If you’ve read at least one of these entries, you’d agree that my mind has trouble staying rooted in one place. I could start a paragraph with some vague exposition and, by the time that closing full stop rolls around, end it arguing with the moral compass of puppets. I’m aware that this has become a defining character trait, my mind creating strange associations almost as a sport. That doesn’t mean it’s always a handy habit to have. While it can be useful at times to approach situations with a different perspective (honed by vast introspective travel), it’s not useful when I’m trying to knuckle down and focus. Ever wondered why I write about something new every day? Why I settle for half an hour of stream of consciousness? Partly it’s fear. I’m afraid that if I push myself to keep my mind in a steady groove I’ll lose the ability to freely associate. I’m afraid I’ll be reneging on something that I feel is a fundamental part of the way I operate. I’m afraid that by standing strong and rebelling against my natural instinct to scatter, putting effort into work will result in low quality material that will disappoint me. If I put effort into something and it’s terrible, then by association I’m terrible. On the contrary, if I never try to focus I’ll never fail, because I never will have tried very hard in the first place. I’m sure Yoda would tell me to do or do not, to shove try waaaaay up my sphincter, but Yoda is a) a puppet and b) a fictional character. As such, he happened to be written and puppeteered with the gumption and conviction I lack.
Maybe the grammarily liberal puppet is right though. Perhaps I need to approach this issue with force. Or at least, The Force. In order to harness the light inside of me, I need to focus and find a place of calm. A place where I’m untainted by the world around me and the pop-cultural maelstrom in my brain.
I guess I could’ve skipped all the preamble and just said I tried meditating yesterday, but we’re taking baby steps here.
After finally clicking send on the email that’d spent months in incubation, I was a little bit wound up. Not getting a response made my head spin. The reasonable, logical part of my brain was compiling a list of valid reasons why he hadn’t replied, while my emotional core was puking over the side of a mental tilt-a-whirl. I got home, wrote and rapidly got tired of my own shit. For ages now friends have told me that despite the inherent woo woo connotations, meditation had helped them hugely. It’s something I’ve been wanting to try, but I think of the calm cognitive serenity it entails and run screaming. No word of a lie, the idea of relaxing makes me tense. This is coming from a person who hates sleeping because it feels like a waste of time that could be spent doing something active. I’m afraid of being alone with my thoughts without some kind of conduit to put them into. I need a distraction, be it something to watch, read or listen to. I stress myself out.
I looked into meditation. How does one meditate? What are the optimal conditions? Hints and tips for success? Is there a way to game the system and jump straight to enlightenment? Does IDDQD work in this game? By the time I was ready to start learning how to do nothing, I realised I had 14 tabs open all rife with instruction. This is the problem, I thought, how am I supposed to calm down if I’m trying so hard to get everything perfect?
I closed the tabs. I opened Youtube, searched “meditation 20 minutes” and clicked on the first link.
I sat upright, legs folded and closed my eyes. I began to breathe with a certain rhythm. I inhaled slowly, held it for a second and exhaled gradually. I tried to feel each part of my body, starting from my toes. I rushed, at first, then chastised myself for speeding through things. I had 20 minutes after all. I started to think about other things I could do with 20 minutes. I could’ve been watching Brooklyn 99 or refreshed my Facebook wall 86 times. Stop thinking about things I told myself you’re meant to be thinking about not thinking. Wait, don’t think about that!
It was relentless. I must’ve thought about bagels at least 12 times. I lay on my back in case that would help. I started from my toes again, feeling their inactivity. With each inhalation I’d think about my area of focus, then as I exhaled, felt that area. I moved up the body and stopped fighting wherever my mind would go. It was noisy, but it was background noise. It would barge into my consciousness and slowly leave. This went on for a while and each time I tried my best to keep breathing, to go deeper.
I noticed that while I had some success with accessing a blank, muted space, I was still conscious of where I was. In the forefront of my mind I saw very little, while ghosted images of myself lying atop my bed scrolled like a screensaver though the background. Hey brain, I whispered into the aether, do you realise it takes more effort to imagine what I look like while I’m lying doing nothing than it does to not imagine anything?
I held onto that pause. Waited. Soaked in the radio silence. Chimes sounded. The clip was ending. My 20 minutes were done.
I’m not gonna claim I found any greater meaning. I can’t move objects with my mind while doing a one handed handstand. I have no doubts (refreshing, given the site name) however that I was in a calmer mood. For my first time meditating, things weren’t calamitous. My brain didn’t implode and it certainly didn’t cease functioning. I haven’t changed and Earth is still revolving on its axis.
Whatever my goal, whatever Yoda says, this is a try in my books.