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Patient Voice – Meditate to Find Peace

Megan HastingsThree years ago, Megan Hastings began most mornings with a quick run and some meditation. Today, the effects of her illness make running impossible, but she finds she can meditate to bring comfort and peace. The practice helps her to reduce stress, increase self-awareness, happiness and acceptance.

Megan, mother to three and devotee to her best friend, has a sincere desire to share her story in the hope it can help others find peace. People who know her, describe her as honest, compassionate, confident, outgoing, loving, proactive and assertive.  She describes herself as an outgoing introvert who enjoys spending time at home reading, writing, and cuddling  loved ones; she loves yoga, nature and her family.

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Meditate to Find Peace
by Megan Hastings

Three years ago, I wake up at 8 AM cuddling my sweet husband; my daughter comes in to lay with “My Mommy”. Despite the words rolling through my head, “It’s hot. You got a late start and now there will be noise. Don’t go. This bed is inviting. Stay here,” I want to go run. I feel good after a run and there is nothing more enjoyable than nature. So, I get up and put my running shoes on. It’s time to go feel good.

It’s beautiful outside, 65 degrees. The sky is blue and the world is just waking up.  As I take my short run, just a mile, I decide to mediate.

I have often wondered how people meditate while running. All I usually feel is “I think I’m gonna die” as my feet hit the concrete.  But today I’m rewiring those thoughts and choosing to find good ones. I stare at a place far in front of me and notice its surroundings. What do I see? What do I hear? What do I feel? Negative thoughts leave. I feel heat, but today it doesn’t bother me. I see beautiful creations that fill my heart with gratitude, hear birds singing, notice leaves moving with the wind. I feel at peace.

As I ponder on this beautiful morning three years ago, I am reminded of the benefits meditation has had on my life. Three years have brought a lot of change. My sweet daughter is older. My running shoes are walking shoes; I can no longer run due to the effects chronic illness has had on my body. (I’m lucky to walk around the block.) My body aches after little exertion and the constant fatigue is often overwhelming.

One thing I have learned in the last three years is I desperately need to feel at peace. Before it may have been a choice, but now it is a necessity.

I have often felt drawn to nature; it calms my soul. Sitting at North Fork Canyon, near a waterfall, helped me through postpartum depression. Spending time with my family at the lake, I feel whole. Spring and Fall sitting on my front porch with my family, the green of the trees, birds singing and children playing bring peace. Growing up we often found ourselves at the beach or on the boat, feeling the waves crashing or the wind blow across my face as the boat glided against the water, I would feel profound gratitude. All these experiences renewed my strength and gave me courage to enjoy life to the fullest no matter the circumstance.

Most people desire to feel happy and at peace. We often think of that which will make us happy,  “If only I could live there, I would happy I will be happy when I’m done with school… my kids are independent… when I win $1 million dollars.” Or,  “If only I didn’t have this awful illness that only few people understand. I wouldn’t ever want anything again.” 

Are these thoughts true? Will we really feel happy, or when that moment fades, will we be stuck wanting more?

The definition of meditate: “Think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.” When I meditate – when I am in nature – I can think deeply and focus on my mind not on the negative script in my head, but on beautiful and magnificent creations.

In the article 8 Ways Meditation Can Improve Your Life, Kristine Crane (for US News) gives us reasoning of why meditation can be good for us. Consider these:

  1. “Meditation reduces stress.”
  2. “It improves concentration.”
  3. “It encourages a healthy lifestyle.”
  4. “The practice increases self-awareness.”
  5. “It increases happiness.”
  6. “Meditation increases acceptance.”
  7. “It slows aging.”
  8. “The practice benefits cardiovascular and immune health.”

These all seem like alluring reasons to mediate to me. There are many types of meditation and countless ways to do it, just a google search away. It has taken me years to realize the effects meditation has had on my body, but I can honestly say, Kristine Crane is right. (Well, maybe minus slowing aging.) Meditation has numerous benefits and the effects it has on us as individuals creates a ripple effect that can then benefit all aspects of our life to include family, work, play, etc.

Though my illness has not gone away, the different ways I meditate help me to reduce my stress, increase self-awareness, happiness and acceptance.

  • When I am anxious I focus on deep breathing and I can calm the fears in my head.
  • When I am in pain I fill up the tub with hot water and turn on uplifting or meditation music and I try to relax. Does this get rid of the pain? NO! But, the pain lessens as my body focuses on something else.
  • When I want to feel gratitude I notice my surroundings and note the things I have been blessed with and am grateful for. Because there are many.

Having a chronic illness has helped me to see all people with compassion and to know that each person has their own story to share. It has helped me to be kind and patient with others and with myself. I have learned more about myself in the last three years than in my whole lifetime, for which I am grateful. Because I now know what I really want in this life. I have been given the opportunity to “slow down” and to enjoy my family. There is so much more I want to do, but meditating has helped me to realize these blessings and to be accepting of what is.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”

Where do you find peace? What truly makes you happy?

I believe in you. I believe you can make miracles happen. And I believe that peace (true inner peace) is the answer.