I have been practicing meditation for over a year, and it has changed my life for the better. I am a novice meditator at best, but it has given me a better ability to pause and bring myself back to the present moment. This has helped me deal with the day-to-day stress of modern life, be more mindful of myself and others, and deal with Cancer treatment and (hopefully) remission.

My life before meditation was stressful. I worked in two high-stress fields concurrently through most of my thirties into my early forties. This was also the anxiety era where everybody was getting sucked into social media and the politics of the hour. I didn’t do anything about it other than therapy, take an occasional vacation, and stuff my face.  Next came the trauma of leaving a business and friends I loved. Then came the full stop-cancer and a resulting near-death experience. Now I had something to really eat about!

Meditation before this was some woo-woo thing to me. It was right up there with acupuncture and yoga.  My only prior experience with it was with a Social Studies teacher who I had always thought had our class practice it to give them a moment of peace. I had tried yoga but had a bad experience sitting on a tennis ball, and the Cambridge session we attended was a fart-fest. I had some success with acupuncture, I think-or maybe I thought? You get the idea. None of this was a hard no, but reasonably questionable, so I always extended the same opinion to meditation.

So..back on track. I had cancer which resulted in a stroke. Scary stuff, and I wasn’t exactly handling anxiety well to begin with. You’re kind of trapped, though, in that you don’t have a lot of options. Cancer patients just learn to do. In my case, it was getting stuffed into an MRI, which freaked me out (not the MRI’s fault, I was fat).  So my solution was trying to match the sounds coming out of the MRI with songs I knew (I’m convinced General Electric might have lots of Zeppelin or Metallica fans-know the riffs and MRI sounds you know I’m talking about). My mind was constantly in that moment trying to come up with a song. Anyways, I only later would learn what I was actually meditating, just strangely.

My formal practice started with the suggestion of somebody at the hospital and my wife. I downloaded the Calm app on my iPhone and started listening to it while I was in treatment or at night to help get to sleep. The sleep stories were the draw at first, but then I started a series of guided meditations. I was an outpatient at the time, and there were still stressful things going on, PTSD, but this seemed to help. I was more patient and could catch myself more before going 0-60 mph in one second on the anxiety highway. I felt happier and started noticing moments and the good stuff and people more.  It made me want to learn and practice more, so I started reading about it and looking into other meditations.

Where I’m at now is still the beginning but far better than I was before. I practice guided meditations (still on Calm) once or twice a day. I just discovered walking meditation. I’ve got so much more to look into and I enjoy doing it. It feels good to go off the front line for ten minutes or so and just sit and be. You should give it a shot. It might help you too.

If you’re interested, Real Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A 28-Day Program to Realize the Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzberg , is a great place to start. Buy in is cheap, and they have a great approach to helping learn the basics.