I blink open my eyes, slowly adjusting to the glow of early morning filtering through my glass windows. Sitting up, I check my clock: 7:30 AM. My mind immediately jumps to my extensive morning checklist—I have an interview in an hour to prepare for and a host of readings to do.

Needing to push the flood of thoughts out of my mind, I stretch out my arm, feeling gently for my phone on my nightstand. Squinting at the glare of the display, I locate the app I am looking for and press the icon. The screen turns blank except for the thin tangerine print in the center: HEADSPACE.

Just taking a moment to get comfortable. We’re going to begin with the eyes open. When you’re ready, just taking a big, deep breath.

I breathe in, wading through the haze of tasks clouding my mind. As I sigh out, I give myself the space to let them go and find myself attuned to the gentle sound of the birds outside my window and the dull footsteps in the hallway. I lean deeper into myself, allowing the soothing voice to wash over me. I feel a sense of being especially grounded in the current moment, unconcerned with the stresses and responsibilities that await me. The far-off bird songs and footsteps begin to melt away. Eyes closed, my mind goes blank, the background noise, once in sharp focus, now a blur.

* * *

When I blink open my eyes after meditation sessions each morning, I feel a renewed sense of patience and calm. A common thread in quite a few of the Headspace meditations is the imperative to approach thoughts through the lens of an impartial observer. I note the thoughts that flit by rather than trying to change them. I attempt to bring that objective awareness into how I think about challenges I face. Snapping into an emotional response is not the only way. I am able to better weather the turbulence of my days without getting overwhelmed and negatively impacting others.

I used to silently scoff whenever my mother brought up the idea of balancing the mind, body, and soul. As a child, I would wake up each morning to find her gone, scrubbing up before surgery by the time I brushed my teeth. When I asked how she managed to come home after a grueling day with a content look on her face, mindfulness was always her response; yoga, my mother would tell me, made all the difference for her. She urged me to find my escape. I was resistant at first. But as my work piled up, and I noticed my mind taking a toll, I knew I had to make a change.

I first dove into the practice of meditation at the start of my junior year of high school. If I’m being honest, before then, I found myself hurriedly rushing through each day; I was missing something, although I was too consumed with what I had to do to realize it at the time. My day began the moment I woke up; as soon as my alarm blared, a flurry of reminders burst into my head. And there they would remain until I slipped under my covers at the day’s end.

Before I began meditating, poetry was my sole release; I counted on the breeze and sun-drenched patch of grass in my backyard to help me get lost within myself, to focus creatively. But I started to find myself faced with writer’s block. Instead of mulling over ideas for a villanelle, my mind wandered, thinking about the next test or deadline. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I realize now that it was because I was forcing one practice to do two things. How could I write if I was simultaneously trying to find a respite from the hectic day? By practicing meditation, I have discovered a way to clear out the noise, and my thoughts flow in a way they never had before. When I sit down to write, I don’t think about my readings or internship interviews—I just lean into exploring my creative ideas.

Some days, I meditate and feel nothing but penetrating uneasiness, my mind wandering so far off that I forget to count my breaths. At other moments, a flood of anxieties inundates the recesses of my brain to the point of overflow. When I began my meditation journey, I was perturbed when my unruly mind didn’t do what I asked of it. I have come to understand that I can’t always eliminate my internal noise on command, nor should I try to. Meditation is a human practice. Its beauty lies in its imperfection.

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