Several years ago, I was doing a solo piano recital. Not a high-stakes thing (just my friends and family in the audience), but super-stressful for me.
Horrible stage fright, negative thinking, low self-esteem, worrying about how I might screw it up.
I was sitting backstage, waiting to go on. I had maybe 15 minutes before showtime. Playing every negative scenario in my head.
I was going to play the music from memory. That’s hard. Especially the Bach Partita. This is very complex music. One tiny mistake and it would throw the whole thing off.
And, the printed programs were all messed up (I knew that was going to happen). I had wanted to print them myself, but the music school insisted that they print them, on their special paper. I thought they were just going to print the PDF I sent them, but no, they re-typed the whole thing. Tons of typos. A total disaster.
I was so incredibly angry with them, and this made it even harder to focus.
I had been meditating for a while without having a clue what it was about. 5 minutes a day, sometimes. Then skip a few weeks or months. Then go back to it.
I loved the idea of meditating. I love learning new skills. Being good at things.
So, backstage, I was trying to meditate. I don’t even know what I was doing. I just knew that meditation was supposed to help me.
I can’t say it did much for me. The recital sucked, in my honest opinion.
That’s how it went for years. I had a ton of anxiety, negative stories in my head, etc. I knew meditation was supposed to help you deal with negative thinking. With stress. With anxiety. It was supposed to be good, and I wanted to do it, but I didn’t really get it.
It didn’t make sense. How was I supposed to apply it in my daily life? Sure, I could sorta stay calm while meditating. But as soon as I stopped meditating, then what? And, I wasn’t even always calm while meditating. Sitting for 5 minutes was a long time. I got restless and antsy.
It’s hard to commit to a regular meditation practice when you don’t even see how it’s helping you. When you don’t feel it.
That changed at one point. I was practicing singing, and it suddenly became clear. I was extremely frustrated one moment, and then the next moment, I had a different relationship with my negative thinking.
I saw how meditation works to give you distance from your thoughts. How it helps with stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, and negative stories in your mind.
And, yeah. It’s counter-intuitive.
But, that’s what you need. Distance from your thoughts.
You don’t need to eliminate the thoughts. You don’t need to change them. You need distance. You need radical acceptance of your thoughts.
This is what meditation can teach you, and how it can help you.