#14) THE POWER OF MEDITATION
I’m an anxious person.
I’m drowning in a constant state of nervousness, stress and an overwhelming feeling that I might not be able to achieve all of the goals I’ve set out to accomplish.
I’ve made mistakes, I’ve failed, and sometimes I’ve completely shut down.
I’m a natural human being through and through, but often my heart will start to rapidly beat or my hands will start to shake uncontrollably as I attempt to collect my thoughts.
Perhaps my decision to become a broadcast journalist for television wasn’t the smartest? The industry is demanding, but something about the adrenaline rush of meeting a deadline keeps me coming back for more.
I feed off the stress. I crave it. Although, on this particular day, I questioned it.
My mind begins to swirl in circles trying to combat the rush of emotions. My chest tightens up and my throat begins to close off any chance of a deep breathe of fresh air.
I begin to tremble, the pores on my forehead open up and begin to develop a hot sweat as my face turns redder than a stop sign.
My body says “stop”, but that’s not what I hear through my earpiece.
“Mark, coming to you in 10 seconds”
“3,2,1... and cue”
This is me having a panic attack.
A panic attack on live television.... in front of thousands of viewers at home.
No where to run. No where to hide.
All eyes on me.
AFRAID TO FAIL
I grew up as a very stressed out kid.
Everything had to be perfect and if one single thing didn’t go right, then it was game over.
I remember my first panic attack.
I achieved a score of 19/20 on my grade one spelling test.
I was reading a grade four level and my writing was far advanced than most of my peers, but I didn’t get the perfect score I was looking for.
“Ov”.... This was my attempt at spelling the word “of.”
It was incorrect, but it didn’t make any sense to me at the time. How could the letter “f” make a “vee” sound?? I began to cry, panic and freak out that my ‘perfect’ standards were no longer.
That was the problem with growing up. I was always afraid of getting the wrong answer. I relied so much on my grades because I though they were ab accurate representation of the person that I was.
If I got a 65 per cent then I was only good enough 65 per cent of the time.
I never received a grade below 80 growing up.
I graduated at the top of my class in broadcasting school and received the Governor General’s Academic Medal for the highest grade point average at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.
I was a straight A student, but I was never happy. The pressure of life began to collapse on top of me and I started to realize that grade weren’t everything.
My OCD and obsession with ‘perfect’ began to result in me making more mistakes in my professional life.
I never knew what it was like to fail or be told I wasn’t good enough and it tore me apart.
I developed a kind of depression that pained me inside because all I ever wanted was the validation from others that I was ‘good enough’ or ‘cool enough’ or ‘smart enough.’
What I should have been searching for was the validation of my own self.
LIVING IN “THE NOW”
I love telling stories and sharing the beauty and tragedy of life around us. This is partially the reason why news reporting is something I’m so passionate about.
I take great pride and care in the stories I tell, and whether I’m impacted or not, I know that some one out there cares.
The problem is that I cared so much about what other people thought of me, instead of what I really thought of myself.
In order to tell great stories, you have to have a great mind, and my mind was weak.
I sought out professional help two years ago and began to realize that I was wishing my days away throughout my work week.
“5 more days... 4 more... it’s almost the weekend.”
I was living for that break from stress and at times I still am.
I was wasting my life and never living in “the now.”
My father always told me to take time to ‘smell the roses.’ There were no roses on my road through life, never any time to waste, only a dream to accomplish.
I burned out.
I hate to say it, but my father was right.
I never took the time to enjoy the finer things in life, to live in the moment and share in the amazing times with family and friends.
I was ‘living to work’ and not working to live. My status became so important, but I was throwing my gift of life in the garbage.
Eventually my therapist introduced me to the practice of meditation..... I thought it was ridiculous.
Why would I take the time each day to close my eyes, to breathe, and let go of the world around me? It’s not like my problems were going to magically disappear.
I was right.. to an extent that nothing good would happen. I didn’t believe in the process, but I slowly found comfort and meditating as a quick escape from the day.
Sometimes I would take two minutes to breathe and calm down, while other times I would fall asleep listening to the soothing tones of the ocean or some English dude’s calming voice.
I began to write down my goals for the day, not my goal for the next ten years. I started to develop a better sense of my daily life and my own surroundings.
I started to become grateful. I started to escape the stress and enjoy it as more of a process.
For me, anxiety is always going to be a strong part of my life. It’s always going to be there and I know it will never go away.
I’ve tried anti-depressants and they’ve turned my brain into mush. I feel numb when I’m on them and almost like I don’t care about anyone or anything.
That’s not to say they don’t work for others, but I didn’t want my nervous system to become reliant on drugs.
I wanted to become reliant on myself.
I began running about 7 years ago and completed my first marathon at the age of 18.
I again had an obsession with perfection in the sport. I always had to have the perfect form or the perfect amount of nutrition, hydration and regimented training schedules.
Little did I know, that none of that matters at all unless you have a strong mind.
I neglected my thoughts and often used running as a way to get away from them.
I was literally ‘running away from my problems.’
The sport was a great way for me to get lost and escape from life’s challenges, but now I use running as my form of meditation.
I use it think things through, to talk to myself about the struggles and the obstacles and to feel the emotional pain in my life alongside the physical pain of ‘hitting the wall’ during a long training run.
It’s just me and the open road ahead. It’s just me and the decisions I make to turn left or right or take the path less traveled, the scenic route, or to turn around and re-evaluate.
I’ve said it before, but running truly has saved my life.
I’m still obsessed with perfection and qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
I still constantly competing with myself to be the best I could ever possibly be, but I’m OK with who I am.
Even if I never run Boston, I know I’ll be OK because I’m more obsessed with the process to get there and the daily lessons I’m learning about myself.
I’m an anxious person.
I’m drowning in a constant state of nervousness and stress, but I’m OK.
I know I’ll always be “OK.”