The first time I decided to try meditation, I cried. It took all of 10 minutes and a meditation app on my iPhone to make me break down into tears after the calming voice on the app instructed me to open my eyes when I was ready. I wasn’t ready, and I began to cry: not from the sadness it might’ve brought on, but from the emotional and physical release it gave me.
Who knew that all it would take was a few minutes of being mindful and present with myself at the beginning of my hectic day to help quiet my thoughts and put me at ease? Once I continued to meditate, I realized how essential it was to me as a Black woman, and how I was never taught about the practice, how to start, or the benefits it provides. Media’s portrayal of meditation doesn’t help paint the best picture of the practice either, as many Women of Color usually don’t have a quiet space in their home or neighborhood with no interruptions where they can go to escape to sit and chant their way to peace.
Meditation is a great practice that many Black women are starting to adopt to decrease stress and increase mindfulness, especially during these times where Black women specifically are plagued with so much mentally and emotionally. As a Black woman, the weight of the world feels particularly heavy, and any type of relief, from mindful meditation to mental health resources, is necessary to help find inner peace and sometimes, just to keep sane. Even if it’s just for a few minutes out of the day, meditation helps Black women in more ways than one.
Meditation helps us to be more mindful of our bodies
Women, specifically Women of Color, tend to ignore the signs their bodies are giving them due to the busyness of work, taking care of children as well as significant others, and the demands of everyday life. According to a post written in 2017 by Dr. Alexander Hantel, M.D., women tend to ignore troubling symptoms like fatigue, discomfort in the chest, and weight loss that could potentially lead to long-term health issues. This is coupled with multiple studies showing that doctors often downplay, ignore, or misdiagnose female patients—specifically Black women, who face higher death rates from health-related complications than women of any other race in the United States.
Being able to check in with yourself during meditation helps you to connect and tap into how you are feeling emotionally, mentally, and physically, which could help point out any underlying ailments you may be experiencing. Plenty of guided mindfulness meditation apps help you “scan your body” mentally to assess how your body feels. Meditation helps you to not only identify that stiff shoulder from overworking or that migraine you put off from stress, but to not ignore them any longer. Taking the time to focus on you in the moment can bring about an awareness to your body that we as women often ignore for the sake of time and productiveness.
Using meditation as a means to connect with yourself physically can ultimately lead to taking action against any ailments you might be experiencing by following up with your health care provider to address these issues, putting yourself and your health first.
Meditation helps us reflect and release
Meditation not only helps us center ourselves and be present in the moment, but it also helps us to reflect and learn from our past, letting go of things that no longer serve us. This rings especially true for Black women, who face stress from work disparities due to race, economic inequity, and the double burden of gender and racial biases.
When I began to use meditation in my daily life, it helped me reflect on a lot of things I didn’t normally give myself space to. Practicing meditation sets a calm stage for your day and can aid in a better night’s sleep, putting away those things you need to release.
Whether you are listening to your favorite music and getting a few moments to breathe while getting ready for the day or releasing the day’s tension at night with a few candles and a moment to yourself in the bathroom, taking a step back to reflect and release helps to give your mind a place to sort out the stress of life.
Meditation takes our focus off of the world around us—and onto ourselves
Black women are fighting many battles at once, and it doesn’t give us much room to pay attention to ourselves. With the current pandemic disproportionately affecting Black communities, as well as the continued racial tension caused by years of systemic racism that Black women have been on the frontlines for, combating and fighting for change, the world is heavy on Black women.
We don’t get a lot of time to strictly just focus on ourselves and how our bodies feel, constantly putting ourselves on the backburner in order to be of service and to take care of others first. When’s the last time you’ve truly been selfish? Taking the time out to find a few minutes to take a break and be present in the moment helps you take that focus off of the world around you and onto yourself. That’s the small role meditation can play: it gives you the space you need to re-center and refocus on what’s most important and should come first before anything: you. The world and all of its weight will still be there once you’re done.
Meditation helps us to fight another day
Meditation, in its own way, is a form of self-care: another way to take time out show yourself love, patience, and grace. Just like we carve out time to go to the nail salon or hairdresser, and exercise or spend time with friends when we can, meditation is another great form of taking care of yourself from the inside out. It also helps you increase your focus for more clarity in order to be able to tackle another day. What other time do you get to replenish yourself before or after the work emails, chasing the kids down, being a supportive partner, taking care of family and friends, all while trying to stay informed and active with what’s going around you? Being able to take a breath through meditation not only gives you time to mentally gear up for the day, but it also re-energizes you so that you can bring your full self to the world —a world that needs you for all that you are, Black woman.
As routine as brushing my teeth, meditation has become an essential part of my day, giving me the opportunity to replenish myself when I feel like the world has taken everything I can give. Some days, I meditate to relax, and other days, I meditate to release, but every time, once I hear the sound of the chime and the voice that instructs me to open my eyes when I’m ready, I come back to my surroundings more at ease with myself as a Black woman.