When I was introduced to meditation, I was awed and humbled by how much it changed my life. I was so profoundly impacted by it that, for many years, I considered it the most important thing I could do for my mind and my life.
However, as time went on and I began to understand more about how my brain works, I began opening up to something else - visualization. As I learned more about it, I could see how it was a powerful companion to a meditation practice. These two things compliment and enhance each other so well that I now see visualization as the yang to meditation's yin.
Meditation, as a yin force, is gentle and passive. It allows us to let go, to clear, and to open up to our true selves. Visualization, as a yang force, is active. It's creative. It's the energy we use to build our visions in all the space we cleared during meditation.
We are creatures of habit. This is due to the fact that the more we think and experience something, the more neurons cluster together to reinforce this particular thing. This, essentially, is how habits are formed. Neurons continually coming together is how we save energy. Our brain creates shortcuts, and so when it sees something familiar, it follows the familiar neuron cluster and responds in the same way.
When we break habits, we must literally change our brain's physical makeup. Which is why it can feel so hard to change. Your brain, in all its energy saving efficiency, keeps trying to follow familiar thought patterns, which are just neurons that formed together over time. Depending on how long you've been thinking something determines how deep these rivers of thought go.
A lifelong pattern that's never been questioned can be changed - but it's going to take effort. And this is where visualization becomes a powerful tool and ally.
Trying to change habits in the moment is like swimming upstream in the Nile. Eventually, you're going to get tired and think to hell with it and let go. And then you repeat the thing you swore you'd never do again. You fall back on old habits. Maybe you get really angry at yourself, feeling like you've failed and you're a loser.
If this is you, it's okay. This science, which is known as the neuroplasticity of the brain, is so new it's still in its infancy. Very few of us are taught how our brain actually works. Which can make it feel like we're weak and worthless for not being able to change.
The truth is, I got interested in this because I kept having anxiety, which was making me want to FREAK OUT over nothing. In the grocery store line - freaking out. Waiting for a yoga class to start - freaking out! Asking the librarian for a book - SUPER FREAKING OUT. And why? Librarians are the nicest people and I love them so much.
I couldn't understand why I was so nervous ALL THE TIME. But then I began to understand that my nervousness was building on itself. I began to anticipate myself having anxiety, which made me want to PANIC because I could go Chernobyl at any second. I could be buying bell peppers and have a FULL MELTDOWN and then what!?!?!?
I felt like I had no control over myself or my reactions.
Making it all worse was I kept trying to fix it in the moment. When I was freaking out, I tried calming myself using all the tricks and tools I'd learned. Anxiety would hit and I would breathe and count and do all the stuff I was told to do. But nothing worked and it only made me feel like a failure. It also scared me because I began to believe nothing would ever help.
But then I was introduced to visualization. It was through this that I saw the error of my ways. Rather than trying to change habits in the moment, which Oh my God, no, no, just no, not possible, I began changing them before I ever left the house.
I began laying a new foundation, an alternate belief system for my brain to try on.
The more I visualized myself calm and secure, the better I began to feel. And the better I felt, the more I trusted these new feelings. The more I trusted them, the more I switched from DROP THE BELL PEPPERS AND RUN to, it's okay, breathe, I'm safe I'm safe I'm safe.
Visualization, essentially, created a new story in my brain. And because my brain likes shortcuts and is energy efficient, my brain began following this new story. And then it began to tell it on its own.
Meditation continually helps me to release anxiety that's built up during the day. Meditation is still a powerful tool I use all the time. It's just that I'm now pairing it with visualization, which allows me to replace those anxiety-creating beliefs with empowered and confident ones. Visualization, like meditation, is a practice. It takes time to become familiar with it and to see the benefits of it. But once you do, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.
The last few days I have felt myself sliding into feelings of doubt and fear.
I kept trying to fight it, to bring myself back to hope and optimism. But this morning I couldn't do it. And so I didn't. I didn't get up and get to work like I usually do. I didn't read the news or listen to a podcast. Instead, I sat quietly in my chair, looking out the window.
I sat with my heavy feelings. I sat with my fear. I sat with my worries over the future. I sat with the feelings of discord and breaking apart that keep rising up around me. I fought nothing and surrendered to it all.
After awhile, I started to remember simple things that are still beautiful and perfect about this world.
Snow slowly falling over pine trees. Morning fog that makes everything feel soft and calm. Rain drops on the window. Hugs from friends. Fiction books, travel books and pretty much all books because books are the best. And so are libraries. And so are people who work in libraries. People can be pretty great.
As my feelings softened I didn't leap right from the heavy feelings to the light. I wasn't ready to jump out of my chair and shout my happiness to the world. But I had come back to my center, and from that centered place, I asked myself if sitting around all day, paralyzed by heavy feelings, is what I want to remember myself doing when I'd felt stuck while facing a challenge.
I made some coffee and thought about it more.
If my future self was looking back on me, twenty years from now, what would she want to see me doing? What will she be glad I did? What will she want to change?
As I sipped my coffee, I could feel that thinking of things I still love about this world was a positive step. It was getting me back to my inner light. I could feel that I want to focus more on what I want, rather than what I'm afraid of.
I also wanted to honor my need for rest. Fear and doubt generally come from a place of not feeling secure in myself. If I try to fight the fear, it's going to fight me right back.
It was time to pause, breathe, and remember that I am deeply loved and cared for. It was time to know that my future self would thank me for resting, because that rest recharged me enough to get back in there, dream bigger, and reach higher.
If you're feeling lost, afraid, or just overwhelmed, try this simple yet powerful exercise. Close your eyes, and imagine you future self walks into the room. What does it want to tell you? How did it get where it is? What would it want to change about the path you're on? What would it say to comfort you and to remind you of your potential?
Put your hands on your heart.
Take a slow breath in. Let it out through your mouth and focus only on the sound of your breath. Do this again, focusing only on the sound of your breath flowing in and out like an ocean wave.
Take another breath in, and as you do so, imagine you are smelling the sweetest, most fragrant rose ever. Breathe out slowly. Do this two more times.
Take another breath in, and as you do so, imagine you are being bathed in warm morning sun. Feel the sense of peace and rejuvenation. Do this two more times.
Take another breath in, and imagine a butterfly has just landed on your shoulder. Hold your attention on this delicate little gift from Mother Nature and breathe two more times.
Take one more slow, deep breath in. Let it out with an ahhhhhhhh sound.
Thank you so much for taking this time to relax and visualize with me. I'm wishing you a beautiful day.
For this new week, I choose to live in faith rather than fear
I choose to surrender my doubts and fears to the Universe
I choose to breathe in my connection to a Higher Power
I choose to breathe out everything else
I choose to know, with my whole being, everything is working out for me
I choose to know that I am guided by powerful forces
I choose to know I am safe and I am taken care of
I choose to feel my connection to my infinite self
I choose to relish in my role as the creator of my life
For this new week, I choose to let go of my need to do it all alone
I choose to hand my problems over and to allow myself to be loved and supported
I choose to let the Universe love me and guide me and show me every step of the way,
I am loved and I am held
For this new week, I choose to live in faith rather than fear
I choose to live in trust
I choose to live from a place of love
I choose to breathe that in
I choose to breathe out everything else
I wish you an amazing week full of love and blessings!
The Golden Thread wasn't just one of the first meditations I made. It WAS the first. This is the meditation that started it all.
It's been six years since I felt an unexpected but powerful surge of energy and inspiration. As soon as I decided I would make my own guided meditations, I felt myself come alive. It was as if I'd been plugged into an outlet. The words for The Golden Thread began pouring into me. I wrote it all out in a notebook, terrified and excited.
I had never made a meditation before. I'd never made any sort of recording before. I was overwhelmed with nervous energy. My fear of not being good enough ramped up into overdrive. When I sat to record the meditation, I could barely get the words out. I played my recording back and was horrified by how I sounded. My voice was strained and far from soothing. So I did it again. And again. And again.
During those early recordings, I constantly stumbled on my words. My voice was shaky. I had to stop often and breathe. I had no idea I had such a fear of being heard. I had no idea I felt so unworthy of sharing my ideas and my own voice.
The first time someone bought the meditation my entire body stiffened in anxiety. It did not bring me comfort or a sense of having done something right. I only felt more fear. I was terrified they'd feel they'd wasted not only their money, but also their time. I was haunted by the idea that someone would play my meditation and feel frustrated and annoyed. I actually believed people would feel worse from my meditations.
It's an ironic twist of fate that making guided meditations made me more nervous and insecure. Meditation should help us to feel calm and centered, right? And yet I was anything but.
I didn't know what to do except to keep going, to walk through the fire of my fear and find out what was on the other side.
And so I made more meditations, ones that addressed how I felt. I made the work I needed. I made meditations for deep fear, insecurity, and chronic stress. With each meditation, my work improved. I began to sound calm and sure of myself. I had no idea it would be such a labor of love to turn the vision in my head into reality.
Eventually, I took what I had learned and re-recorded The Golden Thread. And guess what? I later did it again. And then... I did it again. I'm now selling version 4 in my store, and this version fills my heart with love and pride.
Not only because I genuinely believe in the value of this version, but because of how I changed along the way.
I knew the only way I could truly share my work was if I learned to love not only it, but also myself. Tearing down my walls of self-loathing and criticism often felt like I was peeling off my skin. I was so uncomfortable and desperate I wanted to be someone else, to step into a new reality where I knew, deep inside, I was valuable and so was my work.
Of course, the only someone who could change my reality was me. And so I continued to make the work I needed. I made meditations that used visuals and words to shift my self-talk and connect me to my eternal spirit. I created meditations that connected me to something bigger than myself. I set out to find out what was beyond my fear, who I was outside of all this insecurity and mental chatter, and slowly but surely, it worked.
As the years went on, the tide began to turn and relief began to trickle in. I began to react to stress and fear different. I talked about my work different. I talked about myself different. In times of insecurity and doubt, I stopped and asked for help from a higher place. It was a slow transition, but each breath I took without a tight chest and a pit in my stomach inspired me to keep going. At my lowest point, I felt as if all the stress and fear might kill me. And in a way, it did.
At some point along the way, the old Melissa died.
The Melissa that feels alone, afraid, and unworthy perished in the process. The new me, the me that feels loved and supported, was created in her place. When I meditate, I like to send the old me love and to let her know I wouldn't be here without her. I give her gratitude and send waves of healing light to the times I was most afraid.
When I started this blog post it was going to be all about the healing power of The Golden Thread. I went in a different direction there, and since I don't want to turn this into a novel, I'm going to have to talk about the meditation itself another day. For now, I want to thank you for being a part of this journey.
You can learn more about The Golden Thread here. It's not isn't just my first meditation, it's my favorite.