On my 35th birthday, I found myself alone in New York, feeling incredibly lonely. I had just ended my latest relationship, and it felt like I had been stuck in a cycle of failed relationships. I couldn't help but wonder if I would ever find someone to share my life with. I felt like I was living in a never-ending episode of "Sex and the City."
"What's the point?" I yelled into my pillow. "When am I going to find happiness?" I screamed!
I was just so sick of it all. I spent the next few weeks wallowing in my own misery, watching Netflix under a pile of blankets and eating chips and whipped cream. It was pretty pathetic. But then, one day, a friend came over to try and cheer me up.
"If only you had come over two weeks ago for my birthday! What kind of friend are you anyways?" I thought begrudgingly to myself. After a bit of chit chat, she pulled out a beaded necklace that resembled a rosary.
"What's that? It's pretty," I said, reluctantly.
"This is how you're going to get out of this funk," she exclaimed with more enthusiasm than I could handle at that moment.
"Looks like a perfect thing to hang myself with," I chuckled jokingly.
"Okay, enough of that talk. Here's what you're going to do. Roll each bead in your fingers and think of something you're grateful for. Then keep doing that until you've gone through all the beads." She said, in the tone of a middle school teacher.
"There's a lot of beads here," I gawked.
"108 actually," she replied.
I had never been against mindfulness & meditation, but I guess I just never really had had the opportunity to try it out before.
"Fine! I'll do it." I said as I swiftly grabbed the Mala from her hand.
"I'm grateful for my apartment. It's small but it's my space. I'm grateful for my job. I don't always like it, but it can be fun sometimes. I'm grateful for the sun lol."
After the first 10 beads, I struggled to come up with things I was grateful for. But before I knew it, 30 minutes had past and I had found 108 things to be grateful for. In all honestly, I really felt...well...better. I was immediately brought into the present moment by doing this simple exercise.
I know it sounds a bit corny, but this truly was the beginning of my journey.
Over the next few months meditating with my new Mala,
I realized 4 things that were keeping me from finding true love and overall contentment in my life.
1. Fear of rejection:
This was a big one for me. Fear of being rejected or not being good enough prevented me from putting myself out there and opening myself up to new possibilities. It led to self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence, which made it impossible to find love. To overcome this pattern, I focused on building self-confidence and self-love. Through mindfulness exercises with my Mala, I learned to challenge negative thoughts and remind myself of my strengths and positive qualities. Side note: it's important to remember that rejection is a natural part of the process, and it's defintiely not a reflection of your worth as a person.
2. Seeking validation from others:
I realized that I too often sought out validation from others to confirm that I was worthy of love, which led to a cycle of relying on external validation to feel good about myself, and in turn, making it harder for me to find and keep a healthy, loving relationship. To overcome this pattern, I focused my meditations on building self-worth and self-acceptance. Feel free to use the same affirmation I recited on my beads, "my worth as a person is not defined by the validation of others."
3. Holding on to unrealistic expectations:
I used to have unrealistic expectations of what I wanted in a partner, and this lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction more times than I could count. Now I understand that relationships take work and compromise, and that no one is perfect. Through my meditations, I now have a better understanding of what I want and need in a partner and it helps me to be more realistic in my search.
4. Past trauma:
I've been through some traumatic experiences in the past that I realized were causing difficulties for me in building healthy relationships and trust. I traced much of it back to my father, who was an alcoholic. Although it took some time confronting these feelings, it was absolutely worth it. Ultimately, I realized that all of my patterns of insecurity and self-sabotage stemmed primarily from the trauma I experienced as a child.
Did I Find Love?
With the help of the same blessed Buddhist Mala my friend gave me, I had started some healthy new habits. I was able to understand and thereby break the cycle of negative patterns and habits that held me back. I no longer attract the same type of god-awful partners and instead, I recently found someone who truly complements me and accepts me for who I am. I'll save that story for my next post though ;) Every day this Mala serves as a beautiful reminder to practice unconditional self-love and acceptance. It also helps me remember how how far I have come.
If you're ready to change your negative habits and open yourself up to new possibilities in love and life in general, I highly recommend incorporating a Buddhist Mala to help start a meditation and mindfulness practice. It can be a powerful tool to help you become more self-aware and to help you break free from negative cycles. While you don't necessarily need a Buddhist Mala, I do recommend it if only for the fact that it's a stylish reminder to stay positive and in the present. Plus, there's gotta be a reason why humans have been reciting prayers and counting on mala beads for thousands of year. In the end, remember that finding love starts with loving and accepting yourself, so make sure to prioritize self-care and self-acceptance as a foundational pillar.
*If you're interested in the Mala my friend gave me, you can find it here, "Unconditional Love Mala."