Friends who have known me for a long time have noticed changes in me since I started practicing meditation. It’s not too hard to notice.
I used to exude anger; now I am a chill pill.
I used to drink a lot (so much that got friends worried); now I can only do max a glass a night (I just don’t need it anymore!).
I used to feel empty and would question the purpose of life during my 3-hour daily commute, and now I feel so much happier and so much more satisfied with my life after making a career change as a meditation teacher.
A year ago, I would never imagine myself to become a meditation teacher.
So how did it all happen? During a low and stressful time of my life, a friend suggested that I learn meditation. I had the number one misconception, “No, I can’t meditate because I can’t stop thinking.” But sure why not - the app was free anyways. It also had these cartoons that explained the concept so well. Lo and behold, after a couple of months, I knew it worked. I was experiencing what they call neuroplasticity - changes in the brain. (You really feel it when it happens.)
I felt my brain got more toned, just like how you notice the difference in your arms after doing push-ups every day for a week. I noticed every moment felt longer because my mind was not as “jumpy” as it used to be; I could keep my focus. I didn’t wonder as often if there were any messages on my phone, or tried to “multitask” by replying e-mails and listening to a presentation at the same time, or distracted by a passerby in the midst of a conversation. I was living in the present moment and my engagement with the world changed. The feeling was magical.
My experience aligned with Harvard neuroscientist’s, Sara Lazar, research findings. She found that it only takes 8 weeks to rewire the brain. When we look at the MRIs of people in the study, they found the areas of the brain that changed include the amygdala (stress & anxiety), left hippocampus (learning, memory, cognition, emotion regulation), and posterior cingulate (focus, self-relevance). We used to think the brain is fixed after a certain age, no...no...no..., that is not true. You can change your brain with meditation just like you can build your core with doing planks.
I am 34, college educated, now living in Hong Kong. I had a corporate job for over 10 years. I am quite the typical profile in a modern city. If I can understand meditation and do it, anyone can.
Meditation is not mystical and very simple.
In a meditation practice, there is usually a point of focus. It could be a touch (body scan, breath, mala beads), sight (candle gazing, mandala), or sound (bells, mantra, prayers). The practice is to stay with the focus. Whenever you are distracted, you come back to the focus. Distracted, focus. Distracted, focus. Distracted, focus.…moving from distraction to focus is the meditation. It’s that simple! Meditation are practices and techniques that calms the nervous system down, and trains the brain to be more engaged, focused, and less reactive.
Meditation has truly changed my life.
There is no magic with meditation, it's all practice. It’s been 3 years since I started practicing and I have experienced so many benefits and shifts. I have gotten so much clarity to what I want in my life and who I really am (that's big!), just by spending time with myself on the meditation cushion. It blows my mind how we spend so much time attending to what’s outside of us (e.g. social media) and forget to connect with ourselves. A year ago I would never have imagined I would be a meditation teacher. But because I have gone through this journey myself, I want to show people who are suffering from stress (or feel stuck) they have the tool within themselves to be happier and healthier; you don't have to be stuck! I am not saying the reality of living in this age of hyper-connected technologies and gruelling challenges is going to change, but we can choose how to respond and integrate ourselves in the world.
At least that's what I learned from coming out of my rut - it is possible to tune yourself to have a different experience with the world.