By Dena Landon
Type A. Driven. Perfectionist. Control Freak. That would be me. I didn’t relax well. Trips to the beach involved a bag full of research books and notebooks for my latest novel. I plan my vacations by daypart – where I’ll eat in the morning, the museum or historical site that opens earliest, lunch, then onto the next stop! When I did yoga DVD’s at home I’d skip savasana, never quite seeing the point, and in class I’d lie on my mat making to-do lists in my head.
But in the midst of my divorce, I had to surrender control of many aspects of my life. It was chaos. Not a comfortable place for me to find myself in, frankly. When I heard myself snapping at my son one too many times I knew that my stress management techniques – running, knitting and gardening – weren’t enough.
At first, I turned to my spiritual practices and tarot. I think I was looking for reassurance that life would get better eventually. As I shuffled my deck one night I thought to myself – I should meditate. I’m not sure where the thought came from. I’d never tried it before and usually found sitting still and doing nothing to be a chore. But I shrugged and thought to myself, why not?
The first night I only last two minutes. But it felt restful so I tried it again the next night. And the next, and the next after that…
It helped me get through my awful divorce, and now it helps me handle the loneliness and waiting for someone new.
Now, every night I light a candle on my coffee table and sit cross-legged on the floor in front of it. I try to get the dishes done and the house picked up before I sit down so that I’m not distracted.
Sometimes I only have five minutes, which is what I started with. Lately, I’ve been building up to a half hour. When I rise from the floor I feel refreshed and centered. I’m firmly convinced that it helped me get through my awful divorce, and now it helps me handle the loneliness and waiting for someone new. If you’ve considered trying meditation here are a few basic answers to questions you may have.
What is Meditation?
Simply put, it’s clearing your thoughts. If you’re in the throes of divorce, like I was, your brain is probably buzzing with a million different worries. Will my documentation be enough to keep all the money in my 401K? Why didn’t I save all my statements! Did I send the check to the accountant? Crap! Need to remember to stop for gas on my way into work tomorrow. It’s draining to deal with that much chatter in your brain. Meditation is a way of silencing the chatter, of holding the thought and releasing it.
Do I need a mantra and, if so, what is it?
Not always. Sometimes I just sit and focus on breathing in and out. A mantra can be as simple as a statement that addresses something you’re struggling with. For me, I began with (and often still use) “I am worthy” on my inhales and “I am loved” on my exhales. You just repeat it to yourself with your breaths. If you’ve been feeling broke try “I have an abundant life,” if sad, “I am full of joy.” It’s okay if it doesn’t feel real to you in the moment, the point is to slowly reset your mind’s negative thoughts.
This isn’t a graded exercise in school, there’s no way to fail.
What if I can’t stop my thoughts?
That’s okay. Our minds are busy places. This isn’t a graded exercise in school, there’s no way to fail. Just sitting and slowing your breath, being conscious of your body in space, is a good start. Look at your thoughts as if from a distance. Hold them in your mind and release them. I know, it sounds corny. Two years ago I would have rolled my eyes. But sticking with it even when I felt silly has led to a calmer, more peaceful me. I’ve even noticed that I’m less likely to snap or take offense at small things.
You don’t have to spend a lot of time each day doing it, even just five minutes helps. It’s a small thing to add to your daily schedule that can pay off in big ways. If you need to find some peace during and after divorce, I’d recommend you try it. It certainly can’t hurt and it will most definitely help.
About the author
Dena Landon is a single mom who eats raw cookie dough, passionately debates intersectional feminism and frequently tangles herself in yarn. Her work has appeared on The Washington Post, Narrative.ly, Salon, bust.com, and in Dance Teacher and Dance Spirit magazines. Her first novel was published by Dutton Children’s Publishing in 2005. She blogs at femmefeminism.com, and can be found on Instagram and Facebook.