A case for meditation, pt. 3

at long last. 2.13.20.

I’m about to hit the elusive 90-day streak in 17 more days.

I’ve only gotten to this point on one other occasion, sometime about a year and a half ago. It’s unclear to me how much I’ve changed, thanks to meditation. The following will be a reflection on the personal benefits I’ve perceived from meditation.

I initially turned to meditation looking for a way to strengthen my relationships by somehow correcting whatever I felt was wrong with myself and to escape the pain I was feeling at the time due to workplace stress. I attributed all these things to myself… which, while it felt empowering to own that much responsibility, became all the more crushing when things weren’t improving in the way I had hoped. Looking back now, I understand that perhaps I was taking too much responsibility. I could have done more, but… how? when the main people who I wanted to confront weren’t willing to straightforwardly admit to having a problem with me? (Ah… I see now that I needed to stand up for myself and to gently and clearly bring the opportunity to them.)

…If there’s anything that I’ve learned these past few years from living on my own, it’s that sustainable, long-lasting change of any sort happens steadily, in very small ways. This is unfortunately a pace that is at-odds with the world that we live in now. In just a few hours, I find that my own mood can shift very often, depending on the events that happen to me and that I interpret. Even if my body is still, my mind often races faster than I can catch it.

Meditation then is not the solution to all of our problems. It will mean and do different things for each of us. Consequently, we should practice it in a way that suits us best. But should everyone do it? What perceivable changes has it done for me?

I will write now a disclaimer about my practice. I have occasionally fallen to the temptation of taking a one-minute meditation in public and not entirely paid attention to it, if only to maintain my streak. But those moments are few and far in-between.

I started practicing it in earnest in mid-2018 and then had an on and off relationship with it, never having a streak that lasted over three months. I still can’t believe it’s been almost two years since I’ve started it. It’s been pretty casual to say the least. But I actually really appreciate that about it. To clarify later…

This is not a sponsored post, but I use the app Headspace, since it currently offers the cheapest premium plan for students ($9.99/yr!). The attitude that the founder promotes regarding meditation is extremely light and nonjudgmental. Not forceful. Not aggressive. Simply… calm. Encourages a gentle yet faintly… playful attitude. We can sincerely practice meditation anytime and anywhere. While my grades haven’t been the greatest in the time that I’ve used meditation (I was going through a lot, and meditation, while very helpful, is not a replacement for therapy), it really helped me distance myself from my thoughts and feelings by utilizing mindfulness, which I believe is the ability to be present in the moment in both mind and body.

I wasn’t running away from my problems though. Meditation, if anything, brought me closer to the discomfort that I habitually and often desperately wanted to escape and distract myself from. Through the deliberate quiet time that I was intentionally placing myself in, I put myself in a position to attend to my mind, which could then speak on full blast, both its unpleasant thoughts and its pleasant musings. There were countless times where I’ve gotten carried away with my trains of thought: planning, worrying, distracting myself, ruminating, daydreaming… all things that I faced when I attempted to study.

But the speaker of the meditation, with the sound of their calm speaking, would then serve as one of the anchors to my main anchor, my breath. The thoughts and feelings might return, and I can still get distracted again, but I can always catch myself by gently noting the distraction as thought or feeling, and then returning to my breath or the sensation of the body.

It’s hard. Really hard. This is why people call meditation a way to when out your mind and focus. Because what could be more boring and ultimately unnoticeable than the breath and your own body? If anything, I tend to regard my own body as simply a oft cumbersome tool, an interface and lens between my mind and the world before me.

At the same time though, what could be more wondrous than our bodies? I still have trouble letting the breath lead my mind, but even when I’m not consciously thinking about it, my body breathes for me. Even if I don’t treat my body as well as I should, it is nevertheless amazingly resilient and adaptable, and it often functions for me about as well as it usually does.

Light, nonjudgmental observance of the mind. An gentle attentiveness to the mind and body. An encouragement to be still, but it’s alright if I end up shifting position. I’m a big shifter when I meditate. But that’s alright too. Just gonna continue doing my best… so I can have a better command on my mind in order enjoy life with my loved ones more.

Meditation then, won’t give me the happiness that I seek, but it can help create the conditions for it. And happiness is always more attainable than what I expect them to be. It’s not about self-correction, it’s about self-love.

Thanks for reading this far. If you have gotten this far, feel free to drop a comment stating your thoughts on meditation. How do you practice it, if you do already meditate? If not, then why not? Can it be argued that you can “meditate” in other ways, like playing an instrument, doing art, or even working? Is meditation the same as entering the flow state? Does it offer the same benefits as entering the flow state? There’s a lot that I still don’t know and understand, but I’d love to learn from or even just talk y’all about it. Take care.

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