I became familiar with the concept of meditation after having a perceived panic attack in college. It could have very well been an intense hangover or a panic attack caused by a hangover, but nonetheless, I left during the middle of a class and went home to search for answers. I stumbled upon Eckhart Tolle and his explanation of consciousness, the idea that we are not actually our thoughts, and that we don’t have to fall victim to the thoughts we have. This was immediately comforting to me, as I had always identified so strongly with my thought patterns. As I continued to review his articles, I discovered that he utilizes meditation as a method of detaching from thought patterns and subsequently changing them. The goal, he said, was to become the observer.
That day, I completed my first guided meditation via a youtube video (I remember this first one so vividly), and the effects were immediate. I was calmer and felt a sense of peace from simply knowing that I had the ability to control my reactions to my thoughts, even though I hadn’t yet developed the skill. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this would be a lifelong process that would require me to choose a new way of thinking on a moment-to-moment basis, and it would essentially bring me to a place of being “awake,” for lack of a better term, after unknowingly living my life half asleep. Who knew I was able to play an active part in how I perceived my life, others, and myself?
When we identify so deeply with our thoughts, we believe the stories we have always told ourselves (i.e. I’m the victim, I’m not smart, she’s better than me, I’m not lovable, etc.) and don’t realize that these are simply thought patterns. And that thought patterns are malleable. Meditation provided me with the awareness of these thought patterns, in addition to quiet space between these thoughts. In this space, I was able to acknowledge the thoughts for what they were, simply thoughts, and actively choose how to react. Slowly but surely, my thoughts had less power over me. In fact, I started to use them to my benefit by replacing the negative with positive, and the useless with the useful. For example, when I noticed thoughts that were picking apart my body, I paused, acknowledged the thoughts, forgave myself for having them, and I then chose to focus on something more productive. Like the fact that my body supported me through years of binge drinking and eating shit, that it continues to allow me to complete difficult workouts, and simple acts like walking up and down the stairs.
Meditation gave me my power back, or rather, it allowed me to realize that I’ve always had the power to live the life I want. I have a choice in how I show up in this world, especially when it comes to how I view and treat my body. I don’t have to fall victim to old thought patterns about my body not being good enough, or skinny enough, or lean enough. And I don’t have to succumb to the thoughts that overanalyze food and categorize them as good or bad, or mindlessly eat when I’m not hungry and stuff myself when my body tells me it's had enough. I certainly still have these thoughts, although less frequently, but I’m now able to acknowledge them and choose a different narrative. And my narrative is one of compassion, responsibility, and empowerment in the treatment of myself and others.