As an African American woman I was taught to work hard, to always keep my composure and to rely on my education to get ahead and accomplish my goals. I was taught at an early age that education makes it less likely to be turned down for a job, or be passed over for a promotion. I watched my maternal relatives and their friends go to work ill and stressed, because they feared they would lose their jobs if they did not go to work. These overt and covert teachings led me to become an overachiever and a workaholic. It taught me to hide feeling tired, stressed, or ill, and to go to work no matter what.
I suffered silently with depression. I used food and alcohol most of my young adult life to cope with my stress because I was afraid to share my inner pain with anyone else. I did not want to appear weak and hid it inside. I assumed I was masking my problems very well, until a friend called me out on the inner pain she saw and shared with me the importance of taking care of myself and the imperative to love myself.
This friend taught me various techniques to center myself. The most uncomfortable and difficult was sitting still and taking deep breaths. The idea seemed foreign to me and the practice of it felt like bees stinging me over and over again. Though I am much better at it, to this day I find the practice challenging because I grew up with so much noise around me and had to center myself to complete a task in the midst of noise. She also taught me that I have to allow myself to show my vulnerabilities and be involved in loving communities that support each other. It was very hard to open up to strangers, but I am glad I did.
Two of the tools I cherish the most are affirmations and intentional prayers of gratitude. I am in constant awe of spiritual gurus like Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer who have helped me remember the importance of my Spirit and how to love others. The Four Agreements (now The Five Agreements) by Don Miguel Ruiz is considered a practical guide to personal freedom. I read this book several times a year and each time learn something new. I never rush through the book as I have done with other books. I read it and let the words reside. I analyze what I am reading for my current situation and plan how to actualize the teachings in my life.
It is important to personalize self-help tools. It is also important to be in a community that supports this concept. We all go through similar challenges, but all of them are not the same. I always thought early in my practice of centering myself that I did not have the time. I would be so busy doing everything else that I would even avoid taking time for myself. To help myself with this I created a short meditation to help me to not make an excuse for self-care and to remind me to use my thoughts and time wisely. TIME is a meditation I say daily to help center my life and create an intention for my day. I share it with you to help you begin to practice setting an intention for your day.
T – I am THE most important person in my life and as I treat myself well, I teach others to do the same.
I – I am INVESTED in my happiness. I must acknowledge and praise the good in me and in others. I choose activities that are healthy for me.
M – I am MANIFESTING greatness or fear with my thoughts and words.
E – EXPERIENCE has taught me that nothing stays the same. Everything changes and all things are possible.
Would you try this meditation technique? Let me know!
More in meditation: 3 Simple Meditation Techniques from Top Spiritual Teachers
3 Mudras for Calm, Clarity, and Acceptance
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Photo: Anthony Delanoix