Meditating on Meditation
When a friend suggested meditation might help me relax and find my bliss, I didn’t anticipate becoming even more stressed instead.
Anyone who regularly meditates is no doubt shaking their head right now, but my failings have me seriously wondering whether there’s a remedial class for wanna-be meditators.
Merriam-Webster defines meditation as “steady or close consecutive reflection: continued application of the mind.” I’ve been looking for something that will calm my mind, which usually is going a thousand miles a minute, while achieving inner peace and harmony. Meditation seemed like a quick and easy path to serenity that doesn’t involve food, alcohol or spending a lot of money.
As part of my perpetual efforts at self-improvement (don’t laugh), beginning my day in a peaceful state of mind appeared to be a good objective. So I ordered a book that promised I could quiet my mind and enrich my life in only five minutes – which is about all I can spare with the usual demands of my weekday mornings and an impatient dog.
As it turned out, ordering the book was the most relaxing part. Even though it promised its 100 morning practices would help me stay “calm and focused” for the entire day, I couldn’t even stay calm and focused for the five-minute exercises.
In my defense, the book might have included simpler, more specific instructions. And for anyone chortling that meditation is pretty simple, I beg to disagree. For example, I’m still not sure whether my 5-minute morning practice is supposed to include the time necessary to read the directions for each exercise. And I was pretty certain I’d never remember them from the night before, which would kill my chances for the guaranteed inner relaxation, peaceful awareness and connection, the ability to relate better to others, and a chance to grow wiser and kinder in the morning. (Yes, the book promised all of this.)
Then there were the exercises themselves. I was flummoxed by the directive to “breathe mindfully,” defined as being “a kind observer of your own breath sensations as they move in and out of your body.” What was I supposed to observe – that I’m breathing so I must be alive? If I wasn’t being kind, would I think cruel things like: “At your age, you really ought to know how to breathe right”?
And how could I be sure when the five minutes ended if I closed my eyes (purportedly AFTER reading the directions) during my mindful breathing?
When I observed to a friend that this whole effort to achieve serenity was having the opposite effect, she suggested a timer. But how calming is the tick, tick, tick of a timer? I also worried I’d peek at it instead of breathing mindfully between the times I was supposed to conjure up an image to ponder, such as envisioning the last time I acted bravely. Sorry, but I’ve never found the adrenaline associated with fear, which then requires courage, to be calming.
The most soothing part of this adventure followed my decision to abandon the book when it recommended a creative exercise requiring me to “sing a song to your plants” and “display your breakfast in a creative way.”
It was the opposite of comfort to know my terrible singing voice might kill my plants and there’s no way I’ll ever find bliss by making my oatmeal look more artistic.
But I say that in the most soothing and mindful way possible.
Dear Readers, I'm sorry meditation didn't work out for Pat (hi Pat!), but it might work out for you. Find five ways that meditation might help you, here. Love, Hoopie