I’m More Than My Anxious Thoughts—And So Are You

A lifelong high achiever, Melena Kiriaki was afraid she would lose her momentum if she wasn’t operating from a place of anxiety. Meditation showed her that she’s more than her fearful thoughts.

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For so long, I thought I was my mind. The thoughts in my head controlled everything. 

My fear, my anxiety, my stress, these were all part of me and they made up who I am. Growing up, this was all I knew.

In order to survive, I convinced myself that my constant thinking was my edge. My worrying, my productivity of always DOING—I thought this is what made me successful.

Being a child of two immigrants moving to the US for the American Dream, my early achievements were celebrated and as time went on, expected. Of course, being a first-generation American in my family, I wanted to make my parents proud. The mindset I engrained in myself wasn’t just to meet expectations but to redefine them. However, it was my own misunderstanding of my relationship with my thoughts that led me down a path of utter burnout.

There was no space to be. I was a human doing.”

Why Meditate?

I heard about meditation here and there. I thought it was an excuse to take a break. Where was the productivity in “sitting”? Ah!—to think more! I ignored it. 

But meditation kept popping up. Over time I learned that it was a consistent practice of meditating that worked. I figured, “Okay, I go to the gym everyday—I don’t expect to hit my fitness goals after one day…so consistency makes sense.” I was an athlete, playing basketball since I could hold one, so I figured, if I can commit to practicing a sport, surely, I could at least try out meditation… at least to prove that it didn’t work.

I was certain that meditation was nonsense, but the only way to prove its nonsense was to commit to the experience fully—then I could feel confident to rule it out. I couldn’t dismiss it until I immersed myself into the practice, and saw how much it didn’t work. I decided to commit myself to sit everyday at the same time for ten days to prove to myself that meditation did NOT work. I was so skeptical, even embarrassed (to just sit there!), that I told no one. I was in college. I went into my room, closed the door, and pretended to study. I secretly turned on a meditation recording.

I had never in my life experienced space from my thoughts. From my mind.

I remember the first day I laughed to myself. The entire time I was thinking! About thinking! I vividly recall the whole ten minutes: what emails I’d send, which chapters I’d finish for homework, and what I’d make for dinner. “Well that was productive”…I laughed because I knew meditation couldn’t be just sitting and thinking. But what else would I DO?

I AM my thoughts. I AM my worries after all, right?? “This is my edge,” and why I achieve so much. Part of me didn’t want to let that go out of fear that all of my success and achievements would follow. How would sitting to meditate help me? But I did make that commitment. As a true Type-A, I resolved to bring that same level of tenacity that propelled my academic and athletic careers, to trying meditation.

Being vs. Doing

So I did the same thing the next day. I sat in my desk chair and turned on an app with a free trial. Using a simple timer for ten minutes, I watched my breath… and my thoughts.

And again on day three. I told myself I committed ten days for ten minutes. I was skeptical the majority of the time, only doing it to prove my skepticism! That meditation isn’t for me.

It wasn’t until the last day that I noticed my jaw gaping open and my eyes tearing up when the ten minutes were over.

I can’t quite put it into words because it was a feeling… it was space.

I had never in my life experienced space from my thoughts. From my mind.

The connection between mind and body was buzzing. I was no longer merely in my head, but I could feel the entirety of myself within a new unfamiliar harmony. An integration. A lightness.

I finally experienced space to observe my mind, my emotions, my thoughts, everything. Space to see everything more clearly.

I now had proof that there was more to me. So, so much more. It was the consistent commitment this entire time.

It was a launching point for deep self-discovery. Meditation transformed my entire perspective on life. Not only do I show up better for myself, but I show more compassion and empathy to the people around me. I still experience all of the emotions (anxiety, stress, guilt) but the perspective and capacity to observe are the tools that have brought me into a new level of awareness of it all. I know many people who have tried meditation for a few days and given up. There are days when I don’t want to meditate and be with my mind. There are days when I crave to meditate. 

The journey is not linear. 

This realization was a huge motivation for consistency. Every single day is an opportunity to learn about myself, no matter how I’m feeling… and that’s the beauty of the practice. And it has become my passion to share this with others that resonate.

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