Let’s face it people - life is hard. Just taking care of yourself is quite a challenging task, let alone staying on top of your daily tasks revolving around work, family, home and friends. Just going through the day can be tough and often times we go to sleep analysing what we haven’t done yet and what we need to do the next day.

Because the “grind” culture is so popularised and it is fairly recent that people speak out about the rigorous conditions of their active (working) lifestyle, over the years stress got normalised. It’s nothing new these days to hear that people get burned out, that they are struggling with anxiety and depression. That they feel like they always underachieve.

Personally, it is important for me to be aware of that. I don’t want to make the mistakes of older generations and prioritise work, which really translates to money and status. It’s not that I don’t like money. But I feel like if my inner-self is not taken care of, if my battery is not recharged, I cannot do anything properly, at least not in a sustainable and proactive way, not to the best of my abilities. Let me explain.

The things I do to relax do not make me feel like I’m resting. Most of what I do is fulfil  tasks and distract myself, no matter how beneficial these may be. I could be cleaning the toilet, reading Shakespeare or watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and yet I’m not resting. I take more and more in, rather than let out. I could be tweaking a creative project or working, I still take more and more in. So when do I ever let it out?

I suppose it’s different for everybody but I think a lot of people will agree with me that life can be very overwhelming. Stimuli are thrown at us from every direction and most of what we do is digital. This disconnects us from the flow of life, we lose more and more activities throughout the day that ground us and make us feel more present. We take for granted important life-sustaining tasks, such as proper nutrition, rest and physical activity. For a lot of people, I know just going through a work week is a very challenging task, filled with stress, expectation and constant activity.

Because of this exact problem, I started meditating, around seven years ago. It has not always been easy but I can confidently say that it’s been a life-changing experience. It’s hard to describe it in words, but mediation really changes the way you think and relate to yourself and others. Through the miracle of neuroplasticity, we can literally change our neural pathways simply by breathing in and out.

My meditation practice is not perfect and is not always as consistent as I would like it to be, but I do try to remember to do at least a bit of it every day. Like this, the positive effect of mindfulness and inner peace stick for longer and help me to go through the day with a sense of calm and composure. In other words, meditation allows me to live my best life.

During the summer heatwaves, we didn’t have much of a chance to enjoy our time outside. Since I usually wake up quite early I was able to hang around my garden in the morning, just before the sun rays turned into blazing lasers ravaging everyone’s lawns. Because of the heat and the stress, I decided to replace my caffeinated morning routine with a healthier and less anxiety-inducing activity: half an hour of meditation in my garden.

I set myself up on a blanket with a few pillows and I got straight to it. During meditation, often times unusual thoughts pop up that normally don’t come to you, or at least not as clearly. I think it’s because when meditating, you generate a sort of calm space in your mind, like a clear water surface. Once this surface appears, thoughts seem to just appear on it without the feeling of agency that we tend to experience when we think or perform other activities.

A few minutes into the practice, I realised I’m getting quite warm and I felt like taking my t-shirt off. This triggered an avalanche of thoughts quickly racing through my head: I have breasts, somebody’s gonna see me and get offended. / But I have the right to be topless in my own garden. / And so what? I have breasts, I have the right to have breasts. / But I don’t want to shock anyone...

This quickly turned into a rather unpleasant experience that sent me on a downward spiral relating to gender standards and misogyny. There I was just trying to meditate and instead I was getting pissed at society and myself for getting so triggered.

As a non-binary person, I don’t relate to the socially constructed female and male genders. It’s not that I don’t feel my femininity or masculinity, it’s just that to me these are fluid and I feel them (more or less) both at once. I don’t know if everybody feels like this to an extent, but I know a bunch of people in this world do. But most of all what I don’t relate to even stronger is the culture surrounding this, the impositions made on masses around the world for us to belong to labels “boy” and “girl”, “man” and “woman” - all based on our sex.

I respect that others don’t feel this way but I grew to also respect that I personally do feel like this. Maybe some people with breasts identify as women and like to be topless, maybe some don’t. Maybe some people born as women but who don’t identify as such wish they did not have breasts, maybe some don’t mind them, maybe some like them. I grew to understand there is space for everybody in this world and everybody has the right to have their own beliefs and opinions. So, I decided to take off my shirt and just continue with my meditation.

It’s not easy to focus on your breath when a lot of thoughts and emotions rush through your body but it also gives you a really interesting insight into your psyche. Because you’re just there letting your thoughts come and go while you refocus your attention away from your mind to your breath, I think it shows you what really matters to you. You observe which thoughts keep on coming back and how you really feel about them when they do, and through this exploration, you get to understand your triggers with much less resistance and in consequence let them go.

I continued to meditate topless for a few days and it was a nice experience. At times it felt a bit uncomfortable but mostly it felt empowering to just do something for myself without putting other people’s concerns over what I wanted to do. Maybe it’s a form of rebellion to just do what seems right to you despite what you fear others may think. But as long as I don’t hurt anyone, it’s a peaceful one.