I want to share an experience I recently had that exhibited the power of meditation to affect your thoughts and experiences.
The meditative practice I used was a form of Mindfulness Meditation called Loving Kindness Meditation. While I won’t go into details about Mindfulness Meditation in general, be sure to check out this blog post that includes some great background as well as many local and online resources.
Imaging yourself in this situation…You’re in a seat for about 2 hours watching something. It’s not impossible to leave but rather difficult. It’s near impossible to speak to anyone during this time and not appropriate to be on your phone or another device. Basically, for this 2-hour experience, you are with the event and your own thoughts.
This was the situation I found myself in.
Initially, I was really happy to be there. I had chosen to be there and was looking forward to the event. However, after it started I soon found myself engulfed with negative energy. Initially, I was frustrated with what I was watching and kept coming up with various complaints and criticisms. As time passed, my thoughts took over more. I stopped paying attention to where I was and was lost in my own mind. The negativity continued. I began to criticize myself about various issues. I found myself thinking of past experiences and harshly judging myself for my actions (or inactions). I would then drift to the future and start becoming anxious about events that hadn’t even taken place, and likely never would. I found myself planning conversations that may not ever occur, but was already organizing my arguments and critiquing the person with whom I “would” be speaking.
Needless to say, I wasn’t having a great time and it was already 45 minutes into an event that I had chosen to attend and wanted to enjoy.
I’m no stranger to being lost in thought. It’s one of the reasons I learned mindfulness concepts and regularly use them. As I recognized the negativity that engulfed me, I tried to use different mindfulness concepts. I focused on my breathing. I focused on the event. I focused on other individuals. However, I wasn’t finding success; the negative thoughts continued and my dislike for the event continued.
I don’t really know why I decided to use the Loving Kindness Meditation. It’s actually a meditation I almost never do because I have great difficulty with it and I tend to get frustrated and distracted while trying.
In a nutshell (see this link for an example of a guided Loving Kindness Meditation), in this meditation you focus thoughts of loving kindness to a specific person (or animal). These might be thoughts of well-being, safety, love, health, or other similar themes. During this meditation, you also wish these positive feelings on yourself.
I randomly decided to start thinking about someone that was part of the event I was watching. I used some different phrases/thoughts that I’ve heard in guided LK Meditations and eventually settled on simply wishing that person contentment. I repeated that thought over and over in my head and within about 3 minutes, I noticed some of the negative energy dissipating. After another few minutes, there was a transition in the event, and I decided to pick a new person and meditate on their having contentment. Over the next several minutes, I continued this focus, and by then essentially all my negative energy had disappeared. What was more exciting was that while to anchoring myself with these thoughts of LK, I was also able to concentrate on the event, and began to really enjoy it and see it in a completely different light. There were transitions every 5-10 minutes and at each one, I switched to a new person and just anchored myself with thoughts of contentment for that person.
It’s amazing that it only took about 10 minutes to completely eliminate all the negative energy. Not only was I now really enjoying the event, but also I felt able to truly connect with what was being presented. When I did drift into thought, it was all positive and energizing. The final hour-plus of this event was simply outstanding.
Why do I feel the need to write about this?
Because it shows the power we have over our thoughts and emotions. More often than not, it’s our thoughts and emotions that dictate our day, our experiences, and quite often our health.
There was nothing different about the first hour and the second hour of the actual event. The presenters didn’t change their format, their style, or anything else. There was nothing different about my environment. I didn’t change seats. The people around me didn’t leave. Everything in my world was unchanged during this two-hour period. However, my experience between the first half and the second couldn’t have been any more different.
What was the only thing that changed?
My thoughts…It was me being proactive and empowered to take control of where my thoughts went that changed my experience. By sending out positive energy and thoughts of loving kindness to others, my entire world changed.
This was but one event and simply 2 hours of my life. However, this was a transformative 2 hours. If I can impact my experience and emotions once, I can do it again.
How about the next time I get bad news?
How about the next time I get criticized?
How about the next time I just find myself having a bad day for no apparent reason?
Do I let those experiences engulf me in negative energy that I then pass on to others? Hopefully not. I don’t need to let that happen and have a new tool to use if I start down that path.
At 4 Pillars Functional Medicine, our goal is to empower our members to create heath for themselves, rather than relying on a dysfunctional medical system. Tools such as Mindfulness Meditation are keys to the relaxation pillar of health that everyone can learn and use.
Practice is imperative; as with anything you practice, you are able to use it more effectively.
I challenge you next time you feel engulfed with negative energy, try a Loving Kindness Meditation or another Mindfulness activity. Send out positive thoughts into the world and see how you respond.
Let us know in the comments what your experiences are with Loving Kindness Meditation or when you might find it valuable. And, I’m curious if anyone can figure out the type of event I was at. I look forward to your comments and guesses.