As much as it pained me to admit, meditation was not changing my life. I’d been curious about it for years, imagining that I would magically morph from a Type A, prone to loud laughter and occasional drama, into an ethereal entity whose “problems” would dissolve in the face of age-old wisdom. I would wear long, flowy clothes and speak in a gentle whisper. I would never sweat. Or swear.
But because my goals for meditation seemed so distant and lofty, I put it off, waiting for a time in my life when it seemed achievable.
Attempt #1: Great expectations
When I had my first child, I tried meditation in hopes of reducing my anxiety about my abilities as a mom. I tried being still. I tried focusing on my breathing. But in less than 30 seconds, I’d be fast asleep. And when I awoke, rather than feeling relaxed, my blood pressure skyrocketed. I had dirty dishes to do, smelly sleepers to wash, a baby to mother. I put it off again until I thought I could do it and stay awake at the same time.
Meanwhile my curiosity deepened. I read books about meditation. I grilled people who went on meditation retreats. I bought candles. Buddha figures. Meditation CDs. I became cozy with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Deepak Chopra, whose books on meditating kept me company late at night in bed. I trained for meditation the way a runner prepares for a marathon. I was going to be an Olympic meditator … once I got started.
Attempt #2: Mutinous spine
Three children, two Buddhas, a half-dozen CDs, any number of meditation supplies, and 11 years later, I felt ready. I even had a gauzy skirt that would suit the new me. I prepared my meditation table. Lit some candles. Sat down, crossed my legs and closed my eyes.
Ouch. My legs no longer bent that way. Hmmm. I remembered reading that sitting cross-legged isn’t crucial, so I opened one eye and stretched my legs straight out in front of me.
Closing my eyes once again, I sat still. I’m sure I looked earthy in my skirt …. But rather than the beautiful straight-backed posture of the yoga-gurus I envied, I could feel my back bending like a question mark. “Sit tall,” I silently ordered my spine. It refused to cooperate for more than a minute, at which point I would teeter on my pillow like a drunk Buddha.
Attempt #3: Thought onslaught
Yoga slowly helped me train my spine not to cave at the slightest exertion, and I felt ready to try again. My position seemed perfect. I lit my candles and focused on my Buddha, then closed my eyes.
“Did you remember to pay your property taxes?” asked my brain. I imagined a broom sweeping away the question. Then, like that crazy whack-a-gopher game at amusements parks, another popped up. “Isn’t it your turn to prepare snack for soccer practice?” And another. I sighed.
Attempt #4: Giving up — and getting the point
Then I came across the words of meditation teacher Rodney Yee, who advised us neophytes to “just sit.” It’s that simple, he insisted. Give up the expectations. Give up the need for a certain meditation experience.
Really? It flew in the face of my goal-oriented personality. Skeptical, I nonetheless gave it a whirl. And guess what happened?
While I haven’t given up my Type A propensities completely, I nonetheless am now less inclined to let loose with a four-letter expletive. I’ve learned to listen to my body (though it’s prone to complaining). I’m very very slowly learning to simply be in the moment.