Why Do I Meditate?
Feb 12, 2015
This was my first assessment piece during my meditation teacher training, everyone's reason for meditating is different and benefits vast – this is mine.
A teacher without a voice is as practical as a builder without a hammer. This is the position I found myself in 5 years ago, just 3 years into my career as a Physical Education teacher, a career I was passionate about and enjoyed, and a career that I excelled in and actually thought would one day see me into retirement.
From an outsider looking in, it could be assumed that I cruised through my academic years. Year 12 would appear a breeze, finishing with a perfect score in PE, winning majority of races and sporting events competed, accepting the Sports Champion award for 7 consecutive years. I stood as Sports Captain in my final year, before accepting the Vice Chancellors Scholarship into UNI, where I graduated 4 years later with nothing less than High Distinctions.
Something that was also not at all unfamiliar were the reoccurring vocal and immune like issues throughout this time, from glandular fever to recurrent tonsillitis. This consistent immune dysfunction began to hinder my need to perfect everything I touched and left me feeling consistently frustrated and stressed as I continued to persevere, struggling to meet the expectations I had set myself, watching and envying my peers as they moved through the practical component of our degree with ease.
I struggled through teaching rounds, consistently losing my voice at the conclusion of placements. Unaware of the signs and symptoms I was being given to slow down, I paid no attention to my body in that regard.
Then came my first few years of teaching in one of Victoria's lowest socio-economic schools, where my already compromised immune system and vocal strength was tested, as I insisted on helping the students that needed it most. My athletic basketball frame faded and weight dropped as I decreased my commitment to the sport and training, unable to continue in the team when awaking stiff and sore from each game.
My mood at home had become low and irritable. I uncharacteristically snapped at my parents who I lived with and my relationship with my sister was strained. None of this helped by the 90 minute commute to Melbourne to see my boyfriend, leaving at 5:30am 3 times a week to return to teach.
And then Novemeber 27, 2011, I lost my voice completely.
Moving from GP to ENT and Nerve Specialist to Speech Pathologist, I was booked in to have surgery, embarking on 3 months of speech therapy and forced to slow down. Months later, my voice still weak I was advised to seek an alternate career. With my voice as my sole teaching tool and what felt like (at the time), my entire identity and persona as the loud, bubbly forever happy character, I struggled with being away from work and my students.
After 6 months I returned to work in a private education recruitment company. In the beginning it was fulfilling and I enjoyed the position and being back at work, but the nature of the role and it’s 6:30am starts in a growing corporate industry left me exhausted. While the role was education based, it was difficult working so hard at something I wasn't passionate about.
As the perfectionist, unwilling to fail twice, I drove myself into the ground straining many of my personal relationships.
At the time, I thought nothing of my tight chest or my addiction to sleeping tablets and weight loss. It was a fight with my sister leaving my mum in tears that had me sign up to a meditation class, next to where I was undergoing clinical Pilates.
I had been involved in rehab structured Pilates for my neck, which had been deteriorating parallel with my vocal health. Not once did I relate the two or consider any of these feelings and symptoms to be relative to a car accident I’d had at 18, (where I had smashed the windscreen of the passenger side with my forehead). I had appeared fine and discharged after 2 hours with no serious injuries at the time, but 5 years later was discovering otherwise.
I went along to my first meditation class at Relative Therapies. It was 7pm in the middle of winter, so the dim lights in reception and warmth of the heater was comforting and eased the nerves about sitting with a group of strangers. There was no incense or Buddha figurine and the other girls seemed relatively ‘normal’. I didn’t really care what I got from the class it was just nice to be in a team like environment again.
Because of my neck troubles I was now in a brace, so Anna offered me a bed to lie in when the meditation began. Although I felt a little embarrassed while the other girls sat on the floor, I was at ease by the weight of the rug and cushioning of the room and just Anna in general.
I remember looking at Anna, in awe of her soothing voice and floaty movement. This girl has her sh*t together. I wanted what she was having.
I can’t remember a lot of that first meditation, it went for about 20-30 minutes and she said the words ‘your breath’ a lot, I think I drifted into a sleep at one point. At the end I felt relaxed and cozy as we each shared our experience. I didn’t share much, but was surprised and really enjoyed the openness of the other girls. There were lots of laughs, which I hadn’t expected either, yet it was this laughter and enjoyment of the experience that had me back there, every Wednesday for the next 8 months.
It was these classes that gave me the courage to quit my job in recruitment after 18 months and pursue my passion. My new role was as a health administrator and facilitator in a Wellness Practice (where I had been undergoing chiropractic treatment for my neck) and gave me the opportunity to deepen my understanding of meditation, enrolling my colleagues and patients from our practice in Claire O’Beids 21 Day Meditation Challenge.
Claire’s 10 Minute Guided Meditations were sent to my inbox daily and were what really got me hooked, teaching me to practice at home away from class. Every morning upon waking I stayed in bed and plugged into her very feminine and beautifully crafted scripts.
Like Anna, I was drawn to Claire's calming voice, and the support and resources that came with all of her meditations, from the journaling guides to her interactive website and e-books. I completed them all and found other similar meditation teachers to plug into. This is still the basis of my practice today, in bed lying down, although not always guided.
Meditation has helped me to slow down, and while not independent, was a vehicle in helping me heal (mind and body) from the accident and the vocal trouble as a result. It has taught me to listen to my body and even though my health is stable, I have long term damage in my neck and shoulder and my nervous system is extremely sensitive as a result. Meditation before the day begins helps to calm this system and bring clarity to the day, showing me how to go gently and accept things around me.
Having an injury that is not visible will continue to be frustrating. I let the physical struggles of it remain private with my partner and family because I don’t like talking about it, I find that when I pretend it’s not there I feel better. Meditation in a sense allows me to deal with these physical frustrations by acknowledging and accepting them rather than letting them upset me emotionally.
I find it hard to pinpoint just what it is about meditation that is so addictive, I guess I find it like an in-built psychologist, where I might not say a single word, but instantly I feel like I’ve offloaded my thoughts and someone’s listened and appreciated the frustration so that I can continue to go about my day and life. That’s what it is for me anyway.
I was forced out of education and into silence, literally speaking, but it was this silence that has lead me to what I feel is what I was put here to do. Teaching is what I’m good at and health and happiness is what I’m passionate about. I want to combine the two, further developing my understanding and involvement with meditation and mindfulness to share with others.
I want to capitalise on my teaching degree to assist those I encounter, introducing and teaching them a tool for life. The simple yet powerful tool of meditation.
But my real goal? To take meditation back into schools, where it needs to be most, as a part of curriculum. I want to work with females, in particular in the latter years and break down the social ideals and misconceptions about meditation. To make it simple and I guess, be like what Anna was for me.
All my life I’ve been told by people 'you're just so happy' and asked frequently ‘are you always this happy?', but it was a comment last week from a patient at 6:30am, the morning after my first class of Teacher Training at MMC who said, 'you're the happiest person I've ever met' and today... I feel like it.