How Meditation Saved Me in the Fight Against My Body.
After a traumatic break up about two years ago, I felt like I had truly hit rock bottom.
I felt like I had given away so much of my own power in trying to please others that I had only but a fine thread of me left. The thread that was at least strong enough to know that particular relationship had to end in order for me to find my light again.
The ending of that relationship allowed me to stop and take a look at where my life had gone, it awoke me to how much of myself I had given away and how removed I was from the true Me and everything I really cared about.
It was a beautiful opportunity to take inventory of all of the things that I knew were important to me that I had given up or let slide during that time period, and it shed light on some really eye-opening observations for me around how I had been choosing to run my life. Little did I know this in itself would eventually lead me into a path of complete self-discovery.
While I’ve been in therapy on and off for over 10 years, and have done a great deal of personal development work, something considerable shifted for me in the past two years, and in the past year specifically.
I made a conscious effort to spend time alone and not look for validation in romantic relationships with others. Part of this was a conscious awareness and the other part was a fear of being hurt again. What this allowed me to do was to take a good hard look at my life and all the things within it. I became acutely aware of how much I shoved onto my plate in order to obtain fulfillment and confidence.
I was always seeking approval from others instead of looking within to create that for myself.
I became so masterful at being the busiest person — working a full-time job, teaching four spin classes a week, going to school for life coaching, still finding time to exercise for myself, time with friends — that I barely had time to think. To me, it was perfect because it was all I knew how to do.
The idea of slowing down never occurred to me because being busy and accomplished was what I grew up learning how to do, it was what I identified as successful, and what gave me confidence.
It was slowly destroying me.
I literally left no time in my day for slowing down, for reflection, for self-care or any form of self-love. I was always rushing around like a maniac, feeling accomplished yet exhausted at the end of each day. Everyone always told me to slow down and spend some time doing things for myself, but I identified those very behaviors as doing positive things for myself.
Truthfully, I didn’t understand the concept of self-care or self-love. I really didn’t give the idea of self-love much thought, other than something hokey from the latest issue of O Magazine. I didn’t see the connection between practicing self-love and quality of life or fulfillment. I now know that this was simply because I had no idea what it really meant and the impact that this practice could have on your life.
Concepts of meditation and Yoga and things that encouraged you to slow down never landed with me because from a very young age, my parents modeled a very fast-paced, accomplished lifestyle. My confidence rested largely in the fact that I was a very hardworking, accomplished individual who was also fit and healthy (even though I regularly put down the way I looked).
I became so imprisoned to all of the things and activities that I kept so controlled and regimented in my life (mainly food and exercise) that my greatest anxiety would come from opportunities that could jolt any of those habitual practices.
I truly believed that a lot of my confidence, strength, and happiness was from the ability to maintain control over exercise (which I ensured I never skipped), and the food that I controlled putting in my mouth. It became extremely isolating and unsustainable, but I really wasn’t consciously aware of it for years.
The idea of going on vacation even threw me on edge because I feared I would not feel good about myself if I couldn’t keep up all the routines that I controlled in my life.
I had anxiety attacks before going on vacation because I thought I would lose my fitness and healthy eating routine, which had become the only way I knew how to take care of myself. The very things that kept me going through all of the ups and downs in my life (or so I thought). If I didn’t have those things, I feared I would be lost and miserable.
There was a safety that I knew in that aspect of my life. This is what I came to know as self-care and self-love.
The most beautiful thing happened when I finally learned the true impact of slowing down.
I had become so accustomed to living a go, go, go lifestyle that I was completely out of touch with my inner guidance system. I would have regular breakdowns, binge-eating episodes, restrictions, and anxiety and stress-related attacks, but couldn’t properly identify their deep-rooted cause. I didn’t have any form of spiritual connection with myself whatsoever.
In fact, the idea of spirituality really didn’t make much sense to me. I had zero connection to that aspect of myself other than what I knew about my own astrology (if you can even call that spirituality). In essence, I kept giving power to everything other than myself in guiding my life because I was so out of connection with that part of me.
This became clear as I was introduced to the practice of meditation. Much like any other remedy or proposed fix out there, I became a sucker for the benefits that the practice of meditation claimed to produce, and thought, “Sure, why not?” While I was initially only interested in meditation for superficial reasons, I quickly became fascinated with its neurological impacts on the brain.
I knew anxiety was largely caused by beliefs and deep-rooted patterns in the brain, therefore I figured meditation could help rewire some of those old behaviors that weren’t serving me anymore. I knew I lived in somewhat of a prison in my own mind, I just had no idea how to fix it. Little did I know the simple practice of slowing myself down would lead me to a spiritual awakening.
As I started to sit in silence, thoughts would run through my head. Like a true perfectionist, I thought I must not be doing this right, but as I continued to practice, I learned that the destructive thoughts became quieter, and a much louder inner voice started pointing me in a new direction.
I started to have vivid visualizations and daydreams of what my life would look like unobstructed by some of the old patterns and fears that were holding me back. And I started to feel that these dreams were so close and real that they no longer seemed intangible. As I developed a stronger meditation practice, I knew I could turn to this place for answers.
As I listened to myself and that inner voice, I became so much more aware of literally everything.
Through meditation, I was able to identify the root cause of the agonizing relationship that I had with food. From simply meditating on that thought alone, I learned that I had given food a lot of power in my life. I learned that food was a way of giving myself love.
When I felt stressed or upset, I would use food to give myself ease and comfort in the same way we turned to food and family dinners as a method of brief love and calm in the chaotic alcoholic home I grew up in.
This special attachment I had to food became really dangerous: I knew exactly how to punish myself when I wasn’t feeling good about myself, and I knew exactly what to do when I needed that sense of comfort and love. I learned that I actually didn’t know how to properly care for myself.
Food and exercise became my only means of connecting with myself, even though they were merely ways of blocking what I needed to address.
With meditation came writing, where I would journal whatever came to mind after I meditated. With writing came a deeper awareness of the root causes of my behaviors. With a commitment to holding this sacred space of stillness in my day came a much deeper understanding and connection to the Universe, and the belief that something much more powerful than myself was guiding me. With that came a release.
I knew that I no longer had to fight this battle alone, and I trusted that when I slowed down and tuned into that inner space, I would be guided in the right direction. When I got lost, I would ask for help. I trusted that something out there would hear me, and know that I needed guidance.
With meditation came a lot of openings to new opportunities and practices that further developed my intuition and connection to myself. I became certified as a Reiki practitioner, started to practice Tarot card reading, and became fascinated with crystals — all things that have a connection to one’s energy and healing and how they contribute to the energy vibrations that you are putting out.
It seems almost too simple to be true, but I learned that I didn’t have to search for answers outside of myself, they were always with me — I just didn’t trust that I knew them.
Scientifically, my body was generally running on a lot of adrenaline — something that is often accompanied by activation of the limbic system and our trusty fight-or-flight system. Because I was always running on high stress, my brain wasn’t actively engaging the neocortex, part of the brain responsible for creativity, problem-solving, higher thinking.
I was always living in a stress zone that prevented that level of magic in the brain, therefore I generally shut off my connection to myself and the ability to enter into a space that allowed my vision, to look at possibility and creation in my life. Instead, I lived in a space of constraint and fear, and general anxiety.
I was actively living in a very low vibration and attracted a lot of the same vibe into my life. Everyone in my life would always encourage me to take bold steps to achieve my dreams knowing that I could achieve them, but I was never able to see that until now. The practice of slowing down, and stepping into my parasympathetic nervous system through something as simple as the breath, changed the game for me.
I would be lying if I said that I have overcome all of my destructive patterns. And I’m not ashamed in saying that. 15 minutes a day of meditation sounds easy and foolproof, but I am not perfect. Even if I do practice it regularly, I still have slips, falls and breakdowns from time to time, but the beauty is that these are but fleeting moments in what used to be the trajectory of how I lived my life.
These destructive patterns are things that have been ingrained in my brain for over 15 years, and it needs a lot of work, dedication and habitual practice in order to rewire new healthier patterns into your subconscious. But what I know is that I am more in tune and in touch with my soul, my spirit and my true self than I have ever been.
When I feel myself getting off track, or slipping away into old behaviors, I know to look first at my relationship with myself and identify what I have let slip away. Usually I know it’s a sign that I have given my power away again. If I create space in my day to pause, breathe, and reflect in silence, the answers always come.
Knowing myself as well as I do now also opens the door for me to call a friend for support to pull me out of the negative spiral once I’ve become aware. Sometimes all you need is a simple break in that circuitry to be able to prevent yourself from falling straight down the dark hole.
We live in a world where we are conditioned to look to external sources to remedy what’s going on inside — something I have been a victim of for many years. Eat this, exercise here, try this new remedy, wear these clothes, get this hairstyle, and you will be happy. But the answer is so much more simple. All you have to do is listen. Listen and be willing to take action from that place within.
Your inner light, your soul and spirit will always guide you in a supportive way, to the path of fulfillment. Until you can develop a strong bond and trust with that part of you, you will keep finding yourself along different pathways, learning different lessons, until you can be wholeheartedly connected with yourself.
I learned that treating your body physically was one aspect of self-care, but there was also a need to care for myself spiritually that held much more weight and importance in my life. Once we can identify our greater purpose and connection to what mark we actually want to leave on this planet, we start to let go of the surface-level things that we once saw as being all-important.
Through this practice, I learned that my self-worth doesn’t hinge on my physical appearance or my accomplishments. I started to understand that the lasting feelings of accomplishment, of true happiness and fulfillment, came from developing a strong relationship with myself and acting in a manner that brings me closer to my purpose.
We are our own voice of healing, and all you have to do to find the answer is to listen. The Universe is always guiding you, and once you can learn to trust that, there is a force greater than you that you can have faith in — you start to let go of the tight grips you hold on your life and give into the freedom that is the magic of the Universe. From there, you will find your true calling.
Giulia Halkier is a 28-year-old Vancouver-based coach who helps people create a purpose-driven and exciting life. She is a contributing writer for the intimacy development project cambyo. You can say hello to Giulia and talk about 1-on-1 coaching opportunities at her website.