For years I struggled with debilitating anxiety and panic attacks that would come out of nowhere. I tried everything from supplements, exercise, gravity blankets, essential oils and seeking help from doctors. While each practice helped in their own way, nothing quite changed my life like meditation.
I started meditating one year ago when I was at a pretty low point. I had recently graduated from college and didn’t have a job, my relationship with my partner had hit a rocky point and overall, I was lost as to what my next steps were. I had heard about meditation a couple of times but didn’t understand the concept or how it could help. You want me to just sit there and close my eyes for ten minutes? What effect is that going to have? Finally, my mom convinced me to read a little-known book called “unplug” by Suze Yalof Schwartz. Still hesitant and convinced it was a book about “unplugging from technology” I reluctantly started reading.
From page two I was hooked, Suze quotes herself as a type-A personality who once upon a time thought, “sitting still seemed not only impossible and like torture, but a waste of time.” Suze is a former editor at well-known literary magazines like Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire and Glamour, who left it all behind to open a meditation studio and app. I was officially convinced there was something to be said here.
As a former skeptic, what really convinced me was Suze’s appeal to the modern, hard-working generation that we have all become. You don’t need to love yoga or sage your house to meditate. You just need to believe in self-care and taking five minutes to reset after a long day.
That December I made a trip to Los Angeles and visited one of her studios. It was my first time meditating and I had no idea what to expect. Similar to any workout class, I walked into the studio, signed up and waited to go into the room. It was a breathwork class and I didn’t know what that meant. The very Zen woman at the front desk explained to me that we would be actively breathing for 45 minutes. That I might feel some tingling in my hands or light-headedness, but it would all be fine since I was lying down.
We went inside and our teacher sat at the front on a cushion, we all had our own and would for the next forty-five minutes meditate. Forty-five minutes. The same as a spin class or a tv show, how was I supposed to lay there for that long without getting bored or needing to move?
Our instructor showed us the proper breathing techniques and turned on a really great playlist of music I didn’t expect and would listen to regularly. Then we just started and after what felt like ten minutes, it was over. I couldn’t believe the time that had passed. At first, it was hard to get into and took a lot of work. However, I powered through and eventually, the breath settled in, becoming easier. I did feel tingling in my hands, face, and knees, but I just let it pass. In the end, the teacher slowed down the music and we returned to our regular breath. I felt as though every bad thought, feeling, and emotion had been removed from my body. I stood up and instantly smiled, I could not stop smiling. I felt happy and like an entire weight I had been carrying around for who knows how long had been lifted off my shoulders. I wanted to relive those forty-five minutes over and over again. I was sad that I would be leaving and couldn’t go to a class the next day.
I know it’s hard to believe me when I say that this one class changed my life, but it really did. I flew back home, downloaded the unplug app, and continued on my journey of meditation. It became a part of my routine, like brushing my teeth or having a shower. I would meditate in the morning and again at night. Sometimes I would fall out of the routine, and when I did, I noticed my anxiety start to creep back in.
A couple of months later I had a job opportunity in L.A., so I moved to a new city and immediately joined unplug. My life forever changing. Every time I walk into that studio after a long day, or on the morning of a great day, I feel a sense of relief wash over me. I have had classes where I leave discovering wonderful revelations about myself. Some classes where I just enjoy the break from my life and the reset of my mind. Each one is different and each one is worth it. Meditation hasn’t become a tool I use to eliminate my anxiety; it is the reason I no longer live with anxiety.
A year later and I have gained so much more than the reason I first walked into unplug. I have met a group of amazing people and found a passion of mine that I love to share with others. There is nothing else like the first time you meditate in that class. I have brought friends and family, and each time they have the same reaction. I have also uncovered so many more resources. For those who don’t live in the same city as an unplug, there are apps, websites, and many amazing books. The tools are at your fingertips and there is no better time to start.
Yalof Schwartz, Suze. Unplug. New York, Crown Publishing Group, 2017.