I will do anything to avoid meditating these days.
I would prefer attempting to pull apart impossibly entangled christmas tree lights. I would rather scrub my shower walls with a toothbrush, or organize my spice cabinet by the alphabet. I would rather brush my cat against the grain so as to get more hair with each stroke. My cat is mean and dislikes being brushed.
But, I’m really trying to sit my ass down and just do it. Last night, after I’d cleaned my entire house and couldn’t find a single interesting book to read, I finally lit a candle. I took some heaving breaths and focused on my natural breath going in and out of my nostrils.
<S.N. Goenka’s guttural voice>
“You have to work very hard. Diligentlyyy…Ardentlyyy…Patiently, but persistently – continuouslyy.”
Yeah, I know. Patiently and persistently….%^$##%^&**(((*&%$^&%^^!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
My mind begins rolling the fear porn. My heart lurches in its cage. I take a deep breath and straighten my back. This pillow is hurting my ass. *Breathes in…why DID I say that? Breathes out…Will I have enough money this summer? …and in. I need to buy that ticket before prices go up….breathes out…my stomach is eating itself alive….and in…
After sitting for about thirty minutes, my breathing becomes rhythmic and soft. My jaw un-clenches, and I can no longer feel that my hands and fingers are intertwined in my lap. They feel like they’re floating.
Forty-five minutes roll by, and my upper back muscles begin their protest. It’s a familiar pain I memorized after meditating for eight hours a day, for ten days straight (a few years back). That first pain felt like a nasty little fire demon gleefully licking my back. I imagined the pain was conscious and deliberately torturing me. Eventually, I learned to breath through it (or sweat through it, or shake through it, or even cry a bit through it).
By god, this hellish experience taught me to sit with pain. Problem is: consistency. I need persistence. Paaaaatienceandpersistence…..
I usually meditate with a technique called Anapana Sati, which literally means ‘breath in’, ‘breath out’ and ‘awareness’. If you spend long enough just focusing on the sensation of inhaling and exhaling, you’re going to get places – places your mind can’t reach for a time. With persistence, the mind will give up trying to get your attention with fantasy or fear mongering…for a spell, anyway. It sits alone, grumpily on a stone, waiting for you to finish focusing on your effing nostrils so it can do its happy dance in the aisles of the fear train you’ve been riding.
Once I master Anapana Sati, I do Vipassana, which is basically scanning the body. I start from the top of my head until it feels like bugs are crawling around on my scalp (gross, maybe, but true), then I move down. I feel my forehead, my eyeballs, the backs of my eyeballs. My nasal canal, the inside of my cheeks, my mouth, inside my mouth, my ears, inside my ears, my jaw, my neck, back of my neck, my throat, the crook of my neck….and so on, all the way down to my pinky toe. And then I go back up again. And down again, and up again. Sometimes I will focus on something spasming somewhere, just because I’m curious. And I watch it, and it passes away, and I return to my regular programming.
And that’s it. Sometimes I feel my body reach to the corners of the universe. Sometimes I can’t get out of my hell-head at all and suffer through an entire hour. Patience and persistence. It’s all just about patience and persistence.
Five reasons you should try meditating:
- You can clear your mind of all the rubbish it’s flinging around like a speed-balling rock star. Believe it.
- A relaxed state is linked to higher levels of serotonin and to the growth hormone responsible for repairing cells and tissue.
- Meditating everyday will help you become more focused and clear throughout the day. I can attest to that.
- It can switch on and off genes linked to stress and immune function and switch on genes that protect your body from things like high blood pressure, infertility, arthritis, cancer and inflammation, just to name a few.
- This world needs more clear-headed people. You could be of great service in learning how to master your own mind. Just my humble opinion, of course.
Vipassana courses through S.N. Goenka are completely free and available worldwide. There’s also Transcendental meditation, which I know less about but heard it’s equally great (although not donation-based, but still not unreasonably priced).
There’s also just closing your eyes and breathing through it….but meditation is better, babies.