I’ve been meditating a lot recently. This isn’t a new development, but something I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with the past few years. After reading about the healing science behind "mindfulness," I began in an attempt to mollify the severe anxiety and depression that's followed me around for 18 years. It's done wonders. However, like many beneficial practices that hold potential for tediousness, committing to being inactive for fifteen to twenty minutes day isn't always easy.
Baffling, isn’t it, how someone who wants to sit at home and never do anything, can have such difficulty sitting at home and not doing . . . anything.
That’s unfair, though, because meditation is far from that. Instead, I'd describe it as actively not doing anything, to keep from doing too much something.
It’s frustrating. I’ll shy away from the word “intimidating,” because I’m not scared of my mind. Nor would anyone be the wiser if I sat on the floor with my eyes closed, contemplating how many parakeets I'll own when I'm a crazy old bird lady. No: I’m just aware of the obvious complication involved with wrangling my thoughts into submission.
But it's worth the effort.
Self-awareness is delivered by unassuming vessels, and it's fascinating that concentrated effort on monitoring the breath reveals patterns of thoughts and emotions. There is an extraordinary byproduct in which becoming intimately familiar with what works for me, has also resulted in becoming intimately familiar with what doesn't.
Moreover, judgments have become more easily discerned as either based in reality, or skewed perception. For example, how emotional I should actually be, over how emotional I feel; the difference between what is real fear, and what is anxiety masking itself as that; if the fatigue I'm experiencing is laziness, or do I actually crave rest; when I might be indulging rose-colored glass privilege, rather than a screaming need to step back a minute for the sake of my goddamn sanity; whether I'm contributing what I want to the world, versus what I can.
There is also the added bonus of being more aware outside the self: To walk through the world and take it in without determining what Instagram filter would look best on it.
Last month I read an article discussing the longstanding Ayurveda tradition in India. The article, which was in Elle, eventually looped back onto the tried and true “which beauty product is best for you” trope, but the basic message resonated with me deeply: listen to your body and self. An idea that makes more sense than anything in this world, but one we all have difficulty grasping.
Of course, there is a strange irony to discovering that wisdom in a periodical known to heavily suggest how one should live, but I won't pick and choose where I find my revelations.
Meditation is not a foolproof system, or I haven't found it to be. Some days I don't get to it. I also still freak out—just not as much, or as drastically. And occasionally while I should be focusing on my breath, my mind will insist on continuing the debate over how many parakeets I'll keep company with in my old age. Nevertheless, to say I have not gained from it immensely, or that it is not worth pursuing, would be a lie. So sitting uncomfortably and fidgeting on the floor I will continue to do.
Also, in case any of you are curious, up to date I've formed a rough estimation of approximately twenty-five parakeets.*
*Subject to change/grow in number.