I guess what I’m saying is, I think I meditated
February 22, 2017
The 2017 Self-Care Project: Entry #8
I cannot count the number of times meditation has been recommended to me. I think it’s one of those things that makes such a big difference for some people that they tend to become big evangelists of the practice. That and the fact that my personal grievances basically read as a litany of antonyms for the benefits of meditation, particularly all the stuff about improving concentration and attention, easing stress and anxiety and boosting immune function. I read this stuff, and I’m like GIVE ME THAT.
But then I try it and the thing is… I have this major, visceral aversion to it.
And, ok, I have to admit, when I say that “I try” I am referring to some very weak dabbling, about once or twice a year, every year for the past, say, 6 or 7 years. I went to a funny little group in a church attic once. I downloaded a whole MBSR curriculum during OT school, and read about two pages. I’ve signed up for a couple online programs, watched the odd YouTube video, read the occasional article, tried to get people to tell me what to do… most recently, Achim sat me in front of this website, with the first module in a 7-day meditation for super-duper beginners playing. I had a small freakout, until I saw that it was only 5 minutes long. It was ok, and I even declared that I would do it for a week, but I didn’t.
I kind of panic at the prospect of sitting still and think about nothing – or just, worse, thinking only about something as terrifyingly boring as breathing. Those slow voices, the deliberate un-thinkyness of it kicks off this almost compulsive non-stop yawning. I can’t seem to stop paying attention to any little aches and pains, and the fact that usually you are supposed to sit up just seems cruel. I also kind of get that these things are pretty typical for beginners, and might even be evidence that I could use it all the more, but that thought is just super annoying.
So recently I’ve given myself a pass. I haven’t looked into it in a while, save that website Achim put in front of me. I’m doing lots of other good things. I hadn’t dashed it off my list, but meditation wasn’t a priority, anyway.
But then yesterday, something kinda sneaky happened. After an unusually uncooperative out-the-door with Jonah, I’d spent the morning cleaning the apartment to the chirpy, high-pitched tunes of Silly Songs 2 on repeat, which is of course utterly my favourite way to pass the time. I’d finally shut that sing-along down and gotten Ali to sleep and continued on to the task of finding homes for all my crafty crap in the office-turned-art studio. It had been sitting in a state of disaster for the past couple of weeks, and I really needed to put a push in. This kind of organisation feels like trying to thread big wad of fuzzy yarn through a sewing needle to me (weird analogy, I know, but that is literally the picture I get in my mind). It just feels clumsy and messy and frustrating and maybe even impossible. BUT I did it!! I did. I got almost everything put away! Whew.
And, amazing, Alida was still asleep. My head was throbbing, I don’t get headaches too often, but I had this weird pain in my eyebrows and my neck, and I was worrying about Jonah, after the stressful morning we’d had. My mind was flitting through all the things I should be doing, could be doing with this unexpected time and just couldn’t land. I decided to take a nap, but when I lay down, my mind was still spinning.
And for some reason, without thinking, I started instructing myself to do some of the little rudimentary things I (apparently) learned in my various forays into meditation. I just thought – you have a lot of thoughts in your mind Elena. These are too many thoughts. And I started breathing deeply, relaxing my body. I instructed myself to focus on my breath, like that website suggested, because if I was thinking about breathing, I reasoned, I couldn’t think about all those other things. I remembered that time in the church attic, where I was instructed to imagine my thoughts as clouds floating by. Just acknowledge them, and let them mosey on by. I remembered some calm voice saying that it was okay if my mind drifted away from my breath to another thought, just to gently bring it back…
And suddenly, I was stirred by the voices of my neighbours in the hall. I opened my eyes, and I felt weirdly fresh. I hadn’t been sleeping, but for a couple minutes there, I had truly pretty much just thought about breathing. I had actually left that electric circus of thoughts behind! And it was kinda crazy! I felt so much better.
Alida woke up a few minutes later and I had to feed her and go get Jonah from preschool, but in the car I found myself remarking on how much better my head felt. Later, when I spoke to Achim on the phone while watching Jonah anxiously through the window at his first ever (somewhat) organised sport (rock climbing), I was trying to recount this weirdly refreshing experience I’d had, when it kinda dawned on me.
“I guess what I’m saying” I told him, laughing and lowering my voice self-consciously, “is, I meditated.”
And honestly, I almost can’t believe this, but I kinda really wanna do it again.
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Until next week! Glad I got this out – I’m back on track with my project, now. I’m really pleased with this week’s illustration, actually. I didn’t plan at all or think much about it, just snip snip scribble done, and it’s the first thing I’ve made and felt fully satisfied with in weeks! Probably a lesson in there about trying too hard or forcing it or something. 🙂
Be kind to yourselves, my friends.