Almost exactly one year ago, I participated in a Transcendental Meditation (TM) course. On day three of the four-day training, I found out that I had been laid off from my job.
I started meditating during the summer of 2017. I was about to turn 29 and found most of my life beginning to shift in ways that I didn’t fully understand at the time. I had been working remotely from around the world in a job that I had put my entire heart and soul into. My work was both meaningful and fun, but I was dedicating 15 hours a day to it, without leaving much room to take care of myself.
When things took a tumultuous turn, I was left burnt out and depressed, in a way that completely knocked me down. After two weeks of relentless tears barely able to leave my bed, I finally emerged, scarred with newfound anxiety that left me with a constant fear of falling back into sadness.
Depression feels terrible. Anxiety is debilitating. As an overly positive, normally upbeat, ready-to-take-on-the-world kind of girl, I absolutely hated this state of being.
I needed to do something.
I started having conversations with people who I knew had experienced this before about what they did to manage. Some friends recommended trying medication.
While I know that for some, this is a truly life-changing option, I also knew I had never tried to properly take care of myself before. I had been traveling the world full-time while working hard for a few years at that point, enjoying all the things that went along with it.
I wanted to at least experiment with what it would feel like to try this whole self-care thing. I wanted to see what would happen if I put myself first.
Starting a morning routine
I started with exercise. It was the most familiar and I knew that moving my body made me feel good. I had introduced spurts of regular exercise into my life before, but usually, it would turn into a month of regular exercise, followed by a few months of nothing.
I began to run every morning. I was living in Lisbon at the time and made a point to run through this beautiful park that I lived near. Soon after, I decided to try meditation.
I began using an app on my phone called Headspace. Their introductory mindfulness meditation course consisted of a 10-day series that only required you to meditate three minutes a day. I could get on board with three minutes a day.
I began running and then sitting in the park to meditate for just three minutes, followed by my reward of espresso and sparkling water. With that, my morning routine was born.
Over the next year, I explored different meditations on Headspace and tried out some of the instructors on 10% Happier (Joseph Goldstein was a favorite). I added journaling and tarot cards into my routine. I began practicing mindfulness outside of my meditation, particularly when I was doing something I loved like making an elaborate breakfast. But, I had a hard time committing to my meditation practice daily. Some days I enjoyed it and others it felt like work.
I felt like I had hit a wall with my meditation practice. I would have weeks where I felt good and then a wave of deep anxiety or sadness would set in. I was feeling better overall, but I knew there was this unsettled deep layer that I wanted to move through.
At Thanksgiving, a cousin of mine who told me that he had started doing TM. A famous artist and Brooklynite, he’s one of those cousins that just emanates “cool.” I had no idea he was into meditation, so of course, I immediately knew it was something I was going to try. Looking back, that moment feels like one of those universal clues that was leading me to something truly important. A breadcrumb I was meant to follow.
A week later, I enrolled. The course itself was actually quite uninspiring. I didn’t love my teacher and the branding of the whole course could really use a facelift. I hadn’t had many conversations about consciousness, the ego or higher self ever in my life. I definitely didn’t get everything we were talking about. But, I took rigorous notes like the type-A student that I am and started practicing.
Changing my lifestyle
The biggest difference that I noticed right away was that it just felt good. While meditating for five minutes before felt like a chore, the twenty minutes of TM felt like a bubble bath for my brain.
As they will tell you, it was easy. And then there were the obvious immediate aftereffects. I would meditate and then feel inspired and excited to clean my entire apartment – coming from someone who previously despised doing dishes.
After I completed my TM course, so much continued to shift in my life.
I spent a couple of months working with a therapist that has reshaped some of my most important relationships. I completed a yoga teacher training and got hired to teach yoga and consult at two different ecolodges in Sri Lanka.
I worked through some of my own fears about being seen publicly and launched a coaching business. I traveled throughout Indonesia, Thailand, Asia, and Mexico as my last big chapter in a five-year travel story and made the decision to move back to my home city of Chicago.
I collaborated and co-hosted almost 10 beautiful events with other healers, coaches, and wellness experts, including a truly transformational day-long mini-retreat. I fell in love for what feels like the first time.
Taking care of myself
This year, I began to make better decisions around taking care of myself. I took months off of drinking booze and rebuilt a new, healthier and lighter relationship with it upon its return.
I lost twenty pounds by doing yoga and eating intuitively and have easily kept it off. I saw a handful of different healers and worked through the trauma that had been holding me back for decades.
I learned to have so much gratitude for everything in my life, especially when things are hard, knowing those are the moments that will teach me the greatest lessons.
I no longer feel trapped or afraid of my emotions; I am able to let them arrive and pass through. I am less stressed. Living less in the extremes. I’m closer and more connected to myself. I’m more aware of my thought patterns. I more deeply know my higher self. I feel more content and more at peace.