Meditation: The Art and Gift of Slowing Down

April Ballard

In recent months, I have discovered the comforting gift of meditation. As someone who rarely ever gave myself opportunities to slow down, rest, and find peace within my mind and body, this discovery has and continues to offer me peace. Meditation is truly a practice. It is something that I work toward every day in order to transfer it into all areas of my life.

The art of slowing down means not turning this practice into an obsession, but rather, the opposite. It means separating from intrusive thoughts and anxieties. Meditation allows me to not “escape” my thoughts, but to more so retreat to a place of peacefulness, which allows me to recognize and accept an initial thought of anxiety, and then put it aside. It does not mean blocking them out, but for me, it is moving through them. Learning to acknowledge these thoughts has been a gift for me.

Yes, acknowledgement means freedom to me in many ways. I spent the majority of my life trying to escape my feelings. This manifested in several ways and many of which were extremely unhealthy. The main way that I tried to escape was through my eating disorder. I am learning to separate from anorexia and bulimia. I am not my eating disorder. I am so much more. Through this separation, I am also able to no longer use the eating disorder as way to escape. It is no longer the way that I cope with my feelings; good or bad.

Meditation allows me to give myself space, breathing room, and a pause. One pause can really be so freeing to someone who has never allowed themselves this gift. I have learned, and continue to learn every day, that if I feel particularly anxious, sad, nervous, or even excited, that these feelings will pass. Meditation teaches me to accept the thoughts and feelings and then let them go. I do not have to remain trapped in cycles of them.

This freedom is transferable to every day. It is the gift of peacefulness among an otherwise busy day. It is the moment of breathing through a stressful situation. It is reconnecting to my breath which nourishes me all the time. It is an appreciation of my mind and body connection. It is a practice that allows me to separate more and more from my former unhealthy ways of thinking. It is a practice that allows me to further separate from my eating disorder identity. It is through slowing down that we learn so much about ourselves. We learn that we really are strong and do not have to remain trapped in old cycles of unhealthy thought patterns.

I believe that we all learn within each and every day. I believe that we learn something about ourselves within every day as well. In order to truly reflect on these lessons, I have found that slowing down is essential. Busying oneself is not the same as leading a productive and healthy life. For many years of my life, I thought that to remain busy would somehow take me out of my struggles; when truly, this notion contributed even more so to the downward spiral of my eating disorder. I was consumed with the eating disorder and the chaotic spin of the constant busy, and therefore anxious, mind and body. I was not able to heal. I was not able to begin to recognize the person I truly am outside of the eating disorder. I am not my eating disorder. I did not understand that in order to begin to heal, I had to slow down. I had to finally take time to heal. I had to sit in quiet. I had to stop avoiding and begin to recover. Once I was surrounded with genuine love and encouragement and allowed myself this practice and this gift, I truly began to heal.

Meditation grounds me when I begin to feel anxious and chaotic. Meditation offers me peace. It teaches me that it is ok to just be. I am enough. It is OK to take time for myself and sit in quiet. It is neither lazy nor non-productive. That notion is a lie that my eating disorder told me for years. My eating disorder said over and over that I had to be constantly on the go in order to remain “perfect.” I accepted this notion mostly because I wanted to avoid the eating disorder thoughts and because I had not yet stepped outside of it to realize the truth of who I am.

Today, I take the time to slow down and recognize that is most often stillness that leads to peace within for me. Sometimes it’s only a few minutes, but it allows me to re-gather and find inner peace; in turn, allowing me to focus, be productive, and creatively flourish. It is my hope that you will take time within each day to embrace this gift for yourselves as well.

April Ballard is a teacher and eating disorders awareness and recovery advocate who has been in recovery from anorexia and bulimia for three years. April is the founder and coordinator of the Charleston, South Carolina NEDA Walk.