally translated as ‘whirlpool’, which I love as that’s often how it feels; the weight of the thoughts dragging me down. The act of meditation itself is a relief, I am now on day 207 of having meditated every day and on a good day the act of meditation calms these thoughts, I experience moments of just existing without the whirlpool of thoughts, it’s blissful. Even after a bad day of meditation where I sit there for 15 minutes with my thoughts refusing to calm and it feels like a battle, I return to the practice the following day because the good days are worth it. It’s not just the act of meditation, in meditation you learn not to follow the train of thought and that skill carries into my day-to-day life. In catastrophising I have that thought; ‘but what if there was a machete attack right now’ and I immediately jump on the next thought ‘the nearest exit is there’ and the next thought and the next thought until I have built up a sense of panic. In meditation you have a thought, you acknowledge it and label it as ‘thought’ but don’t jump on the thought train, you go back to focusing on the breath (or other point of focus). 

It’s a hard skill to learn, but increasingly I can now do the same thing in my daily life, I have the catastrophic thought, I label it as ‘thought’ and get on with my day (often with a wry smile at the things my brain does). When it works it feels like a superpower, but it’s more like going to the gym and building those muscles; sitting and meditating for 15 minutes a day is a small price to pay for improved mental health.

In a week’s time I start my meditation teacher training, which the catastrophising chunk of my brain thinks is going to go terribly. I am not sure I ever actually intend to teach meditation (though ask me again in two months), but it gives me an opportunity to get deeper into my meditation practice. It is helping me so much that I feel it’s worth investing the time (and money) in it. Wish me luck.  

AFTER – 26th June 2019

So, I have done it. I am now officially a meditation teacher, albeit one that may never actually teach (or maybe just won’t teach yet).

It’s been a crazy rollercoaster of a couple of weeks preparing for my assessment today. I had to create and then teach a 30-minute taster meditation session which was a double whammy of things that stress me out – both having to talk in public and also creating something. For so long I associated my creativity with my depression so that the idea of being creative still sets me on edge, I put my creativity to one side thinking it was something I needed to do in order to be mentally healthy.

I started the two weeks of preparation for the assessment with a near panic attack – I couldn’t do this, why did I think I could do this, I thought that I would message the teacher and say I couldn’t do it, that I had opted to do the course so could equally as well opt out again. My meditation training brought my thoughts under control and I staved off the actual panic attack. And thus the two weeks rushed by – I would be convinced that I couldn’t do it, I would meditate, I would come out of meditation with my creativity flaring and write a chunk of the meditation, the following day I would sit down to meditate and come out with another chunk of meditation. Two weeks of meditation being both the cause of my anxiety and also its solution (the irony did not escape me!)

But today, I did it, I stood up in front of about 10 people and taught a meditation class. My hands and voice were shaking, but I did it.

I am always so wary of taking myself outside my comfort zone, I am aware that my mental health at the moment is fine, pretty good in fact, but because of that I am afraid of upsetting the balance. This course has taken me out of my comfort zone – WAAAAYYYYY out of my comfort zone and I am so proud that I did it. This uncreative scaredy cat is a certified meditation teacher. It’s shown me that I need to venture out of my comfort zone more often, that I am more capable than I think I am and I should have more faith in myself.

Coincidentally this week I found the notes I made during the meditation retreat I did over the summer. On the last day we had to write a personal affirmation, I had forgotten all about writing it, it reads “The self knows what you are capable of, trust the self.” 

It’s been an amazing experience, not just seeing the progress I have made in my meditation journey, but also meeting the wonderful people I shared the teacher training journey with. I was intimidated by some of the other people on the course, yoga teachers who talk in public for a living, and I was sure they knew more about all this stuff than I did. Over the past two months we have seen each other’s vulnerabilities and learned from each other. Both my fellow teacher trainees have so much wisdom and were happy to share. Today I was impressed with both what I achieved and created but also that got to see the amazing things they created and got to see what fantastic meditation teachers they are going to be. I feel emotional that we won’t be spending every other Friday and Saturday together, but hope I get to see and experience the amazing things they will do in the future.

So the question is, will I teach? I don’t know, is the answer to that at the moment. I am proud of what I have achieved and need to work out my meditation path from here. I am going to look into a course on public speaking as I think that is something that would both help me and push me out of my comfort zone.

Other than that, watch this space!

Find out more about beanddo’s meditation teacher training course.