It was about 7 years ago, when I visited my family doctor's office looking to receive a prescription that would lower my high levels of stress and that would alleviate my anxiety. For two years, I had been working more than 40 hours a week on a highly demanding job that used to follow me home. This job was taking over my life and I had not even noticed it. All I knew is that "all of the sudden" I had so much stress that I could hardly cope with the day to day minor tasks of life. I postponed the visit to the doctor's for as long as I could, always thinking that I could control my state of mind all by myself. Until one day, while at work, I began crying unexpectedly for no apparent reason. At that point, I knew I needed to get some help.
I told all my worries and symptoms to the doctor and finished by asking him to please prescribe me a medication that would get rid of my uncomfortable feelings. He listened carefully to all I had to say, took notes and grabbed his prescription paper pad. He wrote in it, ripped it off and handed it to me. With a gentle smile on his face he told me his prescription was to read a couple of books and then he said; "go back to your cushion and to your meditation practice". He also wrote me a note to be away from work for 4 consecutive weeks.
My doctor knew that before I started that job, I had been teaching and practicing meditation with my clients. In my very absent-minded state, I wondered how he knew that I had stopped teaching and practicing meditation. I admit feeling frustrated that his prescription did not include a pill that could easily solve my symptoms.
I walked away with my prescription, straight to the book store. I bought my books, un-dusted my meditation cushion and began the process that I later called "the project to find me". After battling with the feeling of inadequacy for having to take time off work, I was surprised to see what happened to my mind and body simply by knowing that I did not have to go into my stressful job for 4 weeks. It was like I had been given permission to put everything on pause to breath and to calm down.
I remember my initial resistance to going back to meditation. Although I suspected it was the answer to my prayers, I knew for a fact, that it was going to require mental discipline, willingness to get better and, most importantly, dedication of time to observe my current state of mind, which I had been hoping to ignore. I now recognize that within all of us resides this same ambivalence; a part of us wants to heal and, a part of us isn't willing to do the work that healing calls for.
As I began to read the books prescribed, I came across a phrase that kept me going through this journey; "the only way out is through". I told myself that phrase every day like a mantra, like a prayer. For some reason it filled me with strength and patience. And despite the resistance I continued to have about meditating, I decided to commit to a daily practice.
Every morning, as soon as I opened my eyes, still in a sleepy mode, I would make my way to the cushion and sit there in silence. The first week, those 10 minutes felt like an eternity. My body developed all kinds of itches and twitches. And my mind would think of every kind of creative thought to distract me from the silence. Not too patiently, I would bring my attention to the breath, time after time.
Not all practices were pleasant, in fact, the majority of them were not. I had to sit and observe feelings and thoughts that had been scaring and paralyzing me for a long time. I was challenged to treat those feelings and emotions as friendly visitors and welcoming them for "a cup of tea" rather than turning them away (as I had been doing). As much as this seemed to be a bad idea at the time, I can still clearly remember the sensation of freedom and liberation that came with being able to hold my attention still, while those scary emotions and thoughts went through my body.
During those four weeks, I noticed that my self-compassion increased tremendously. I had become less judgmental of myself and my situation. I noticed that my stress levels began to lower and that my anxious mind was craving more and more the quiet moments in meditation. Effortlessly, I began engaging in creative projects that made me happy and, suddenly doing things that were kind toward myself, was becoming easier and I was actually enjoying it.
Four weeks of daily meditation made my burnout diminished to the point that I was able to return to work, with better boundaries and a clear mind. That was the first and last time I ever experienced burnout. Far from what I thought, meditation was in fact the only medication I needed to return to kindness and self-love. This lesson has had lasting effects in my personal and professional life and I will be forever thankful towards the doctor who had the wisdom and the vision to trust my natural abilities to heal and to love. Without his faith in me and in the power of meditation, I strongly believe the outcome of my story would have been much different.
Let meditation be the medication you have been missing. Its side effects will transform your life. Its dosage is: once or twice a day. You cannot overdose.
Thanks for reading, from my heart to yours, Namaste.