Mind Over Chatter: Diary of My 4 Tries at Meditation

Leslie Garrett by Leslie Garrett | July 21st, 2009 | 14 Comments
topic: Health & Wellness, Personal Growth

Peace Of MindAs 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.

Comments

  1. I found it very helpful to light a candle in a darkened room, stare at the candle for a minute, then close my eyes and try to retain the image in my mind. When the image started to fade, I would bring it back, over and over again. I would do this until the image would eventually disappear. The more you practice this, the easier it becomes to retain the image for longer and longer periods of time. In fact, I can return to the image at will by simply closing my eyes. I found this very helpful in conditioning my mind to “let go.”

    Sue | July 22nd, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  2. I love your article! It sounds so much like me. I am stil trying. The closest that I think I came to truly experiencing what real mediation is like was at the Kalani Wellness Retreat in Hawaii. Thanks

    Gwen | July 22nd, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  3. Many have said that doing meditation is the ultimate exercise in forgiveness-forgiving ourselves for not “succeeding”, for letting our minds wander. The ultimate forgiveness is giving up what was during the last moment, the last meditation…whatever is is fine.

    Eklectica | July 22nd, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  4. I truly enjoyed the way you described your experience finding meditation. You had me laughing out loud!

    I also loved the reminder about ‘just sitting’. I too am a type A and so I so identified with everything needing to be just perfect.

    Thankk you so much for this thoughtful, inspiring and funny article!

    Blessings from Michigan

    Nanette | July 22nd, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  5. Hi,
    I just about cracked up at your blog. you described my own meditation journey very accurately. You are a very amusing writer, and I enjoyed every word.
    I too, have done all those exact things while trying desperately to simmer down.
    The candles, buddha, books, cd’s dvd etc. and so on. Now , after 12 years of trying, I just sit, like you said and DON’T try to clear my head of pop ups, and just let them happen. I have come to the realization, at 56 years old, that we don’t and mustn’t rush ever again. I just love Rodney Yee and I love your blog. Atta girl!! Thanks for such a great and inspiring article.

    cheryl witherell | July 22nd, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  6. I recommend “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Suzuki Roshi for real insight into “Just Sitting”. My constant and compassionate companion for many years.

    John Henry | July 22nd, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  7. so practical what you wrote. You know we are pushed to beleive in fairy tails. to become spiritual and perfect. While it is also said we are already what we need to be.Why trying to become some ideal -in who’s eyes?I give up my questions and thoughts. It seems we just have to be for today and this moment no more no less. I loved your story. Thank you.

    afsaneh | July 23rd, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  8. [...] interesting to see how the past begins to color the future. Historic events and conditions create mind chatter that can’t even entertain the possibility of [...]

  9. Hi,

    I can very much relate to your blog. I myself had all these fears and apprehensions in the past about meditation. I have a very active four year old girl and I know that it would be difficult for me to finish a ten minute meditation session with her around. When she started school, I found the time to finally focus and concentrate on this task. I have been doing it for more than a year and I have experienced great results!

    Ella | July 27th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  10. Keep up the great work, Leslie. Have you ever tried Shaktipat meditation? I practiced various forms of meditation regularly for about five years, but still felt it was possible to go much deeper. I finally met my present meditation teacher who has been extensively trained in Shaktipat meditation, and everything changed. Meditation not only became much deeper and more blissful, but effortless as well.

    Best wishes to you in your endeavors!

    Eric - mindful meditation student | August 4th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  11. You have really learned the trick to meditating: Expect nothing. If one sits to meditate with some expectation, it won’t work. In my view, it is better to follow a style of meditation that suits (Zen, Vipassana, Kriya yoga…) the individual. One could give a try to find the one that best suits and stick on to one, for better results.

    Jeyaprakash | May 4th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  12. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Bless you!

    north face osito | November 18th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  13. Can you let me know which was your original comment? Not sure exactly how to help but I can try deleting the original comment and see if that stops the emails. Otherwise, take a look at the notification emails and see if they have some sort of unsubscribe option.

    Kind regards,
    Valerie
    Gaiam Content and Social Media Coordinator

    Valerie Gleaton | November 19th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  14. Ahhh … this is the article about meditation i’ve been waiting for. My thoughts about meditation have been the same way. Like there was a right way and a wrong way, and to keep doing it until i got it Right! I have been frustrated by making this all more complicated than it is. Now i understand … just be. It’s not about the poses, sitting positions, it really just about me. I get it … just be in the moment:) Best place to start.

    jennifer | January 6th, 2014 | Comment Permalink

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