I started meditating yesterday. In true ADHD form, I’ve already completed a week’s worth of meditation “training” or practice. Each session is set to be a manageable 10 minutes long. I devour three different sessions in one sitting (or lying as my core has deteriorated so much that sitting is too distracting), and do two sittings a day.
For two whole days in a row.
I signed up for a free year subscription to a meditation app my credit card company offered me because it was free and who knew, maybe I’d eventually get around to it, like I’d hopefully get around to the core and stability program I had bought, or the series of yoga classes, or the series of pilates classes. They sit in tabs on my browser so I’ll be able to find them when I eventually do finally decide to use them.
Yesterday was one of those days where you just wish you could do a hard reset and start again. There was no real reason for feeling like shit, like bitter, hard, snarly shit, but I woke up and I did and nothing improved my mood and I felt like I was going to pop off on some poor, unsuspecting faculty member who just came to virtual office hours looking for some help. I was also exhausted but sleep comes fitfully or not at all, and if I did happen to fall asleep, I can’t power nap and would have been out for hours when really I only had 45 minutes.
Introduction to meditation, a 30-day program. Seven days of managing stress. Seven days of calm. Mindfulness at work. Seven days of calming anxiety. Untangling physical pain. Daily calm. I binge them all, but only one episode of each. Once over lunch as I prepare for office hours. Once at the end of the work day because I can’t carry the day downstairs with me to unload on my family.
Sit, they say, but I lie down, and I know I won’t fall asleep because I never fall asleep not ever even when it is dark and quiet and I have the perfect pillow and sheets and blanket and the room is the perfect temperature. The brain never, ever stops making sleep almost impossible. The background noise I choose is gentle waves lapping and it soothes me and when the perfectly calibrated and calming voice tells me to breathe, I breathe.
I know how to breathe from years of swimming and yoga. It does calm me, and I am reminded I know all of these things they are saying to me because it is what I tell my kids at night, breathing with them, relaxing each part of their body working their way down, blowing away thoughts that cross their minds with their breath like leaves in the wind in the fall or clouds drifting by in sky. Focus on your breath. Bring yourself back to your breath.
Don’t feel bad if your mind wanders or thoughts pop up and my brain takes that as permission to test if I am serious about meditation or if I am just lying down for a moment of restless rest. There is moment in the practice where I feel myself momentarily shift, like when I swam and my aerobic system kicked in and replaced the anaerobic system that was running things. My conscious mind finally gives up, and then my unconscious mind has a go, and things become like a waking dream that now I have to try and just accept and let go of.
Name the thing you are experiencing: See. Feel. Hear. Mostly, largely I feel, but I also start to see when the unconscious kicks in and I try not to judge myself when WTF images float about in my head. CONCENTRATE ON YOUR BREATH. My hands feel weird and they shift seemingly of their own accord. I focus on the voice that is guiding me through the session, and marvel at their even tone and volume.
When the voice talks about how our bodies feel when we are stuck in traffic, I tense up immediately and wish she had chosen any other example. HOW DOES SHE EXPECT ME TO REMAIN CALM IN TRAFFIC WHEN I AM LATE AND LETTING MY KIDS DOWN?!?!?! Back to my breath, again, again, again. I try to sink deeper into the bed, let go of myself, of tension. Softness. Soften that area when you exhale. Do not judge it, but soften instead.
What if you were to greet those sensations, those feelings as if they were friends, as if you welcomed them? As they drift by, or invade in my case but they don’t say that, say, friends. Please don’t talk about friends right now. How about I just keep focusing on my breath. I welcome my stiff and sore jaw. I welcome my pounding sinuses.
My dog whines and starts to wander around. Breath. My son yells at his video game. Breath. My daughter yells something to her friends over discord. Breath. There are things that even noise-canceling earbuds won’t muffle enough for my mind not to snap to them. I forget to take my Apple Watch off and it buzzes with notification, but I go back again and again to my breath.
I look for one on productivity because I have to write and I can’t write right now. It’s all too much, but there isn’t one, not really, because I guess this isn’t about what we produce and instead who we are in the moment we are experiencing, which to me in the moment is pretty fucking unproductive. Breath. Breath. Breath. I lie down because I can’t bear to sit in the chair anymore at my desk that I spend all day and then some in my room because there is no more difference between work and home. My bed means I am not at work.
Friends. I think about the podcast episode where we laugh and laugh and laugh about how people ask us if we’ve tried yoga. I think of all my friends who I’ve talked to and help through this by saying versions of what I am hearing right now: just let yourself feel the feelings because it is real and valid and fine to not be ok. I think about how I offered the analogy of fighting the water when swimming and instead to just flow with the waves, with the water, working with it. How I know all of these things and share them with my friends and they thank me and I feel good about helping them and yet here I am a mess listening to a playlist and crying, unable to stop.
Breath. Breath. Breath.
I write this blog post in my head while I meditate even though after every idea, ever sentence, I bring myself back to my breath. I try to do one more session because I AM NOT CALM AND CENTERED, but the post is now written in my head and no amount of waves crashing and soft voices in my ear or deep, slow focused breaths will calm me. The meditation is now to write, focusing on the words as my fingers fly over the keyboard and I still focus on my breath my my mind is free enough to write and write and write.
I think, if I write this, it will be out of me, and I will have created space and met the moment with an openness welcoming it as a friend and letting it be what it is without judgement. I will hit publish and at least for a moment, I will have some sort of peace.