How meditation can help life suck less
Written by Co-Founder, Shay Bachelet, Edmonton, Alberta
I've been to more “healers” than I can count when it comes to dealing with depression and anxiety. Therapists, counselors, shamans, reiki practitioners… if it was out there, I would try it. But it seemed like no matter what I tried, the pain was still there.
I felt like I had failed at healing – like there was something inherently wrong with me that could never be fixed.
What I have come to realize lately is that I have healed. I am healing. My idea of what ‘healed’ and ‘happy’ looked like were just all fucked up.
I’ve found incredible peace in changing my perspective of what “healing” looks like. For a long time I thought that I would know I was there was no longer any anxiety, ever. When I didn’t have bad days, or weeks, or months. When my life was entirely devoid of anxiety, sadness, anger, jealousy. But I am learning that I will always experience these things, with differing intensity. We cannot prevent storms from happening. That’s not the goal. The goal is to build resilience to the storm – meditation and mindfulness, all the inner work, just teach you to weather the storm, with a smile on your face.
I may always feel that heaviness in my chest when an old wound is opened up; feeling like there is a ball of cement in my stomach or a black hole in my chest. But what’s different now is that I am able to sit in the discomfort without reacting. Not always, but more often than not (Sometimes I still need to call my mom and cry, or lay on the floor and cry, or take a bath… and cry).
I have learned that healing for me is going to look different than what I thought. It is accepting the light and dark in me. It’s accepting all of the emotions, the ones that make me feel like I am the most bad-ass bitch around with the most bad-ass life, and the ones that are hard, and messy, and make me feel like I am in a tornado (or my favorite – a shame-nado).
Buddhism and the First Noble Truth
The first noble truth of Buddhism is that life contains inevitable, unavoidable suffering. This ‘suffering’ refers to a whole spectrum of experiences and emotions: from the painful experience of illness and disease to daily stressors, frustrations, and inconveniences. At first, the notion of accepting that life sucks seems pessimistic but when you unpack it, it’s anything but.
Accepting that hardships are inevitable is liberating – it’s the foundation for happiness. By accepting suffering as universal, it makes it all less personal. Our society has such an aversion to anything unpleasant or painful, which ultimately leads to tension and dissatisfaction in shitty situations and experiences are bound to come up. If we can instead learn to remain calm and undisturbed when those ‘negative’ experiences or emotions come up using practices such as mindfulness, meditation and self-reflection, we build resilience and ultimately end up happier.
Bad shit will always happen. Learn to weather the storm babe. This is why I do ‘the work’. This is why I have practices that ground me – meditation, mindfulness, yoga, ceremony, or whatever else resonates.
How Meditation Builds Resilience
When we sit in meditation, we make a commitment to sit through whatever comes up – to accept whatever we experience in that moment as it is. The goal of meditation is not to clear the mind of all thoughts. The goal is to train the mind to be calm and non-reactive when thoughts do come up.
So the practice is to constantly bring the attention back to our breath (or any other point of focus – sensation, visuals, a mantra) when we notice that our mind has wandered. By practicing being gentle with ourselves when our mind wanders, our mind will naturally become quieter while we meditate. More importantly though – we will naturally become less reactive in the face of daily annoyances and emotional disturbances. By practicing not getting frustrated or angry when our mind wanders, we can strengthen our control over our emotions and thoughts.
With consistent meditation, you strengthen your ability to be OK even when life is shitty. You connect to an underlying stillness. You become kind of unshakeable.