Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Meditating Without Really Meditating

BUH-BYE, 2014. You kinda sucked.
Hello my dear friends -

I bet you thought I forgot all about this blog, huh? Quite the opposite, actually. I come up with things to write about on a daily basis. . . and then feel a huge weight of guilt when I never find the time to put the virtual pen to paper and get them published.

But it's a new year, and with every new year comes hope that things can change, right? For me, I am hoping things can REALLY change. At the end of December, I was truly happy to see how many of my friends felt that 2014 was a banner year for them. Great jobs, babies, cool pets, new homes, wonderful work opportunities, fabulous trips, good health—all of it. Reading those positive recaps on my Facebook feed reminded me that I certainly had some big highlights of my own last year, and for that I am thankful. But all in all, 2014 was not a fun one for me, and I'm glad it's over.

In preparation for trying to make 2015 better, I made a vow that I would begin meditating again. Like acupuncture (which will hopefully get its own dedicated post one day soon), meditation is something I first tried several years ago—possibly as early as 2008 or 2009, I honestly can't remember—when I began going through infertility treatments. And also like acupuncture, meditation is something I found so beneficial that I continued doing it even after we had little Desmond. For a while. I still have acupuncture sessions on a weekly basis, but I stopped meditating a few years ago. Here's why I want to get back to a daily meditation ritual (and why I think you should give it a try, too).

Let's get one thing out of the way first. Take a long hard look at these pictures. Because I fear this is what most people envision when they think of someone meditating. I know I did. And that makes the whole thing kind of intimidating.

You don't have to be a monk. Or Buddhist. I swear.

Nice. But not very realistic.

Now picture a haggard-looking 40-year-old woman in four layers of clothing topped off by a raggedy-but-comfy pink fleece robe and brown fluffy pull-on slippers (did I mention hell has literally frozen over here in Chicago today? The Man is even letting my husband work from home thanks to sub-zero windchills), sitting on a chair in her home office with her iPhone earbuds in. THAT's my meditation reality, and it's totally acceptable.

Here's what else is acceptable: not actually meditating while you're trying to meditate. I mention this because I used to have the perception that people who love meditation must be wired differently than me somehow. That they must be able to snap their fingers and fall into a deep, peaceful state of relaxation that nothing in the world could pull them out of until they were ready. That they spent every moment of their session breathing deeply, conscious of the rise and fall of their body, able to keep stray thoughts out. When they woke up, they would feel completely refreshed and ready to face life. They would have gained deep insights about the world and themselves. They'd find new solutions to problems that seemed unsolvable. And they must have certainly experienced some sort of nirvana.

Except that's not what happens. At least that's not what happens for me.

YOU get a crystal, and YOU get a crystal, and YOU GET A CRYSTAL!
What happened for me today, for example, is that within approximately three seconds of hitting "Play" on my meditation podcast, my 80-pound black lab decided to plop down next to me with his bone and start gnawing away loudly. Sirens blared on my very busy street. I heard the man's calming voice instructing me to breathe deeply ... and I DID breathe deeply, several times ... but then I started planning out who was going to sleep where two weekends from now when six relatives come to visit. Then I tried to focus again. Then I got the idea to write this blog post! Then I tried to focus yet again. Then I vowed to try and write a personal blog post every single day. (Something I clearly haven't been able to do for years—way to ease back into things and not set yourself up for failure, e!) Then I focused back on the man's soothing voice . . . just as he was telling me to get ready to emerge from my deep state of relaxation. Twenty-four minutes had passed. I'd even been clutching crystals in each hand that are supposed to aid in meditation (courtesy of a holiday trip to Sedona, Arizona, where they are REALLY into crystals).

But you know what? I'm still thrilled I did it. Because it did free my mind up, even if it was only for a couple of minutes. And I did get a few deep breaths in, which is never a bad thing. And because I know that I have to be patient with myself and give myself at least a few weeks to get back into a groove with this. At worst, I have a session like today. At best, I completely lose myself for a half-hour and am able to carry some of that peace with me for a while.

There's no Pale Man in mine, at least.
And no, you don't even need to spend a half-hour. One of my favorite meditation podcasts is 17 minutes. There are plenty I've done that are less than 10 minutes. The point is to make a habit of it—to prioritize giving yourself this bit of "me time." I was going to link to some of the recent articles touting all of the benefits of meditation, but I'm pretty sure no one reading this is going to argue that attempting to clear your mind for a bit is somehow not worth it.

So while I won't link to all of those studies that you can easily Google yourself, I will tell you that the podcasts I have gravitated toward are #1 (A Basic Meditation) and #7 (Your Sacred Space) from The Meditation by Jeane and Jesse Stern—free on iTunes. The "sacred space" one asks you to envision a place you go to in order to chill out. The one I've conjured up in my head seems to have been inspired by Pan's Labyrinth. I don't know if I should be worried by that or not.

I also like the Chopra Center for Wellbeing's podcasts with David Ji, who just might have the best voice ever. These are also free on iTunes.

If anyone out there has some recommendations, I'm all ears.

Peace to you and yours in 2015.

- e

Peace to you, however you're able to find it, in 2015.

1 comment:

Annie Logue said...

This is great, and welcome back to blogging and to meditation, Erika!