Warning: This is my experience with mediation, individual results may very.
Towards the beginning of the year I decided to take up meditation. A few artists that I admire do it, it has been linked to making the body and mind more healthy, and couldn’t we all use a little quiet time? Now Pinterest and other such websites have told me that all I have to sit down and concentrate on something to be meditating but I wanted to dive a little deeper into it and make sure I was doing it right. I used a Christmas gift card to get The Three Pillars of Zen by Phillip Kapleau Roshi. It has fabulous reviews and the forward is written by one of my favorite writers Huston Smith. Ironically the forward was my least favorite part of it. The forward was good, but very deep- it was like a thick piece of food that my mind had to chew on for a while, almost every sentence having to be worked over in my mind before I could go to the next thing. It was just a lot to take in at first, but that’s what I wanted right? So I read on and eventually got to the practice of meditating and how to sit what to do, etc.
The interesting part is I still don’t now if I’m doing it right. I count to ten while I breath, starting with inhaling on one, exhaling on two, so on so forth. Then you move onto other types of counting. I usually would start right after I woke up and fed the cats, because any pet owner knows there is no peace when kitty is hungry. I only meditated for five minute a day the first week. It was a new position for my body; my feet would fall asleep and I was always over correcting my posture. Now in the book it says to wear loose, comfortable clothing. Well most women will tell you bras are rarely loose or comfortable, so I would go sans bra. By day three I realized my “ladies” were pulling me to floor and my back was really starting to hurt from just trying to keep those babies off the carpet. So I found one of my more worn out, comfortable bras (which I affectionate refer to as a “house bra”) and suddenly my posture was not so painful. I don’t know if I am breaking the rules by doing this, but I don’t care it works for me and gives me one less thing to be distracted by.
So in the book it mentions that certain thoughts will come into your mind that make situations and relationships very clear. He recommends having a pad and pen nearby. I’ve have yet to remember a pad and paper, but from day one I had some interesting revelations. As I began counting (probably only up to 4) a thought came in my mind:
Wouldn’t it be so cool to talk to my Dad about this? He’s meditated before…though not very regularly. But I’m sure he would be happy I was trying it. Wait, I lost count…I have to start at one again…inhale one, exhale two. You know, he never really stuck with any hobbies. Shit…inhale one, exhale two…
I think I got up to six that time. Maybe that’s why I have never taken to hobbies. Would this really be described as a hobby? Probably not. Why should I care if he’s happy I’m doing this?
And the thoughts kept on creeping in and I would have to start over again. As you can imagine five minutes became very long and very short all at the same time. I did not feel very peaceful or Zen…and I felt a sudden desire to take a kick boxing class. But, just like that a very complex relationship that had some walls were knocked down for me to see.
I went back the next day, tried again. This time when a thought came in my mind I tried to gently push it away. It took me two weeks to do that gracefully. To this day I still don’t know if I am doing it correctly.
Early on thoughts of what I could be doing with the five, ten, fifteen minutes that I had eventually worked up to were the constant agitators. All the little morning things that needed to be done to start a day right, should be getting done with this new found time. But I noticed that I slept better on the days I meditated and my anxiety was a little bit more manageable. I only had to check that I locked the door once, instead of many times. For a few months I meditated about five times a week, sometimes more than once a day. It was only twenty minutes of my day-I just watched one less show or multi-tasked a little better later.
Eventually when those thoughts of all of the things I could be doing with the time crept in, I was able to tell my mind: No, this is your time. You have the rest of the day to think about those things, or remember to make a call, or whatever else I thought needed to be analyzed at that moment. Right then I was just going to breath and focus.
It’s kind of amazing how my my brain won’t let me just count to ten slowly without throwing in a whole bunch of thoughts that usually have nothing to do with anything. They just pop up and say Boo! And it’s not that you think of nothing when you meditate, you just ….I can’t explain it, but it’s not nothing.
Sometimes it has led me to some pretty hard stuff, realizations about my life and how my brain works. In early summer I ended up taking a break for a while. We had my Mother-In-Law in town for a few weeks and I couldn’t block out the noise I felt when she was here. So I didn’t meditate…which I think my brain had gotten accustomed to and my reactions and feelings manifested in strange new ways. But everyone made it though in tact and birthday cards were still exchanged this year, so let’s call it a win.
Eventually I made my way back to the mat. Still wrestling with the thoughts that want to lead me away from what I’m doing. If anything it is at least a daily moment to claim as my own. I think many of us allocate our time to others so easily by necessity or obligation, but we don’t usually have the same approach for ourselves. Not to say that we need to be more selfish (there’s enough of that going around), but I think we need to give ourselves at least a five minute break from everything else once in a while. We don’t seem to be big on breaks in modern society. If we have one were usually checking our personal email or playing with our phones (I’m still totally guilty of this by the way). But maybe things would be a little more clear, a little easier if we felt obligated to treat ourselves how we treat the ones we care for.