Meditation Doesn’t Work the Way You Think it Does

woman meditating in bedWhen I first began my daily meditation practice just over a year ago, it was because of a book—The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer. Singer details his journey of recognizing that he was not his thoughts, but rather the observer of his thoughts. By bringing awareness to and clearing his thoughts, he was able to explore a self and existence that plunged far deeper than he’d ever imagined.

This excited me. I’m a Scorpio, and I live from a place of depth, often confronting scary life questions before taking my first sip of morning maté. I knew that there was more of myself to explore, yet didn’t know where to search. Changing my external environment—relationship, job, city—had certainly proven ineffective. So I put down The Surrender Experiment, purchased the Calm app, made myself a cozy little nook, and started meditating each morning before work.

After 100 days of consecutive practice, the more obvious results were certainly true: I was able to spend 10–20 minutes in peace, my cortisol levels went down, anxiety lessened, and I was able to reroute unproductive self-pity that—once upon a time—would have lead to depression.

But the larger impact I noticed isn’t one typically mentioned when meditation comes up in conversation. In fact, it wasn’t even about the new space I had created in my mind.

The greatest change meditation had brought to my life was the awareness and transformation of my dialogue with myself.

See, in modern day American society—especially as women—we tend to be our biggest critics. We generalize: If I can’t clear my head, I’m hopeless. If I get nervous public speaking, I’m just not meant to do it. If that decision hurt others, I’m a bad person. We hold ourselves to unreasonable standards—above and beyond anything we’d expect from our loved ones.

After several years of injecting this shaming dialogue, your inner environment is one of hostility. Who could blame you for not wanting to sit still and hang out there for 20 minutes?

We hold ourselves to unreasonable standards—above and beyond anything we’d expect from our loved ones.

But, as your mind wanders during meditation time, part of the practice is self-forgiveness. And, as you become more accustomed to being gentle with yourself, you are actually rerouting inner dialogue from those well-worn hostile neural pathways to those of self-love and encouragement. It went something like this:

Before: Fuck. What is wrong with me?

After: It’s okay, sweet girl. Just bring it back to the breath or Let’s explore in more detail why this thought keeps revealing itself.

Talk about a mental makeover.

The true gift here is that, as I transformed my inner dialogue from critic to cheerleader, my self potential seemed to be expanding before my eyes. I suddenly had more faith in myself and courage to go after some big dreams, like creating a coaching business.

Not surprisingly, as my inner environment became calm and nurturing, I wanted to hang out there more. My meditations got longer and became more productive, eventually incorporating time for gratitude, manifestation, and listening to my intuition.

Meditation paves the road for creating a life you truly love.

So, yes, we all know meditation helps us clear the mind and reduce stress that can be harmful to our bodies. But what you don’t typically hear is that it paves the road for you to create a life that you truly love.

It turns out, sitting still for 20 minutes and doing nothing is integral to being a real go-getter.

Leigh Maneri

Leigh is a brand strategist by day and self strategist by night—a seeker and teacher of transformation, from personal and professional growth to spirituality and conscious connection. She lives by the sea in Long Beach and plays mom to a scrappy dog named Ellie.


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