Lately I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about a personality clash that sometimes keeps me up at night. The human mind wants to run things over and over again, as though a solution is there and the mind has just missed it. I think that’s what Einstein said is the definition of insanity, doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. Our thoughts, the constant chatter and rumination of our minds are a kind of insanity. I have this drama today. Five years ago, I had a different drama. I’m sure that I fretted over it with the same kind of intensity.
Take out the details. What’s left is the emotional turmoil.
This is one of the reasons why I meditate. To put some distance between the turmoil and myself.
But sometimes when my emotions have a strong hold on me, that’s when I least want to meditate. Like a tidal wave, emotions can destroy everything in their path. They’re addictive on some level, and according to science, a stream of negative emotion changes our brains. The stress-response state from fear, anger, anxiety, frustration, and sadness hijacks the frontal cortex and keeps us from thinking logically. Our capacity for creative problem solving literally shrinks.
Meditation encourages neuroplasticity, the ability to lay down new brain pathways that increase your capacity for emotional resilience and stability. Over time, science has shown that meditation changes your brain. The grey matter in the frontal cortex increases. Meditation can enlarge the part of the brain that regulates emotional stability to bring you more peace.
You can know this and still feel resistant to doing it.
What I work on is the habit, like exercise, or taking vitamins. Meditation is a discipline. And if I do it regularly, I’m less likely to skip it when I don’t feel like it. When I resist meditation, that’s usually when I need it most.
It happened to me this morning, when I found myself in a negative spiral about someone, but I did it. And when I was finished, I had just enough distance to realize that none of the things that had kept me awake mattered. Not really. Not in the larger view.
You are larger than your emotions. You are more resilient than you know. When you’re not locked into a pattern of emotional turmoil, more energy and creativity naturally rises. Opportunity waits for you.
This is an excerpt from the course Figuring Out What’s Next, a three-week online course for kickstarting life change.