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My first meditation 10 years ago changed my life

Melissa Wood-Tepperberg, the founder of Melissa Wood Health and the creator of the MWH Method, shares her personal journey.
"I was at a point in my life where I was willing to try anything."
"I was at a point in my life where I was willing to try anything."Melissa Wood-Tepperberg
/ Source: TODAY

In TMRW’s “My First” series, we highlight true stories from readers who open up about the pivotal moments in their lives — from their first jobs to their first breakups and more — and what they learned from these personal milestones.

Ten years ago, I started a simple practice that has entirely transformed who I am.

At the time, I was really anxious and recovering from an eating disorder. I was also trying everything to get rid of my acne and seeing multiple doctors, all while thinking there was something within me that needed to change. My friends who swore by meditation suggested I give it a try.

I was at a point in my life where I was willing to try anything. I knew about meditation, but I had never fully committed myself before. This time, I decided to make a commitment so I paid for a weekend workshop at the New York Meditation Center. For me, when I'm paying for something, I show up, no matter if it's $5 or $20, so I put my money where my mind was.

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The second I started meditating, it was as if not only my skin but my entire life started to clear up. I started seeing things as they really are and just much more clearly.

"Meditation has helped me become less reactive. I’m no longer living in a 24/7 fight-or-flight state and it reduced my anxiety overall. I'm such a different person."Melissa Wood-Tepperberg

The workshop was held during a snowy weekend in a small apartment in New York City’s West Village neighborhood. There were five of us. I vividly remember sitting on the sofa with the intimate group. There was a teacher guiding us but it was quiet and unforced. We sat in silence for 20 minutes and then he would say something and bring us back, but it was not a lot of talking.

The first day I thought, “This is hard. I don't think I'm doing it right.” But on the second day, I remember something clicking into place and realizing, “Oh I am doing it, I am doing it.” That evening, I meditated again because Transcendental Meditation (the type of meditation I had signed up for) requires meditating twice a day for 20 minutes. I went to get my nails done and I told my nail technician at the time, “I am not going to talk to you because I'm going to meditate” and I meditated the whole time. To this day, that's how I bring meditation into my life. I make it a part of my life. I don't skip meditating because I have something to do. I'll find pockets to fill it in my life.

Meditation has helped me become less reactive. I’m no longer living in a 24/7 fight-or-flight state and it reduced my anxiety overall. I'm such a different person. It has taught me to welcome everything that's going on around me and not try to push it all away. Instead, I let things be and surrender to them.

A daily practice also allows creativity to flow through me without force. It comes to me because I'm very tapped into my intuition from giving myself this space each and every day.

Ideally, I love to sit for 20 minutes by myself in the morning. If I can meditate first thing in the morning, those are my absolute best days. But I'll be very honest with you: That is not always the case with two kids. It absolutely has not looked like that for the majority of the time, especially during quarantine.

I love to describe my practice like walking into your unorganized office where there are papers all over your desk and then, after meditating, it’s as if all of your files get neatly organized into folders with labels. Even if it doesn't look like my ideal 20 minutes, I will still do something no matter how small, even if I only get two minutes. I know it sounds like nothing but, wow, it can really make a difference.

Meditating can seem intimidating or hard and there's so much misconception around the practice. I've learned that it's not about just turning off your thoughts and making things stop, because that's impossible. Our minds are going to keep going, but we have a choice. With meditation, I can either choose to focus on a negative thought or I can breathe something else into my mind that takes me away from that negative thought pattern. I've learned that I can do it.

A lot of people say, “I can't meditate” and I think if you keep telling yourself that, then you're not going to meditate; you won't be able to do it. The trick is just doing it and talking less about how difficult it is. Just as with working out, staying consistent is key to seeing results. Some people have shared with me, “Well I've tried meditation, and it doesn't work for me.” And I ask them, “How long did you try?” And they go, “Oh, two days” but as with exercising, do you think if you just do it for two days and stop that you're going to see results? It may not be a visible result, but the long-term effects really show up. It's just one of those things: When you believe it and you connect to it and you keep doing it, one day, you might wake up and say, “Wow, I really feel the impact.”

There are a lot of rules and formats — Transcendental is meditating twice a day for 20 minutes — and I think if you don't achieve the guidelines around certain practices, you may feel like you failed. But it's something that you can adapt to your lifestyle, whether you have two kids, three kids, a thriving business/career or if you're really doing it all. As long as you can sit for five minutes and do a little meditation, it can dramatically impact the way you move through the day.

I think breaking that down and being easier and gentler on yourself is key. Five minutes can be enough, if that's what you have for the day, and leaning into that is what really makes a difference.