I’ve spoken about meditation often in the past. It’s a tool that helps me manage overwhelming emotions and overcome obstacles I face due to my mental illness.
Today I want to share my story of how I started meditating and what tools I used.
Maybe I will one day write about my whole journey from growing up in a home where no one talked about religion, to later getting introduced to God, and spending almost a decade being a believer until I finally came back to my roots again.
But for now, let’s just talk about meditation, okay?
Everything began when I was 14 and got introduced to the New Age cult/movement while watching The Secret. As I was bullied at the time and was not doing well in school, the thought of being able to manifest my wildest dreams seemed too appealing to just brush off.
It started innocently – I was curious and wanted to learn more about it – but the deeper you go, the harder it is to get out.
People think that New Age is just crystals, manifesting and being anti-vaccines. This could not be further from the truth, as most teachers never go as far as I went. But what they do have in common with those who are very deep in the rabbit hole is that they are both easily led to believe conspiracy theories.
You just cannot follow NA without also believing that a bunch of rich people and prominent industries want to enslave you and poison you.
But more about my past where I thought I was kidnapped by aliens another time.
For about 8 years I was hooked on this fancy new cult I found where everyone seemed to be happy and successful. Every guru had a story of addiction, abuse or mental illness, and all of them were able to overcome their obstacles because God spoke to them.
I read every single book under our sun about manifesting, crystals, souls and healing. I listened to thousands of hours of videos and audio from people like Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra and Gabrielle Bernstein.
I needed their voice like religious people need Jesus. They knew the truth and I craved being a part of it.
Meditation was, as they often said, a way to hear the answer from God. Prayer was when we asked.
So I meditated for him. I meditated for angels. I meditated for my previous lives and all the bodies I inhabited as a soul.
I meditated because I thought God would speak to me. Every single book I read would convince me even more that I had to keep trying because he was listening.
Yet he never did.
No matter how many different styles I tried, how many techniques I practised, which teachers I listened to… he never responded. Sometimes I felt like he was even quieter when I was having a really steady practice of praying and meditating.
I spent hundreds of Euros on books that were supposed to help me talk to the big guy, angels, or simply access other realms, and nothing ever happened.
Every time I expressed concern or doubts to my fellow New Agers, I would be told that I am just not positive enough and that the Universe aka God needs me to vibrate on a higher frequency.
It’s always about positivity and good vibrations.
In 2016 I finally started paying attention to doubts I had about God and what I was told was true about life and death. Richard Dawkins shattered everything I so carefully built over the past 8 years.
He didn’t hesitate when he said words that made me realize there was no one up there looking down on me. No one was guiding me and I was alone.
“Everyone thinks their God is different” or something along those lines. That’s why I am an atheist.
I’m not quite sure what was so powerful about this one statement but that was it. Perhaps it was my own bias that in the end buried me as I would always make fun of religious people but claimed what I believed in was somehow better, different.
One thing led to another and soon I was walking around, with my head turned upwards, like I was trying to get God to show himself to me and prove that these damn scientists were not right.
Again, he was nowhere to be seen.
Leaving New Age meant leaving everything I grew familiar with behind. Meditation as well. I think I had a harder time accepting that meditation was not helpful than letting go of God.
But meditation wasn’t the problem. It was why I did it.
When I began listening to Sam Harris and reading his books, I finally understood that although an apple may be rotten, there is still something good to be found there.
A rotten apple is a food for insects. The New Age movement is good at teaching you meditation, albeit not always for the right reason.
I began practising mindfulness again. Slowly. I wanted to be sure I would not get sucked in again.
I wrote about Sam’s book Waking Up countless times because it truly was my introduction to meditation without any strings attached.
Now, I did it for me, not someone above. This was the first time in years that I depended on myself to make progress.
Then he launched the Waking Up meditation app and as a beta tester, I had the chance to be one of the first few people to try it. I fell in love with it the second I heard his voice guiding me and knew this tool is available to everyone, even atheists.
I’ve been using it ever since. It’s become more than just a meditation app. It’s a library filled with lessons on life, death, free will, altruism and, of course, mindfulness.
Some days I practise with Sam, other days I just listen to poetry by David Whyte or lessons on stoicism.
Another helpful tool I use nowadays is a book called Mindfulness by Joseph Goldstein. I wrote about it here.
It’s about Buddhism and what Buddha taught his disciples about how to live a mindful life. I like to say that it’s the perfect book to introduce Buddhism as a philosophy, not a religion. It talks about the basics, nothing supernatural.
I am a student and every day I let myself release more attachments and become more aware of what’s under the illusion of what we call “I”.
Life is unpredictable and we never know what the morning will bring. Why not flow through it like water and accept what is?
Meditation is more than just a tool. It’s what’s keeping me alive. It is what I need to practise every day to be able to manage my emotions and impulsivity.
I invite you to try this ancient practise with my favourite teacher, Sam Harris. If you click here you will get one month free in the Waking Up meditation app.
Let go and let peace in. This is not about spirituality or Buddhism, not at all. Meditation is about observing your mind and releasing the chains of illusion we live in.
Nothing could be more scientifically true than the fact that you are breathing. Follow it. Feel it.