When I meditate, my mind calms down. I start in the midst of chaos, but I finish in total control, ready to conquer.

As I close my eyes and start the session, my brain continues its automatic course, pulling new ideas and threads, ignoring my intention. It brings me memories from work, new propositions, deadlines, things I forgot to put into my to-do list. It gets slightly anxious.

I realize these automated thoughts after a few seconds of delay, and then intentionally put my focus on my breath. I stay there for a few seconds. I notice the physical aspects of my chest moving back and forward. I stay grounded. Temporarily.

A sudden sound far away impels my mind again. Random questions pop into my head, but I gently remind it that we aren’t here right now to think, to ponder, to imagine, to get anxious about the future, to remember the past, but solely to enjoy the present. My mind surrenders. I am in control again. I am in the present, I am the present.

But then, suddenly, the mind starts to wander, and periods of focus are followed by periods of thinking and worrying. This repeats multiple times throughout. In reality, the mind is a wild horse, quickly responding to fight-or-flight impulses, uncontrollable, but we need to be patient, gently pulling the rope tossed around its neck whenever it acts abrupt or independent. We have to domesticate it. When arbitrary thoughts pop into my mind, I bring back my focus into breathing.

The session ends. I open my eyes and there is only what’s immediatelly in front of me. There are no forced thoughts, no anxiety, no imagination. Just peace. Like the end of a massage session, or a floating capsule. A blank slate, a white board, I am free to think whatever I want or need to.

The day ahead of me awaits with many traps and challenges, but I am ready to conquer.

Years ago, I used to need several, several minutes of meditation until the internal battle with my mind would settle. It would parry my efforts, only to lunge back into controlling me - back and forth, many times. But over time it would retreat back and surrender. Today, I might need only 5 minutes to end the dispute, some times more, some times less.

When I forgo meditation for months, I notice the deterioration in the quality of life, in my peace of mind, in my control over whatever wants to control me. I become less stoic. I forget meditation even exists. The everyday events affect me before I can have a say. My mind seeks short-term rewards to get through the anxieties of the day. It procrastinates. It binges on sugar, on breaks, on the news. I am responsible, but those are not my decisions.

When I meditate again, I have a helicopter view of life. My choices are in front of me, and I choose to be affected or not by thoughts. It’s not as if I won’t feel bad feelings the days I meditate, they will definitely come. The difference is that when I do meditate, those intrusive feelings are put on a desk in my mind, like papers waiting for my review. I look at them and I have a choice to say yes, or to say no.

I found there are other ways of achieving some of the effects of meditation. Driving, being in nature, looking at the horizon, sitting by the shade with wind blowing in my face - or turning on Do Not Disturb. There are certain songs that transport me to other universes. But none of them have this effect of transporting me to the present as effectively and immediately as meditation.