10 days ago I restarted my meditation practice. I’ve meditated off and on my whole adult life, and every time I restart, I always think to myself, “why don’t I do this all the time?” The answer is: it’s easy to let a new habit slide, and when it slides, it never becomes an old habit. The only rejoinder to that is, “okay then; I’m restarting now. Here’s hoping!”
The kick-off was easy: I signed up for a meditation workshop, which I mentioned in a blog post here. Being with others (even virtually) and having an instructor made reentry much smoother. Also, I have apps, websites, youtube videos, and actual paper books to help guide and urge and cajole me into getting a routine going.
So far, my routine looks like this:
- Get up in morning
- make coffee
- drink coffee and possibly read some of one of the meditation books I own (I’m currently reading Sharon Saltzberg’s Real Happiness, which has QR codes you can scan with your phone to access guided meditations– cool!).
- sit on yoga bolster on floor and do a guided meditation for 10–15 minutes
- go about my day
- get in bed
- play some meditation app thing, breathe and sleep
Notice, I don’t look at my computer or phone at all during this period (except to access one of the recorded guided meditations). This part is crucial. Once I start reading email, the game is over.
Turns out it’s really nice to get up and start my day this way. I don’t have children, or dogs that need walking, or other commitments right away in the morning. I know I’m lucky to be able to devote the beginning of my day to this, and this alone.
It also turns out that I think this meditation thing is kind of working. That is, I’m starting to notice some things– good and/or interesting things.
One: My feelings of panic and fear and shame show up in different parts of my body.
Last night I was doing a meditation before bed, and some thought or feeling came up, and all of a sudden I was feeling ashamed of something or other. I kept breathing, and noticed that it manifested as an unpleasant tension in the back of my mouth and jaw. Very curious bodily sensation. I focused on it, kept breathing, and it passed. Fear was more in my gut/midsection– it felt like waves of movement, forward and backward. And panic– well, it’s what you would expect: a tightness in my throat. Again, breathing, noticing, not attaching these sensations to thoughts or focusing on the thoughts, and eventually they subsided.
Two: I’m definitely a bit more chilled out now.
My base level of anxiety has dropped enough so that I can consider and take on a wider range of choices and tasks for myself throughout my day. Feelings and worries still arrive, but there’s space between the feelings and the negative thoughts they represent.
Three: I’m worrying a bit less about my sleep and am also sleeping a bit better.
The past four months has been insomnia central at my house. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Boy is it yucky! I’ve tried a variety of medications, changes of diet (I only drink one coffee in the morning, so don’t even mention the idea that I’d give it up…) and restorative yoga before bed. None of them helped very much. But meditation seems to help me take a few steps away from my thoughts, so I can turn my attention to my breath and what’s happening in my body.
Four: I’m feeling more creative and doing something about it.
On Tuesday afternoon my friend Pata and I did zoom crafting together for a couple of hours. Pata is an artist (among other things), and makes jewelry (along other things). She’s been teaching me how to make beaded necklaces, and I made a couple of them in late 2019. However, on Tuesday, the muse was with me, and I made four necklaces! They’re not masterpieces, but I like them, and really enjoyed both the design and the handwork of putting them together. Yay!
Five: I’m feeling like I don’t have to rush so much in my life. Which translates into doing less and being okay with it. This is very much a work in progress, but I feel it starting.
I hate rushing and can’t stand being behind or feeling like I’ve got to hurry to catch up. On anything. Being way behind others while cycling has never been fun (I know, many other people don’t mind this, but I do). I don’t like to be the last to arrive or to turn in things, etc. One way to avoid this problem is to put fewer tasks on my plate. That way I can focus on the thing in question, and I’ll have more resources to devote to it without feeling so frantic or rushed.
Honestly, I’m feeling strongly this way about upping my level of physical activity. I’ve been more sedentary than I would’ve liked during the pandemic, and I don’t feel like rushing into fitness. I want that process to be more pleasurable, more doable, more sustainable. I want it to be like meditation; I do it every day, focusing on it, and it’s a part of my daily life. Yes, I’m willing to sweat and to put in some effort. But I want to be able to breathe through it the whole time.
Meditation for 10 days is helping me realize that I can do this. And I am.
Dear readers, do you meditate? What does it do for you? I’d love to hear from you.