A while back, a young guy came to me to inquire about learning to meditate.
His story went like this:
He was in his late twenties, working for a large American bank in London. He was going through a very rough time. His anxiety levels had been growing over the last year or so and it had got to the point where he couldn't face going into work each day. He had been to see the company doctor and they sent him on a six week course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to try and overcome the panic attacks that were taking over his life.
He completed the course and found it helpful in giving him some perspective on why he was feeling anxious, but the panic attacks were still happening. He wasn't sleeping and his relationships were going downhill fast. He felt he was losing the confidence of his boss and co-workers.
I'm not sure who it was (maybe a friend or his doctor), but someone suggested he do something about his stress levels. That's how he found me and learned to meditate.
I understood what he was feeling because in my late twenties I had also been working in the corporate world. I was setting up a division of a global publishing company in Australia and I had been thrown in the deep end. I was traveling a lot and was operating in a fog of jet lag. I was feeling overwhelmed by everything I had to do and felt like I was beginning to spiral out of balance due to worry and tiredness.
Then I learned to meditate. Immediately it made a difference because in a twenty minute session I was resting more deeply than sleep. I began to feel more grounded, less anxious, more energetic and positive.
As a Meditation Teacher, I now understand my anxiety was caused by a build-up of stress. The deep rest that comes from a few minutes of meditation allows us to dissolve the stresses and fatigue faster than we take them on board. No amount of talking about stress will release it. We need to do the opposite of what we did when we got stressed - we need to de-excite and give the body a chance to come back into balance. That frees us up to be more relaxed, alert and able to make better decisions.
Jillian Lavender is director of the London Meditation Centre.