There are undeniably times within a lifespan when dark clouds inexplicably settle atop you.
“Why is this happening to me? I’m a good person…
“I go to work, I do my job. I take the rubbish out, I brush my teeth 3 times a day…
“I smile at my neighbors and pay my bills dutifully. I give my seat to the elderly on the train…
“I don’t understand. I don’t deserve this.”
Don’t we all feel cursed at one point in our lives? Anything and everything we do just doesn’t seem to work out. No matter what we do, that big, heavy cloud does not retract — it lingers.
We inevitably and desperately go into “freak” mode: We binge eat. We drink. We smoke like a chimney, party like crazy, indulge in sensual experiences in the hopes to escape the darkness, the rain, the thunder that clearly states – we are, in fact, going through a thunderstorm phase of our life. There. Is. No. Escape.
Sometimes life becomes too much to bear with. We feel off-center, diluted, distracted, exhausted — ultimately — lost. And our efforts to resist this emotional rollercoaster send us a big, fat bill leaving us emotionally penniless. We’re empty.
Been there, done that. For a period of about 7 months last year, all I experienced was relentless storms in my life. It was a continual streak of horrible weather forecasts, and I felt like I was living in Cherrapunji, Meghalaya, India, the “rainiest city in the world” (yes, I googled it). I felt a deep sense of chaos and confusion permeating my every pore. I was drenched in fear and despair, gloominess and powerlessness.
As a Bolivian, I grew up in a loving family. I always felt in my heart that, no matter what, I could always count on my parents to be there for me. Now, living in Malaysia for over 4 years, I know there’s no hiding under mama’s sweet caress. Going “home” entails a 40-hour one-way journey, days getting over jet lag, not to mention the crazy cost of hauling myself all the way across the world, on both vertical and horizontal planes.
But maybe the answer isn’t even in a place itself.
How often do we travel insane distances only to find our thoughts drifting back to our same problems, as if they are captives in our minds? Being under a beach umbrella and sporting a Mojito in hand does help, but it’s merely a temporary patch in an attempt to answer the greater question: Is this storm ever going to pass?
Perhaps, the solution isn’t in a place at all, nor in that Mojito. Perhaps it’s in a state of being.
As we celebrate International Day of Peace this week, the question arises in my mind: What is peace?
Can we even fathom to arrive at a concise, objective description of such an ambiguous term? For some, it’s a deep exhalation, where all problems fade away and all worries are lifted off our shoulders. For others, it’s knowing they can provide for their families. I like to think of Peace as the pot at the end of the rainbow. It doesn’t much have to do with luck, but rather with abundance and gratitude, with quiet and tranquility.
We exhaust ourselves searching outwardly for the best umbrella out there while the storm passes by. In a typhoon, “ain’t no umbrella gonna save you, sister.” My invitation to you during this week’s celebration of World Peace is instead to learn how to dance in the rain.
External factors cannot move a solid rock. So be your own rock. Ground yourself. Like a bamboo tree being swayed by the wind, set your roots deep in the Earth and become flexible to withstand the challenges and adversities that present themselves as magical lessons to push you even further towards your evolutionary unfolding. Once grounded, join the dance of life and let your limbs be moved and swayed, while holding your firm roots, and sense of centered-ness, sacred.
Close your eyes, breathe and trust the process of Life. Open your heart and direct your energy deep into the core of it — there, you shall find your rainbow, and at the end of it, your pot of gold: Unshakeable Inner Peace. No hopping on a 40-hour plane ride needed. Rather, it’s closing your eyes, receiving each droplet as a blessing from above, arms wide open, smiling, knowing. Everything will be alright. Just breathe and travel in. This is, after all, the journey Home.
So, how do we travel in? How do we find Inner Peace?
Here are 8 components to assist you in your journey home:
1. Clear Out All Expectations Of Meditation:
Whatever you’ve heard or read, whatever Instagram or your Facebook newsfeed tells you what meditation “should feel like,” let it all go. Open your mind to your own unique experience of meditation. The smaller your expectations, the easier it will be to accept what surfaces and arrives for you during your moments of silence and stillness.
2. Make Space In Your Busy Schedule
Ensure that you’ve cleared some time off your busy schedule to sit in silence and stillness. Make a dedicated effort not to get up, check the time, or worry about your next email reply. Clear space in your home, dedicate a specific place – a couch, your mat, a chair or the floor — to make it your sacred place. Physical space and mental space is needed.
3. Be Prepared To Feel “Nothing”
Related to having expectations is the desire to “feel” something massive and transformative. While some meditation sessions can be very intense, in most cases — especially as a beginner — you might feel boredom, or pain in your joints or back if you’re not trained in holding a seated posture for longer the 3 minutes. Sensations will arise, be present with them, and be mindful of them. Let go of the desire to feel something “special.” Like anything in life, practice makes perfect, and it’s about the journey, not the destination.
4. Follow Your Breath
There are many styles and ways of meditating. Some use repetition of mantras (words) or chanting, some gaze at candle flames or a yantra (a geometric diagram used mainly in tantric meditation). What works best for me is observing the flow of my breath.
Start by inhaling on four counts, and exhaling on 8 counts creating a 1:2 ratio. This will declutter the mind and de-accelerate your heart rate. Once you feel cool and collected, still with your eyes closed, release the control of the breath and proceed to breathe in your most natural manner. As it comes, just observe and follow the cycle of breath. As a continuum, just like the waves of the ocean… in….and out… and again. You can mentally repeat or focus on the words, “I inhale, I exhale” to give the mind a treat to focus on during the initial phases of your meditation practice.
As Confucius once said, “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” Perseverance is the key to success with meditation as with any practice. Make it a habit to clear out 5 or 10 minutes a day — preferably at the same time — to sit and find seclusion, quiet, and peace.
Do it enough days in a row and you’ll start to notice the changes in your mood, your energy levels, your perspective on life. When the mind is silenced, much shift happens. All kinds of positive changes take place as you release what no longer serves you and receive new light. Please, persevere. In your practice. You are so worth it!
6. Be A Loving Witness
Whilst in meditation, there could possibly be moments of fear, or doubt, of resentment surfacing, or even anger. Whatever emotions arise, pay close attention to them, and as a loving witness, let them go. Emotions are nothing but visitors to the humble abode of our minds.
As a host, we tend to them, acknowledge their existence and the fact that they’ve decided to pay us a visit. Once it’s noted, as any great host would do, dismiss them with the utmost gratitude in your heart for having stopped by to say “hello” and teach you a lesson or reveal a side of you that you perhaps hadn’t noticed. The journey within allows you to progressively learn to love all the areas of yourself – the good, the bad and the ugly.
7. Seal It With Gratitude
Gratitude is our greatest gift. It multiplies positive energies exponentially. Find gratitude in your heart for every attempt and every step you take towards your evolution. Be thankful for the tough times, when your mind is going crazy, and how you have that safe space where you can retrieve to your sacred meditation spot. Be thankful for the “easy” days, when you could sit for 20 or even 30 minutes in silence. No day is better or worse than another. They are all experiences available for us to learn and explore our behaviors and reactions, our triggers, and human nature.
Just like brushing your teeth, you can’t just do it once and claim it as done forever. Rinse your soul daily, empty the rubbish collected throughout the day (greed, jealousy, gluttony, laziness, apathy, and any thoughts or emotions that don’t serve you). Trust me, you will feel lighter once you’ve let all that go.
Use these 8 components as your compass, your thermometer for your meditative practice. Ask yourself, “Am I holding on to expectations? Have I cleared space in my home and mind? Am I willing to sit and just be? Am I really present with every inhalation and exhalation? Am I loving to myself? And finally, am I willing to let go of what drags me down?
Meditation is a powerful, transformational tool. Apply these guidelines and surely, you shall find your pot at the end of your rainbow — your inner peace — and in that pot, you might find something more precious than gold… your own Freedom.
Olivia Mercado is a certified 500+ hour accredited Yoga Instructor. Having trained in Ashtanga and Vinyasa styles of Yoga, Olivia teaches out of pure passion for growth, expansion, expression and connection, peace and fitness of mind, body and spirit. She has taught internationally since 2012 in India, Bali, Singapore, Vietnam and currently in Malaysia, which she joyfully calls “home.” Olivia works at Mindvalley and heads the Zenward team.