Editor’s Note: I realized this month that I have been meditating for ten years. It seemed like it should be a big deal, but I had a really hard time understanding what the big deal was. I struggled to think this through in the present tense, so I got the idea of writing a letter to myself ten years ago. Bingo. The big deal isn’t the ten years at all, but what happened in them. Please enjoy this post and consider writing yourself a letter from time to time. You may just learn something.
This is from you in the future. I know that seems weird. No, they haven’t invented time machines; at least not yet. Instead, this is a note from your future self in 2023.
You just started meditating. I know you feel like a total weirdo. I know that you haven’t told anyone—literally anyone—yet that you are meditating. I know that you don’t even know what it is you are supposed to be looking for as you focus on your breath. I know these things because, as I say, I’m you but from ten years in the future.
I know that right now you probably don’t think meditation is that important. You are only doing it for one minute a day because that’s all you can handle. You’re usually not calm when you do it and you frequently get frustrated because it’s never quiet enough for you to really relax. I’m writing to tell you to keep going anyway.
Look, I get it. I know meditation is boring and right now you feel like you have no time. I know that being a mom to a one-year-old as a litigation associate is intense and some days you aren’t sure you could handle everything. But, listen, meditation will help you in ways you couldn’t even imagine.
I bet you can’t see it yet, but you will soon start to see some subtle shifts. Some of those headaches you always get will go away. You’ll learn that they were caused by stress. Then you’ll start to notice when you’re rushing and stop. Over time, more and more little things like this will rack up in your mind until you realize that meditation is helping you.
It will take some time until the big changes happen, but trust me they will. Did you know that you wrote a book? Well, now it’s three and you are working on a fourth. You made partner, and you have another daughter too. And you can manage it all and you aren’t exhausted all the time because you know how to rest and can rest (for real) when you need it.
How did this happen? Like everything, it happened over time. But in large part this happened because you learned to be there for yourself. Slowly and gradually and not without angst, but it happened. You know all those thoughts swirling in your head all the time that seem overwhelming? Well, it turns out you can face them just fine. And you know all those feelings—the crappy ones like anger and fear and sadness and doubt? You won’t fully understand this until you experience it, but you learn how to handle them. That is to say, you learned how to just feel them.
You did all these things because you learned how to sit with your eyes closed in a dark room by yourself for a few minutes a day. Right now, this pastime may seem foolish to you. You may be ashamed that you have to do something so stupid. I’m writing to tell you that what you are doing isn’t foolish. Instead, it’s so profoundly practical that it’s value is hard to see.
You’ve spent a lot of life running from yourself. You’ve spent so many years chasing external validation. Even when you got all the things in life you were supposed to want (a good job and a family), something still seemed missing. You don’t know it yet but you went looking for the missing thing in the right place. As you will see, there was nothing missing at all. But your joy, your spark, your creativity and courage, it was just buried under years of trying to feel the right thing or do what you believed you were supposed to do.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you it’s all going to be rainbows from here on out. Sorry to disappoint but that’s not how this works. You’ll have hard times in the next ten years for sure. You’ll lose loved ones and friends will move away. You’ll change jobs. You’ll make poor choices. You’ll say things you wish you hadn’t said and make huge mistakes.
But here’s the thing: now you at least have a practice that can help you handle all these things. You’ll learn how to hold disappointment in tenderness and care for your fear and pain. You’ll even learn how to tame your anger (most of the time) and quiet down your doubt voice. You’ll even learn how to ask for help–that you CAN ask for help. It’s all because you can sit and do nothing.
Because as you sit, you can let all those things bounce and dance and do their thing and breathe and give them space. You won’t be a perfect meditator. You will miss days frequently and sometimes go weeks or months without practice. You will fall asleep often. Your focus will be poor. And motivation will be an unending struggle. In case you have any delusions about enlightenment, you won’t attain that either. But you’ll keep coming back to the cushion because you know it will make you feel better even if the practice session itself is no good.
And it’s this that will teach you the most. Being imperfect at meditation will help you learn to let yourself be imperfect at life. That might sound a bit scary to you now because you are under a lot of pressure, but it will be a lot of fun. It will be more fun than you ever thought you’d have. Soon you’ll be chasing dreams you haven’t even thought about yet. Can you imagine? You will soon because, once you cut through some old habits, you’ll start to trust yourself.
You won’t feel a big wave of pride when you realize you have been meditating for ten years. It won’t be like winning an award or getting a degree. It won’t feel that way because you won’t be done. Instead, it will feel more like remembering the day you met your best friend and being glad you were brave enough to go talk to them. You’ll just look back and be glad you did that small, brave thing because it added so much to your life.
And so, Claire, my dearest self, thank you so much. I am so glad you made the brave decision to start meditating. Please keep going because it has helped me get to know you and made the life I now know possible.
With gratitude, Your Future Self
Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.
Like this post? Subscribe to the blog here or follow us on social media: