If someone had told me a year ago that I would be meditating twice a day and that it would be changing my life, I would have laughed. It’s not that I didn’t believe that meditation could work, I just didn’t believe that it could work for me.
I thought meditation was an art saved for my cool, calm, and collective yoga teachers, not something my anxiety driven self could ever accomplish! Last January, I was proven wrong.
It had been a whirlwind of a year. I had moved, gotten married, gone on a honeymoon, and had started teaching a new grade at school. In addition, I had been having some crazy health problems. My left lung had spontaneously collapsed six different times. I was scheduled for lung surgery in March and was absolutely terrified. Being a 27-year-old, non-smoker, former division 1 track and field athlete, lung surgery was definitely not on my radar.
Enter meditation. I began seeing a psychologist at the urging of my mother to help me with some of my general anxiety and the stress leading up to the surgery. At first, I really did not want to go, but I knew that my mom was always right so I agreed and scheduled my first appointment. Seeing a psychologist turned out to be a life- changing event for me.
The first few sessions contained get-to-know you talks and a few simple exercises to reduce anxiety. Around my third visit, she started to explain to me about the relaxation response. She recommended I read The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson. Benson was a physician at Harvard who researched the act of meditating and how it could help people with all sorts of medical ailments. He did his research in the 1960s which was a time well before our present- day acceptance of things like mindfulness and meditation. Hmmmm a doctor from Harvard promoting meditation? Maybe I could get on board with this!
Over the next month and a half every time I came to her office she guided me through meditation. At first, whenever I closed my eyes to begin, all I could think was, “This is weird,” or “I can’t do this,” or “I feel like I need to cough!” But, over time, I began to drift into the most relaxed state I had ever experienced. I felt as if I were awake and asleep at the same time. I could literally feel my anxieties and worries drift away. The best part? This feeling would stay with me for the rest of the afternoon and evening.
A few weeks before the dreaded lung surgery, my doctor recorded the guided meditation on my iPhone for me. She encouraged me to listen to it each day leading up to the surgery, the night before, and the morning of as we drove to the hospital. She explained that this meditation had extremely positive benefits for patients undergoing surgeries. Less anxiety obviously, but from a medical standpoint, meditating patients could also experience less blood loss during surgery. Basically, the calmer I was, the better the procedure would go.
I carefully followed her directions. Each day I would listen to her recording and just as I did in her office, I would zonk out and feel my anxiety melt away. Even the morning of, I barely remember the drive to the hospital because I had my headphones in and was meditating along with her voice the entire time.
The surgery went great and despite being in a lot of pain, I was thrilled to have it behind me. Even though the procedure was over, I continued to use meditation to help me through some post-surgical issues. For example, my second night in the hospital after the surgery, I was feeling super anxious and just ready to be back at home in my own bed. I put my headphones in, listened to the meditation, and within minutes, I was falling asleep. A couple weeks after the surgery, I was in a lot of pain. I laid down, stuck my headphones in, completed the meditation, and instantly felt my body relax and my pain subside.
While I am now fully recovered from my surgery, I still use the guided meditation anytime I am feeling especially stressed or anxious. I am also exploring my own personal silent meditation without using my headphones and the guided recording. After hearing Light Watkins speak at a Wanderlust yoga festival, I purchased his book Bliss More and have been practicing his meditation techniques daily. Meditation is not a cure-all, but for me, it’s a wonderful tool to have in my wellness toolbox that I can easily access anytime and anywhere! The benefits are instant, there are no negative side effects, and overall it makes me feel better and have a more positive outlook on life.
About Lauren Kelsey
Lauren works in the field of education. She loves spending time with her family, friends, and dog. Lauren's hobbies include, running, yoga, hiking, writing, and photography.