I was just 22 years old and plagued by chronic anxiety, crippled by panic attacks, mourning the painful loss of a relationship, and managing a heavy graduate school study load.

When I think back to that time, I recall feeling adrift and rudderless.

One afternoon, while feeling beside myself, I picked up an old book quite randomly from my shelf. I went out onto my patio to sit in the sun with the hope that its warmth would help me settle.

When I opened the book, a small, yellowed and tattered pamphlet fell from its pages into my lap. The pamphlet was titled: Introduction to Meditation. I remembered that a friend had given me this pamphlet years ago and I likely shoved it into this very book I was holding years later.

The instructions were very simple.

They recommended to sit quietly, bring awareness to the breath, and to choose one word or image as a point of focus. Should my mind wander, I was to tenderly guide myself back to the breath or the word or image I had chosen.

I decided to give this a try.

The word I chose for my first meditation experience was: grace. I did struggle through the first five minutes or so with all sorts of doubts, distractions, and a real desire to give up.

But I did precisely as instructed.

I kept coming back to “grace…grace…grace.” I am not sure if it was my desperation for a solution or the warm, late afternoon sunshine, or Divine intervention — or all of these things — but in that very first experience, I felt a tangible shift.  

And I was hooked.

The depth of calm I touched into during my first meditation experience made me believe that I had a wellspring of peace inside of myself. I had spent my life looking for peace in external circumstances, things, and people but never understood — until that first meditation — that what I was looking for was inside me all along.

I recall the tremendous power of the word “grace.” The longer I stayed quiet and the more I was able to stay anchored to the word “grace," the deeper I went into a meditative state. Afterward, I had a sense that the peace I felt was very much a birthright of sorts — that I, and all beings, deserve to sense, feel, and experience peace and to live from the foundation of peace.

I have meditated daily since that first experience.

Although I have practiced many styles of meditation and try to live my life mindfully, I will never forget my first meditation experience. Thirty-plus years later, I can recall it vividly — my despair, the weight of the old book in my hands, the shabby pamphlet, the sparse instructions, the warmth of the sun on my skin, the awareness of my breath and grace…grace…grace — the one word that became and remains my primary anchor.

Dr. Christine E. Kiesinger is Vice President of Development and Lead Trainer of Emotional Intelligence and Conscious Communication for studio BE.

Feature photo by Sini4ka/Adobe Stock