Girl School for Grownups

Like having a big sister, but better because I can't boss you around!

Failing at meditation

on January 29, 2015

(for Audrey, with love)

There are things in life that are empirically good for you. Love is good. Laughter is good. Drinking water, eating vegetables, and wearing sunscreen seem to be habits that are universally accepted as good. Meditation, from what I’ve read, can lessen PTSD, ease depression, calm anxiety, help the mind to focus, and actually changes the brain so it can be a better brain. All good, right? So why don’t I meditate? Why don’t you meditate?

meditation-timemagazineIn my case, meditation sounded like this

Ok, so I’m meditating. Don’t think. Don’t think. DON’T THINK! Focus on breathing. In. Out. What was that thing I meant to do earlier? Shit, stop thinking! In. Out. Good god, why does 5 minutes feel like an eternity? (open eye — one minute down) Ok, breathing. In. Out. In. When I get done I really need to call about that thing. (trail off thinking about that thing) Shit, get back to breathing. In. Out. (repeat for 5 minutes)

Yes I meditated like this, faithfully, at least once every month or so. I did not reap benefits. In the meantime, I bought lots of things that would help with meditation: a special cushion to sit on, really good headphones, CDs with Oprah and Deepak, and app after app after app. I tried some guided meditations and liked them, but could never get up the steam to use them regularly. When you want to do something, and believe it would be good for you, but you don’t do it, it chips away at your sense of efficacy and your faith in yourself. Not good.homer_001

A few weeks ago and friend and I were talking about meditation (hi Laurel) and she said she was using an app called Headspace. I’d seen Headspace but stayed away from it because you had to subscribe after the initial 10 free meditations. Well Laurel told me that on Headspace you can have friends and you can encourage each other to meditate. Hmmmmmm. I have a fitbit, and the friend component has helped me to be more active. So I decided to try it.

For me, Headspace has been the key to starting a successful meditation practice. (I’ve meditated for 10 minutes a day on 11 of the past 14 days. Yep. I’m pretty much Ghandi!) Let me tell you what works about Headspace for me:

  • The meditations are guided and I like Andy’s voice. (Andy is the guy behind Headspace.)
  • For most of the 10 minutes, Andy’s telling you what to focus on.
  • He actually says “meditation is not about getting your mind not to think!”
  • I have 2 friends (3, now that Tim’s trying it) on Headspace and I can encourage them to “get some Headspace.”

When I completed the 10 free sessions, I decided to take the plunge and pay for a year of Headspace. This is where it got interesting for me. As an information junkie, I like to have information, but having it and using it are two very different things. When you subscribe to Headspace, they don’t just give you access to every meditation they have. You need to complete two more 10 session modules to unlock access to all the other stuff. Having to “earn” access is great, because it’s like there’s a prize for consistently meditating. And as I worked my way through the first 10 sessions, there were a few days when I would think “I want to meditate.” This, friends, is a new thought for this ADDish girl.TypeABuddhistHeader

If you decide to try Headspace, please let me know so we can be friends there. (No ulterior motives here — you don’t get referral credits or anything.) And if you have found ways to successfully meditate, I’d love to hear about them.

2 responses to “Failing at meditation

  1. Ken Siegmann says:

    Nice. I teach people to meditate as part of my work. And people come back all the time and tell me they can’t meditate because they can’t shut off the chatter on their heads. It’s not abut that. What I call the radio station of the mind almost never goes silent. Meditation helps us change our relationship with the chatter so we have more space around it and we are not caught up in it. The only way you can actually do it wrong is to beat yourself up for not doing it right. The doing it is the doing it. The effects of meditation are subtle, but cumulative. Do it every day and you will notice profound changes in your life. It really is the glue that holds me together.

  2. Carol Williams says:

    Dear Leslie,

    I am sure you are getting lots of advice on this one!! Here’s mine. Breathe in and breathe out never worked for me either. I say “peace,” “love” instead. I alternate with other one syllable words now and then. It’s easier to concentrate on these. Sometimes I substitute”beauty” for one or the other. If this doesn’t calm me down, I go through all of my family and dear friends, saying “love for Ray,” Austin, Reid, Lauren, Sadie, Sandy, Hoshi, Leslie, Tim, Austin, Tucker, Sherri, Blake, Michelle, Brian, Macy….. until I’ve run through my family and then start on friends. Before I know it, fifteen minutes have passed, and I feel I’ve meditated for the day!!! Good luck. Love, Aunt Carol

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