My name is Gabrielle, and I'm a recovering over-thinker.
"Recovering" is the operative word. For the past 15 years, I've worked hard to overcome my addiction to over-thinking.
I was 16 when I realized I was addicted to my thoughts. These thoughts were merely fearful illusions I'd created based on my past experiences and my uncertainty about the future. I was totally consumed by my thoughts, and they often manifested in the form of funky behavior. For instance, I'd control, manipulate and obsess over all situations and outcomes. I was in a perpetual state of fear, which affected every area of my life. My mind would fixate on everything, from what would happen when I went to college to wishing I hadn't eaten so much. Eventually, these thoughts led to a severe anxiety disorder with no recourse.
Seeking serenity, I turned to my mother for help. In true hippie-mom style, she lit some incense and sat my ass down on a meditation pillow. At the time my mother was a devotee of Gurumayi, the head of the Siddha Yoga lineage. The Siddha Yoga community uses the mantra Soham. For the unfamiliar, a mantra is a word or group of words that guides you to a single, pointed focus, and "Soham" means "I am that" in Sanskrit.
My mother proceeded to teach me how to use this mantra while connecting to my breath. This mantra meant nothing to me at the time, but I was willing to try anything to calm my incessant thoughts. I followed my mother's lead, refocusing my mind by breathing in "Sooooooo" and breathing out the "Hummmm." She suggested I use this mantra throughout the day, whenever I felt pangs of anxiety. Each time I'd turn to this mantra, my mind would soften more and more. To my surprise, meditation worked.
A few weeks into my meditation practice, I decided to take a weekend trip to the beach with some friends. In the middle of dinner, I noticed my fearful panic set in. I excused myself from the table and went upstairs to meditate. I sat in the guest room of my friend's beach house, repeating my mantra.
"Soooo - Hummmm - Soooo - Hummmm- Soooo - Hummmm."
Within minutes, my energy shifted. My fear subsided, and my mind calmed. Then my extremities began to tingle. I became overwhelmed with a feeling of joy and peace, as if I were wrapped in a blanket of love. This was my first encounter with my ~ing, or inner guide.
I spent the next nine years searching for this same experience. I dipped in and out of my meditation practice, typically returning to it upon hitting a bottom of some kind. For instance, when I'd be coming down from drugs, or while going through a break-up, I'd turn to my practice for some serenity and pick up my meditation tools for a day or so and feel better right away. As soon as serenity settled in, I'd revert to my old fearful thinking and controlling behavior.
I spent several years stuck in this cycle of pseudo-spirituality. This apathetic approach to my well-being dragged me to my knees time and time again. Then I hit a big-time bottom. My astrologer called it my "Saturn Return." I called it an existential crisis! It seemed as though the universe was a tennis ball machine blasting me with assignments. The assignments came in three forms: overcoming romantic illusions, shifting careers and embracing a life of sobriety.
In the past, I'd have coped with these assignments with drugs, alcohol, a new relationship or over-working. None of these "remedies" ever worked. I finally surrendered to the fact that my outside chase for serenity was a dead end, and something had to change. So I turned my search for happiness inward. I called on my memory of meditating in some random friend's beach house at the age of 16. I remembered how it felt to relinquish my fearful illusions and surrender to the loving energy that surrounded me. My recollection of this time was so vivid it propelled my desire to know more. Thus, it was time to surrender to a full-blown, rocked-out, no-joke meditation practice.
I set up a meditation shrine and hit the pillow on a daily basis. I was determined to do it right this time. I read all kinds of books on meditation, listened to audio meditations, attended workshops and lectures and found a meditation coach. And to top off, I picked up the self-study metaphysical thought system "A Course in Miracles" and embarked on a 365-day meditative transformation.
Oddly, I felt grateful for the discomfort I'd experienced throughout my life -- it had led me to surrender to a committed meditation practice. My willingness to change jump-started my shift, but the initial steps were not as easy. Sitting through my chaotic thoughts and emotional discomfort was very difficult. Yet, during each meditation I'd experience fleeting moments of peace. Those moments kept me coming back to my pillow to receive more. Each day my meditations lasted longer and grew deeper. Some days, I'd turn on music, like Helios or Sigur Ros, and I'd meditate through an entire album.
As my meditation practice strengthened, I found it effortless to enter into a calm state and release my thoughts. The result was that my practice had guided me to quiet my beta brainwaves (associated with active thinking, speaking and analyzing) and amp up my alpha brainwaves, which led me into a pleasant, relaxed wakeful state of awareness. In addition, my practice had opened up my right brain, which is where we access our creative capacities. With this creative side of my brain pumping, my ~ing (inner guide) could do her thing, creating images, igniting inspired ideas and healing my past wounds.
Today, my practice continues to intensify. Whenever I meditate, my ~ing leads me on imaginative journeys into my subconscious. At times, I get extremely emotional. Other times I feel so rested I fall into a deep sleep. As a result of my dedication to my meditation practice, I have discovered the key to serenity that will get me through anything in life. I now can reconnect to my own energy and the energy of the universe the moment I shut my eyes. Above all, I've accessed the key to happiness and I am psyched to share it with you.
Begin your meditation practice today by breathing in, "I am willing to change" and breathing out, "I surrender my fear." Recite this mantra throughout the day and expect miracles.
If you're a meditation newbie I've made it super easy for you! Click here and check out my new Spirit Junkie Meditation Album. You can also watch this video and to learn more about how the album can serve you.
Follow Gabrielle Bernstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gabbybernstein