When I turned 25 I was thrown for the first time into the washing-machine cycle of loss and death. My husband had unexpectedly died from a complication with his cancer treatment at the young age of 28.
In the months and years that followed, I got a taste of what it was like to lose my mind. I didn’t know who I was, now that one label had been ripped off of me and another one slapped on. I still functioned, but I started to deteriorate mentally. I went to work, but I was disconnected and intentionally disconnecting from, not only my friends and family, but also myself.
People process loss differently depending on a variety of factors. Personality, support, coping skills, and hope.
I chose the process of not processing. I chose to stay in a hopeless world because I felt the real one didn’t have anything for me.
One of the most difficult parts of the grieving process for me was that my mind would not shut off. I felt like I had lost control of it. It would play back images of me finding him unconscious, of being at the hospital, and of him finally passing. These images pounded me for months.
Although my experience with my mind not shutting off is from a particularly intense event, I know this happens to regular people at times in everyday life. We find ourselves in stressful situations, under pressure, or experiencing any type of loss, and our minds get preoccupied or obsessed.
It can feel like we are trapped in our own bodies.
This is where meditation saved me. Years after this loss I was still struggling to find peace of mind. I had improved in many other areas socially, and the memories didn’t haunt me like they did initially, but I had experienced the power of my mind to suffocate me.
I was afraid it would happen again.
I was exposed to mindfulness meditation through a guided body scan by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I believe it was the first time I had stepped into the present. It was terrifying and liberating. I listened to the scan over and over for months. It was a key step in being able to let go of my story and perceived labels. It eventually led me to yoga.
After some time doing yoga and realizing that there was more to yoga than asana and getting physically stronger, I started exploring meditation.
I use a variety of meditation techniques now, and I’m always amazed at the calm and peace it brings even after very short sessions. Sitting with my thoughts and watching them come and go works a kind of internal magic on my body and mind. I commit to it even when I don’t feel like it and even when I don’t think I need it.
I do not fear losing my mind again, but I practice meditation because I know the potential of life to pull the rug out from under us. I know how painful the pounding of negative thoughts can be, and I know the power being completely present has to create peace of mind.
We may not always be happy or comfortable or at ease, but we can find peace and acceptance in whatever situation we’re in.
I am not suggesting spiritual bypassing or escaping our realities or our feelings.
I’m suggesting meditation as a prescription for embracing our lives and ourselves fully, come what may.