As someone who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder, and for whom panic attacks never get any easier (do they for anyone?), I have long considered giving meditation a try.
Meditation dates back thousands of years, offering benefits like improved concentration, stress reduction, and inner peace. Mayo Clinic even points to research suggesting the practice can help manage symptoms related to pain and digestion. With such a rich history, why had I been procrastinating?
For one, there was the time factor. With a hectic schedule, there are days when I feel too busy to eat—so how could I pull off taking 10 minutes to sit and, essentially, do nothing? I squirm at the salon while waiting for my hair color to process, thinking of the many other things I could be doing. I was doubtful I could sit cross-legged (what I presumed you absolutely must do while meditating) while clearing my mind of all thoughts. Meditating felt like a luxury my to-do list couldn’t afford.
Then, I worried about being able to relax. My concerns over having a panic attack while trying to stay quiet and focused on a meditation class completely freaked me out. What if I have to leave the room and disturb my classmates? I pictured a mugshot of sorts hanging in the local meditation studio classifying me as someone who disturbs the peace (literally). Have I mentioned I have a flair for the dramatic?
I had so many reasons to keep on keepin’ on with my daily grind, without making a single attempt to try something new. Something that, if even slightly successful, could be a gamechanger for me. But then, somehow, I pushed through my fears and committed to trying it for at least one week. I still had that irrational fear of being fidgety in a class, so I reached for my phone and downloaded the Calm app.
That first day I began with a simple five-minute Deep Sleep body scan at night. I was suspicious that something so brief could calm my mind, but by the end of it, I found myself wishing I had started with the 10-minute version because it was so relaxing. The voice guiding me through the meditation was soothing and I found myself falling asleep more quickly than usual.
The second day of my weeklong experiment was pretty chaotic, and the irony was not lost on me that I needed to stop everything I was doing to practice Calm’s Daily Calm, a 10-minute meditation that changes each day. I squeezed it in midday, and while I can’t say I completely turned off the outside world, I noticed I was a bit more mindful for the rest of the afternoon and evening.
I decided to take the plunge and sign up for Lunchtime Detox, a 30-minute session at The Den, a neighborhood meditation studio in Los Angeles.
The classroom was dimly lit by candles and offered a number of different props—from traditional meditation pillows to upright floor chairs to blankets—to make students feel comfortable. Our teacher briefly asked what we hoped to gain from class and asked us to be completely still in three-minute intervals. Most importantly, he asked us to not be critical of ourselves in terms of questioning whether we were meditating “correctly.” There was something really lovely about being reminded that it’s okay to just…be.
I walked out of that class feeling great, jonesing for more.
Day 3’s meditation led me back to The Den for Focus, a 45-minute session dedicated to “training the restless mind.” If I’m being totally honest, I don’t remember the specifics of that class because I was so blissed out that I think I dozed off for a period of time.
At that point, I felt hooked.
Of course, not every day allows for larger blocks of time to meditate, unfortunately, and on Day 5 I found myself scrambling to squeeze it in with the Calm app. It was 11 p.m. and I realized the entire day had passed without taking even five minutes to chill. I played the 10-minute Deep Sleep meditation but couldn’t get into the right frame of mind for the experience.
Note to self: Don’t force meditation if the result means you’re agitated with yourself for forgetting to do so in the first place.
I blocked out 10 minutes for Daily Calm around lunchtime, attempting to combine the experiences I had at The Den with the convenience of listening to a guided meditation on the app in my own home. It served a as a nice little break—as well as a reminder that, yes, I do have 10 minutes in a day to help myself.
For my last consecutive day of meditation I headed back to The Den for Reiki, a form of healing and something I had never experienced before. Our teacher asked each person to share what they were trying to heal in very simple terms, like anxiety, grief, stress, or physical pain. While I typically clam up at the thought of having to speak in a roomful of strangers, it was a really unifying experience and, in the end, made the meditation feel more relaxed.
Since I wrapped up my meditative week I’m happy to report I’ve used Calm a few more times, working in some peaceful moments here and there throughout the day. My goal is to get back to The Den, because I think there’s so much to learn about the practice. I really enjoy being in a space designed to maximize the experience of meditating, too.
But more importantly, I’ve learned that there’s always time for me, and I need to stop trying to rationalize reasons to believe otherwise. Whether it’s five minutes or 45, taking that time to just breathe is more impactful than I could have previously imagined. Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s necessary.