“For anyone who is starting out or interested in going down the meditative road I thought I would share my experience after meditating (mindfulness/vipassana) for a year.
I started meditating last July after I made a unfortunate mistake at work. In reality it did not matter but it was enough to ruin my weekend. The relief was palpable, if not complete but was enough to leave me with the impression that it actually did work for stress relief.
I then came across the research on mindfulness, showing that there are changes to brain density visible by MRI after just 8 weeks of daily practice. These areas are associated with emotional regulation, decision making, memory, perspective taking, and reductions in the area associated with stress and anxiety.
I thought that sounded amazing so I decided I would give it a go and began a daily practice intending to do it for just the 8 weeks and then see for myself how I had changed. Right off the bat I had some incredible experiences. For example, about two weeks into my daily practice I was publicly insulted by someone who did not realise I was in the room. The feels man… I went home and meditated just for 10 minutes and not only did I no longer feel like crap, I felt like I had taken ecstasy, literally, and felt the happiest I had ever felt, similar to how I felt after my first kiss for the rest of the night. In reality I was very lucky to experience this sort of thing early on and I don’t use this sort of experience to monitor my progress but it really fueled my interest, and soon I was meditating for 20 mins twice a day, before work and before going to bed.
Over this time my stress and anxiety has just almost completely dropped away. I always considered my self a worrier and my friends would always joke that I was tense or awkward. Reflecting on something bad like a problem with a relationship could make me feel like I was dying from anxiety for an entire day, a feeling that I couldn’t shake off. Now the feeling of anxiety feels almost alien to me, and i can usually make it go away just by bringing awareness to my breath for a minute, or if its a little bit more intense meditating is always enough to stop it in its tracks.
The new people I have met since starting to meditate actually tell me that I am one of the calmest people they have met, and don’t believe me when I tell them I used to be quite anxious.
Apart from feeling better meditation has also allowed me to view my life with more perspective. You become more aware of how things make you feel. E.g. if I play computer games all day I feel rotten. So I don’t do that anymore. As a result of cutting out the things in my life that were not making me happy I have found far more time to do things that I actually enjoy.
The result of all this is that I am now the happiest I have ever been in my life, and certainly the most calm and satisfied. I can do things like go on dates without feeling anxious or nervous, and I feel far more positive and accepting of myself and I feel like I have so much more control over my life.
In terms of my practice it has changed a bit over the year. I have learnt a few tricks, for example if I find I am getting lost in thought I try to catch the next thought the moment it appears, this is enough to distance me from it and not get carried off. But I still feel that I my practice has a long way to go and I am looking forward to the next 12 months.
After meditating for a year (20 mins at least once a day) I have far less anxiety and stress in my life, my practice has helped me to make big life changes, and I’m far happier, confident and satisfied than when I started out.”