Real Life: The Wisdom of Insecurity

photo via superfamous 2

Alright, some real talk today. In the last couple years, while some wonderful, beautiful things have happened, life has been really good at serving up one shit sandwich after another. And over the last couple of months, things certainly haven’t gotten easier (tastier?). I’ve opted not to share too much about the turmoil happening in my personal life, just because family members have asked me to keep it on the DL, but to get the gist across, imagine all the stress of moving across the country, triple it, remove the last ounces of certainty you had in your life, then add a surprise double heaping of grief on top of it. The therapy practically pays for itself these days, and the stories for the Lifetime movie are only getting crazier.

In the midst of trying not to lose my mind, one thing that has helped immensely — even on the days when “immense” amounts to only a tiny bit — is meditating. The first time I ever practiced meditation was after I read the book Clean several years ago. Inspired by the book, I remember sitting in my bedroom, trying to clear my mind, and thinking I really, really sucked at it. I quit trying, but the idea behind it — that you could learn to acknowledge and then watch your thoughts flit in and out of your mind, but not really engage with them — was intriguing to me.

photo via superfamous 1

Fast forward to a couple years ago, when I took up a yoga practice. Without even realizing it, I would find myself meditating in class, and it surprised me by how spiritual it was. I began connecting with and noticing my breathing more, and specifically, how if I just slowed the eff down for a second, concentrated on my breath, and followed each inhale and exhale, the tight fist knotted in the center of my body (you know the one — it feels like it’s holding all your anxiety and worry) would slowly start to release its death grip on me.

More recently, I finished the book 10% Happier, and loved it. As I was reading the book, I made lots of highlight notations throughout. The first sentence I highlighted in the book is this: “Most of us are so entranced by the nonstop conversation we’re having with ourselves that we aren’t even aware we have a voice in our head.” How true this is. Another section I noted related to the idea of security (and its inverse, insecurity). Here’s the quote: 

“The route to true happiness…was to achieve a visceral understanding of impermanence, which would take you off the emotional roller coaster and allow you to see your dramas and desires through a wider lens. Waking up to the reality of our situation allows you to…”let go,” to drop your “attachments.” As one Buddhist writer put it, the key is to recognize the “wisdom of insecurity.” [The wisdom of insecurity is] the perfect rejoinder to my “price of security” motto. It made me see my work worries in an entirely different light. If there was no such thing as security, why bother with the insecurity?”

When life is going pretty okay, you hardly notice what your own “price of security” is — whether that’s the pressure and stress you place upon yourself, or whatever. When life deals you a really bad hand, it will shock none of you to hear that it’s much harder to ignore.  And that’s where meditating comes in for me. At the end of each day, I’ve been trying to do my best to come back to myself and shut my eyes, breathe, and work on processing what the insecurity — in my case, the overwhelming uncertainty — means to me. Even if the knot unwinds for just two measly seconds, it helps.

photo via superfamous 3

The best part about meditating that I wish I had learned earlier was that there’s actually no such thing as sucking at it. Having trouble focusing on your breath? That’s ok. Just notice that you are, and then try and come back to it again. Sometimes, it’s just difficult to let go of your thoughts. The other thing I wished I had realized earlier is that meditation doesn’t have to mean you’re in some pose with your fingertips making upturned points as they rest on  your knees. Some days I literally sit upright in bed and meditate, or do it laying down right before I sleep. Sometimes, I sit at my desk for a minute, and shut my eyes. You don’t have to meditate for an hour; even three minutes when you’re first starting out can work wonders.

What exactly does meditation look and feel like? For me, at least, I shut my eyes, and try to do nothing except focus on filling my lungs with as much air as I can through my nose, before slowly letting it out through my mouth. That’s it. I just focus on breathing. Inevitably, about two seconds into it, I’ll begin thinking about something else — an email, emotions I’m having, that I’m hungry. When that happens, I try to make a note of it (kind of like a, “Oh, that’s interesting that that thought is the one that came into my head.”), and then move on, and go back to focusing on breathing. Sometimes, I will have been thinking for at least a minute before I realize that my mind has wandered. No big deal. I make the mental note of where my thoughts were headed, then focus on breathing again. That’s pretty much it! Dan Harris, who wrote 10% Happier, shared that a meditation teacher told him, “Beginning again and again is the actual practice, not a problem to overcome so that one day we can come to the ‘real’ meditation.” I like that.

Despite all the heartache and misery, processing how I’m feeling through the lens of meditation and that mantra of the “wisdom of insecurity” is helpful, even if sometimes it feels like that help is marginal. But I’m digging it! I know some parts of this post might have been a little new age-y; that being said, I highly recommend reading 10% Happier (Dan himself was totally suspicious of all this stuff when he first started out — you know, before he had a panic attack on national television). In today’s crazy, plugged in culture, I guarantee that much of this book (and its takeaways) will resonate and work for you.

Do you currently meditate, or at least attempt to? Did you ever try and give up, like I did at first?

 

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36 Comments

  1. First and foremost, sending lots of <3 your way!

    Second – I didn't realize how much I suck at meditation until I was getting a massage yesterday. It would have been the perfect time to release my thoughts and enjoy my hour in a darkened room, but instead my mind was swimming with all the things I had to do, what I would pack for my weekend trip, if the lamp I bought for the bedroom would work.

    Random, inane shit. And while my back felt better, my mind was exhausted.

    On the recommendation of several people, I downloaded the Buddhify app and attempted to meditate last night. I can't be alone with my thoughts in a silent room – they just take over again. But the guided meditations, which you can pick based on the time you have and how you're feeling, have REALLY helped. I did a meditation this morning when I felt myself getting pulled in a zillion different directions and it helped SO much. If you're looking for another meditation aid, I'd definitely recommend it.

    Just bought 10% Happier. Can't wait to dig in.

    18 Sep 2014 · Reply
    • Checking in with yourself and learning to be alone with your thoughts can be one of the biggest hurdles to starting out. Keep at it! I find that detachment from the thoughts I have (again, just observing them, without judgement) really helped. But it’s hard!

      And thank you :)

      18 Sep 2014 · Reply
  2. Our posts are a bit similar today…:) Sending hugs + a good glass of wine your way. If you are in the mood for a Riposo date, let me know. xo

    + I’ll be adding that book to my reading list too!

    18 Sep 2014 · Reply
    • Regardless of life statuses, we’re long overdue for a Riposo date anyway!

      18 Sep 2014 · Reply
  3. Oh: Not sure if my other comment went though… I’ll check back later… but I also LOVE the Calm App (Apple) to help me with meditating… I use their guided sessions as well as the calming sounds when I attempt to mediate on my own sometimes. I paid for the upgraded version which gives a few more options too.

    18 Sep 2014 · Reply
  4. Sara Combs wrote:

    I actually just recently started listening to a book about meditation on audible called Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation. I haven’t finished yet, but love the concepts… it had me laying down the other night aware that I had an itch, but resisting the urge to scratch it – just being aware that it was there. Obviously a baby step, but really pretty interesting.

    I do hope the shit sandwiches slow down for you though :/

    18 Sep 2014 · Reply
    • That’s the biggest part — detached observation of the “itches”. Way to go! :)

      And, I hope so to…

      18 Sep 2014 · Reply
  5. PJ wrote:

    I always thought meditation sounded kind of…how do I say this…kooky? I’ve never tried it. As of late, I have definitely had my share of issues with anxiety/worry, and have been trying different things in an attempt to lower my stress levels (exercise, mostly). This is something to think about!

    18 Sep 2014 · Reply
    • I used to feel that way too, when I still envisioned it with crossed legs and people “Om”-ing. Once I realized it was just a way to check in with myself, notice the fact that my thoughts were racing because of anxiety, and just take a mental break, it became a lot more appealing :)

      18 Sep 2014 · Reply
  6. I’m all too familiar with the shit sandwich. I used to think I sucked at meditating, too. My thoughts are next to impossible to turn off, but every little bit of meditation helps. I’m definitely going to add 10% Happier to my reading list.

    18 Sep 2014 · Reply
    • I think you’ll really enjoy it!! I’ve recommended it to a few friends who said the same thing as you, and everyone has really liked it. It helps that it’s easy to read!

      18 Sep 2014 · Reply
  7. I have mastered being present in yoga almost 90% but I really struggle with being still. My thoughts are always racing and it is usually when I am sitting that I get an idea, get ridiculously excited about it then need to get up and do something. I will have to pick up the book 10% Happier. Hope things get easier:)

    18 Sep 2014 · Reply
    • Actually, the fact that you get a creative idea is encouragement — I think when you give your brain space to wander, that’s when the goodness happens anyway. Not so convenient when you’re in a yoga class though!!

      Sometimes when I’m laying in shavasana, I’ll literally have trouble with being still. Like, my leg will twitch involuntarily. It’s interesting to see how that energy just has to get out of you somehow, even when you’re telling yourself to be still!

      18 Sep 2014 · Reply
  8. Janel Abrahami wrote:

    This post hits close to home- I tried meditation a lot throughout college but always gave up because “I sucked at it.” It wasn’t until second semester senior year when one of my professors was talking about mindfulness and meditation that I realized I had just been breathing the wrong way! I was breathing into my chest, and not into my stomach like I should have been. It’s made a world of difference in my own mindfulness practice.

    I also love the quote about impermanence. I’m the kind of person that always needs a plan and needs to figure out the hypothetical turns I will take IF something happens- for multiple different scenarios! It’s exhausting. So I like the thought of accepting that nothing stays the same in life and there is no point in holding on to a comfortable, secure situation for dear life. I was really inspired by the gist of your Real Talk posts, so I recently took to Instagram to start a #WorklifeWednesday conversation… insecurity is a topic I just explored yesterday.

    Sorry for the super-long comment, but thanks again for a compelling post!

    18 Sep 2014 · Reply
    • Yes, I totally agree about the breathing! I used to take much shallower breaths — now I try and fill my chest and belly and really feel the air going in and out. Once I did that, that’s when the knot started to unwind.

      I think Dan’s connection to insecurity in terms of impermanence is really interesting. So often, we think of insecurity just in terms of things we lack — but I like his approach about insecurity applying to our lives as a whole, whether we like it or not.

      I’m so glad these posts have inspired you! I’ll check out your #worklifewednesday posts too!

      18 Sep 2014 · Reply
  9. Amber wrote:

    Wow. During one of my most anx filled hours, when my heart really starts racing and all of my overwhelming uncertainties come into play, I happened to decide to shut down and read a few posts, and I’m so glad I found this one!

    I’ve been trying to make a much more focuses and intentional effort to get back to myself: do things that feed my soul and help stop the my pounding heart for just a few moments. I definitely need to incorporate more consistent meditation practices. Like you, when I first tried it, I totally thought I sucked at it. There was just TOO much quiet outside, and so much noise inside my head that no amount of deep breathing and sitting still would be able to combat it.

    I’ll definitely be checking out 10% Happier! If you haven’t, I definitely recommend reading The Alchemist for those days when the overwhelm seems to be too much. And if you have read it, I recommend reading it again, especially the ending :)

    18 Sep 2014 · Reply
    • It’s funny you mention the part about doing things that feed your soul. No joke, my alternate Real Life post for today was going to be about the moments in which you feel most like yourself — exploring what those are, why they make you feel good, and why we don’t seek to fill our lives with more of them. (#staytuned)

      I hope you like 10% Happier! Dan talks a lot about the mix of the quiet and the pounding making one feel like they can’t sit with their thoughts…and how to keep going. It’s really a great read!

      18 Sep 2014 · Reply
  10. Megan Holt wrote:

    It’s so funny that you mentioned that you thought you “sucked” at meditating when you first started doing it. I had the same thought going through my head the first time I tried it! I eventually realized that meditating (for me) was any moment of the day that I could take a moment to try and release any tension in my body (whether it be physical or spiritual). Like you said, it could be for just a few moments or a few minutes! I also try to make it a point every night to take the time to really unwind and release any doubt from my mind.

    It’s funny how the books don’t mention that mediation can take different forms for everyone. But I guess that’s part of the journey, right? Finding that path to centering and balancing yourself. =]

    18 Sep 2014 · Reply
    • I agree x100! It’s funny that we get this notion of what is “right” or “wrong” when it comes to meditation. As if 25 minutes is actually better than 20 minutes or something! I’ve literally meditated for a minute and felt better. And I agree about finding a path that fits…that’s half of why I read all these books in the first place :)

      18 Sep 2014 · Reply
  11. thank you for writing such an open and honest post victoria. these past two years have definitely been the most challenging of my life…sometimes i feel made only harder by social media and a subconsciously comparing myself to everyone else’s *seemingly* perfect lives. you have inspired me to look into meditation myself (something my mom has been recommending for years). thanks again.

    18 Sep 2014 · Reply
    • Oh girl, rule number 1 in blog land and social media — remember it’s all a veneer! I know that can be so hard (I fall into that hole too sometimes), but whenever I notice myself spiraling down the comparison trap, I’ve trained my brain to recognize the pattern of behavior (mostly I recognize the anxiety that pops up), and then I force myself to see my comparative thoughts for what they are: useless, not true, and anxiety producing. A deep breath, stepping away from all digital devices, and doing something that makes me feel like me always bring me back!

      Sorry to hear you’ve been having a tough time. Let me know if meditation helps you at all!

      18 Sep 2014 · Reply
  12. First of all sending lots of good energy your way.

    Second of all, buying both those books immediately. Yoga really helped me prioritize my concerns and clear all the crap out of my head when I first moved to NYC. I’ve since fallen out of practice and abandoned meditation altogether but you’ve inspired me to get back into it. It’s amazing how many things we put before our own health, peace and happiness sometimes.

    18 Sep 2014 · Reply
    • Can’t wait to discuss this more soon! I think 10% is especially interesting for New Yorkers, just given the career and social culture here (the author is based out of NY, obvs!). Yoga is one of those things I wish I did everyday, but somehow never do. Why do we do this to ourselves?!

      18 Sep 2014 · Reply
  13. Lauren wrote:

    Sending hugs, wine and fluffy pillows your way V! Been looking for a new book and since my fall has also gotten off to a rocky start – 10% happier seems to be the perfect place to “begin again” with good solid and strong thoughts to finish out the year.

    Best,

    Lauren

    18 Sep 2014 · Reply
    • Ah, sorry to hear your fall has been rough too, Lauren! Thanks for the well wishes. Like I mentioned to Bethany above, I think 10% is a great book for New Yorkers to read. I love your idea to begin again in fall — honestly, I associate this time of year with renewal way more than I do the new year or spring!!

      18 Sep 2014 · Reply
  14. Usha wrote:

    Sending you many hugs as you get over these hurdles in your life.

    My favourite Soul Cycle instructor, Ben, teaches vedic meditation. It is slightly different from your current technique but could be helpful as you progress deeper in your practice. He has a free intro every month in Chelsea.

    http://benturshenmeditation.com/

    18 Sep 2014 · Reply
    • Thanks Usha, can’t wait to catch up soon! Ben’s practice sounds really interesting. I’ll look into it for sure! Do you practice this regularly?

      18 Sep 2014 · Reply
  15. I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been dealing with personal shit. I’m thinking of you! And I’ve been doing the same myself. What is going on lately? It seems everyone I know is climbing their way out of a monstrous pile of crap.

    Funnily enough, I’ve started meditating myself and it is absolutely helping my anxiety. I actually did the Oprah and Depak’s free 21 day meditation program and it was a fantastic introduction. I haven’t meditated in about a week now and can feel that ball tightening in my stomach again. It’s amazing what a few moments to simply breathe can do for you.

    19 Sep 2014 · Reply
  16. Love this post. What’s really funny is that I have been feeling the exact same and I wrote a blog post about that last week. Shit after shit after shit and trying to stop cussing on top of that LOL. We are all on a path and we have to learn to walk it well. Live it up, conquer girl.

    And yes….I agree Lifetime movie plots are getting crazier and crazier.

    In the light,
    Chiara
    http://www.that-spark-of-light.com

    20 Sep 2014 · Reply
  17. Clearly paying catch up over here…. (and thinking I need to give meditating a second chance as things have been a bit out of control in my world, too.)

    1 – Sending positive thoughts your way. I feel like this is going to be your year. So much has happened but it’s just going to make you guys tougher + stronger.

    2 – It’s funny – I thought I suck at meditation as well. The only time I feel like it is really working is in yoga… sometimes the poses are so hard that I can only focus my thoughts on my breathing… that’s when I find myself truly letting go of the outside world. I agree with you that it really becomes spiritual. But you’ve motivated me to try regular meditation again. I don’t like doing things that I’m good at, but I know it’s something I could really benefit from. I’m so behind on reading, but have added both of those books to my list… someday I’ll get around to reading ’em!

    happy tuesday, friend – excited for our dinner tomorrow!

    23 Sep 2014 · Reply
  18. Natalie wrote:

    Oh how I love that you wrote this. Meditation is tough. Or, more accurately, the idea of it is tough. It can just be daunting. I go in and out of having a regular meditation practice outside of my yoga practice. I’ve currently been facing a ton of resistance with it the past few weeks and I think it’s that feeling that I’m “doing it wrong,” even though I know there is no wrong way to do it. And also the fact that I just get caught up in going about my day despite knowing in my gut that meditation ALWAYS improves my day.

    It makes me so happy to see conversations happening about it, though. I think the comments show that we’re all looking for more peace and calm and I think we need it now more than ever so thanks for putting this out there.

    I hope things improve for you. I’m sending love and good vibes your way, lady! <3

    9 Oct 2014 · Reply
    • I’ve been meaning to tell you — I think you’d really enjoy 10% Happier. The author actually spends time with Eckhart Tolle (although, he’s a little weary of his techniques).

      9 Oct 2014 · Reply
  19. Life can get really crazy, really fast. Most of the time we don’t even notice it until we feel like we are drowning. I always try to meditate for 10 minutes as soon as I wake, and 10 minutes right before bed. It’s the perfect way to start your day, as well as clear your mind for a good night’s rest. I also will close my eyes and just breathe when I start to feel myself become overwhelmed. It really helps me get through the day. My sanctuary is coming home, making a cup of tea, reading a good book, and knitting. Such a grandma at the age of 20, but that’s just who I am! Glad to hear that meditation is helping you through these tough times. xx Jess

    22 Oct 2014 · Reply
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