In December I was increasingly frantic and disconnected from any sense of well-being when a friend challenged me to meditate. 30 minutes for 30 days. I was sort of desperate for any way to stem the feeling of walls closing in around me so I took her up on it. I wrote here about the immediate experience I had of holding space for myself in a life that often feels like it's about doing my duty towards my child, my marriage, my family, and my job first.
It's been about 45 days now and the strangling claustrophobia has largely lifted. I'm not sure if this is due entirely to the practice of sitting in the mornings, but I think it's a positive element in a regime of self-care I'm trying to faithfully implement. Some things I've noticed:
- I'm not really good at meditation, at least what I imagine capital-M Meditation is like. In a single sit I consider it a win if I have a couple of breaths where my mind is focused only on that moment.
- My mind is like an unruly toddler, constantly flitting from one trivial thing to the next. I don't tend to notice that in my daily life so much, since I'm constantly being bombarded by stimuli and expected to get things done. But when I'm sitting silently in the dark, the speed with which my mind alights from one thing to the next is staggering. I write whole blog posts in a single exhale. And forget them on the inhale while I imagine something else. It can be exhausting. And sometimes, when I'm in the mood to judge myself, disheartening.
- The Present must be just awful. I mean I know with certainty, now that I've tried for a month-and-a-half to be in it, that it's not really awful. But somehow my mind (all our minds, I think) does not want to be there. Wants to avoid it like the plague. I wonder what that's about.
- Breathing is hard. Maybe it's because I fell off the yoga-wagon shortly after Ezra was born, and so haven't had any kind of pranayama practice in three years, but damn if I can sustain any kind of deep, intentional breathing. Even after 6 weeks.
- Thirty minutes is a long time. Well, not really. But it is when you need to do it - and your morning pages and your run - before your child wakes up. I did 30 minutes every morning for the first 30 days, but in an effort to make the practice sustainable and in a belief that even a little bit of meditation is better than none, I've scaled it back to 15 minutes every morning.
- Even if I'm doing it wrong, it's the right thing to do. Mostly I just give myself permission to be a bad meditator. Some mornings I beat myself up about it, and then I try to remind myself that it's okay if I'm not really in whatever peaceful state I imagine meditation is supposed to bring. In a life chock full of somuchtodorightnowrightnowrightnownomakethatyesterday I am pretty sure there's medicine in forcing myself to sit alone and do nothing for a few minutes, while the sun comes up.