In 2006, I won a silver medal in the women’s halfpipe event at the Winter Olympics. It was an amazing point in my career — and a total whirlwind. The Olympics were followed by three crazy years of appearances, competitions and general madness. Needless to say, I became pretty burned out.
So before the 2009 X Games, I visited Dr. Dave Jensen in Aspen for a “tune up.” Dr. Dave is a very talented chiropractor who combines technology in modern medicine with old world medicinal arts. Basically, he helps to make sure that my body is running like a Ferrari before all my big events. During this particular visit, he called me out, “You don’t look like your usual self.” This is when I had an “AHA!” moment and realized I couldn’t continue like I was.
Here is how Dr. Jensen and Diana McNab, a former member of the Canadian National Ski Team and health coach, helped me change my life.
1. I was introduced to Ayurveda and it was a game changer.
Ayurveda is an ancient wisdom system for living your life in balance. According to Ayurveda there are three constitutions within all of us called doshas. Most of us have one or two dominant doshas and that unique blend helps shape our very nature and how we experience the world.
Basically different people — based on their different doshas — have different mental, emotional and physical needs. All of the things we surround ourselves with from foods, to the types of liquids we drink and their temperatures can unknowingly throw us out of balance. When we are out of balance, understanding where our imbalance lies empowers us to then be able to take very specific action to come back into balance. Ayurveda helped me classify my thoughts and left me feeling totally clear and empowered.
2. Sporadic meditation wasn’t getting the job done.
For years, I was practicing meditation, but I was doing it sporadically. I hadn’t quite committed to any certain technique. It wasn’t until I participated in a meditation retreat at the Chopra Center that I realized what all the fuss was about.
Each day for seven days we practiced yoga and meditation, ate nutritious Ayurvedic lunches, and went deeper into the philosophy behind this ancient wisdom tradition. That was the turning point for me. I left the retreat feeling like everything had changed yet nothing had. I was lit up. I was hyper aware of everything around me. I was living from a different state of being where I felt totally connected, clear and happy.
3. I found solace in primordial sound meditation.
In primordial sound meditation, all you need is you and your mantra. Your mantra is a sound that’s used for its vibrational quality. You don’t put any awareness on its meaning because it’s a vehicle for taking you beyond the regular activity of the mind in order to slip into subtle layers of stillness and silence. “So hum” is a universal mantra that everyone can use. As you use subtle ‘ujjayi’ breath, you begin to feel the back of your throat vibrate, and as you inhale listen and feel for the “so” sound and as you exhale listen for the “hum” sound. Get into a rhythm.
When you realize your awareness has drifted away from the rhythm of this mantra, in the awareness, you actually have a choice. You can choose to continue being distracted by your thoughts and sounds in the room OR you can choose to go back to your mantra. And so the practice of meditation is simply a dance between your mantra and thoughts, and then choosing to go back to your mantra. It’s that simple.
4. How I viewed life and interacted with it changed dramatically.
I remember riding my bike to the gym a little while after the retreat and even though I was on the same route I had ridden hundreds of times before, I felt like the world had opened up around me. I could more crisply smell the flowers; I was able to really see what a beautiful place I was living in and also appreciate the fact that I was even getting to ride my bike to the gym in the first place. Every thought, decision and action had more meaning because I was aware of all of it.
5. Meditation helps me put bad days in perspective.
Before, I may have felt completely threatened by a certain scenario and reacted unconsciously, now I’m able to look at those circumstances from a more balanced place and see them for what they really are: An opportunity and a challenge to creatively work through them instead of withdrawing or blowing up!
6. You will receive some benefits from sporadic meditation but consistent meditation will change your life.
It took me three years to realize this! Meditation has to build on itself. You have to take the time and create the space every day. Think about it like scheduling yourself into your day. You schedule dentist appointments, meetings, happy hours and laundry into each day all the time. Take the time to schedule you into your day. Consistency is key. And the more consistent you are the easier it becomes to drop into a session.
My meditation practice has helped me bring back balance into my life and has helped me lock into what’s most important. I’m more efficient, more creative, more open to opportunities that serve my greater purpose in life, and more present with my friends, family and surroundings. If you choose to dive into the world of meditation, I hope it does the same for you.