And emanate that beauty outward
We love spending time with the important people in our lives — our kids, our significant others, our friends. Pre-pandemic, many of us might have gone out for dinner, celebrated at birthday parties, or enjoyed concerts together. For the last year, maybe that turned into family movie nights, playing board games, or connecting on Zoom calls. But what about spending time with … ourselves?
Not watching TV, or reading a book, or riding a bike by ourselves. Just being with ourselves — without doing anything at all.
One of the best ways to do just that is meditation. Think of it: we get to hang out exclusively with our thoughts, get to know them, what they are, what they’re like, how much they have to say. And it can deliver huge benefits including building a rich and beautiful inner life.
- It allows us to see deeply, thoroughly, the kinds of ideas we fill ourselves with every day.
Recognize their cadence. Intimately understand their nature. Get to know our thoughts inside and out. And who better to get to know on the most basic, personal level than ourselves?
We can start to notice things, like how many times we narrate what we do, minute to minute. The judgements we hear ourselves making — about ourselves and others. How many stories we tell ourselves — and which ones we keep repeating. The thoughts that serve us well and the ones that don’t contribute to our wellbeing at all.
After just a few minutes, we get to experience how much turmoil and chaos is really happening inside. And we get to see how ineffective some of our thoughts are. Along with how easy it is to get caught up in them and lose sight of what’s happening in the moment.
Like focusing on the frustrating argument we had with a co-worker, or how much it hurt when we bumped our head on the corner of the kitchen cabinet, or how foolish we felt when we forgot a friend’s birthday. Replaying the experiences over and over, maybe changing our response to try to get a better handle on them or not feel shame about the outcomes.
It creates struggle, stress and anxiety, and takes us away from the joy and peace of experiencing life in the moment. Like the fun we have playing with our kids. Or the simple luxury of sitting on a park bench in the sunshine. Or even the joy we feel listening to a favourite piece of music, stretched out on the couch.
Meditating regularly, even for a few minutes a day, helps us become more familiar with our minds including our thoughts outside of our time in meditation.
- It gives us the perspective and empathy to be compassionate with ourselves.
To not only recognize the negative thought spirals, but also to say to ourselves, “It’s ok. Everyone has scary ideas sometimes.” Or, “Cursing my co-worker isn’t going to help the situation, let’s try and see the problem from her point of view.” Or, “It’s ok to make mistakes. I’m human.”
- It’s a direct path to loving kindness
Sitting quietly, focusing on our breath and watching our thoughts come and go is one of the best ways I can think of to truly understand who we are. To see the happy thoughts and the sad ones, the helpful ones and the ones that are truly unhealthy.
And the more we become familiar with our inner lives, the more we can be present, treat ourselves with loving kindness and find peace within ourselves.
- When we know ourselves inside and out, we can live in integrity.
We can be content with who we are and be our truest selves. We feel strong, fearless, confident — and it becomes harder to fall for those negative thought spirals. Instead, we have the wisdom to step away from them and move toward thoughts that are healthier, more helpful.
The outcome is we can be more present with others in their moments of joy and sadness, triumph and loss. We can connect more deeply with the people around us and treat them with loving kindness, too.
- We can share the peace we feel inside with the outside world.
Because we innately have the power to project our inside world outward in ways that can impact everyone and everything around us. Our loved ones feel more love. Strangers smile back at us. Spring days feel sunnier, warmer, filled with more gorgeous birdsong.
And meditation is one of the best ways to create that rich, intuitive, radiant inner world.
Even with just a few minutes a day of focusing on our breath, watching our thoughts come and go, being present with ourselves. The best part is, we can all start anytime we want.
And the best-best part? The more consistent our practice, the more we can grow that beautiful inner world and live peacefully in it — and the more we want to expand it outward.
By Michela Pasquali