We try it!

We Try It: Meditation

A lot of people have been trying to tell me to meditate lately. Well, not a lot of people. Specifically, Roseanne, who mentioned it in her advice column in Bust to some lady who was feeling like the world was sucking. Roseanne pointed out that smart human beings believe the world is sucking most of the time, but that maybe meditation might reduce the crushing weight of it.

First a bit of background: I am generally suspicious of anything smacking of the word “spiritual.” The power of positive thinking is to me a load of bull-crap. I’m more Barbara Ehrenreich in my approach to life than The Secret. Meditation reminds me of ALL of these things, but the science-types say it works. And since the weight of the crappiness of the world has been pressing down on me, I thought I’d try it.

My resources:

A couple of meditation podcasts I downloaded
A book about meditation from the public library
A meditation CD I bought on iTunes

My initial impressions:

There seem to be two easily accessible types of meditation aids. The first are these meditations you can download that are about specific things, like sleep and stress relief. Disturbingly, there is a wide category related to eating less. I just ignored those. The second group of aids are those that are more about teaching you how to meditate and these come in the form of books and CDs.

I start out with the first group:

I thought I would prefer these to the ones that just teach you how to meditate because I do well with tasks, but I hated these mostly because positive thinking and spiritual stuff seeps in, which would get me annoyed, thus ruining the entire purpose of meditation.

I move on to just learning how to meditate:

I like this method better, but find it more challenging. I like how it’s really just about clearing your mind and you don’t have somebody mumbling their perspective on your soul or manner of thinking. You can insert as much spirituality (or in my case, lack of spirituality) as you like. I listened to the CD all the way through and then tried adopting the techniques. I put on some of the most relaxing music I have (Stile Antico’s Music for Compline) and really did zone out. I wouldn’t say I got into a meditative state, but after 20 minutes, I felt more relaxed, and dare I say it, positive?

Will I do it again:

I will, though I can’t promise I’ll stick with it. It takes a lot of focus, which is probably a good thing, but it’s hard to find the time and space.

So, what have our experiences been with meditation?

By [E] Sally Lawton

My food groups are cheese, bacon, and hot tea. I like studying cities and playing with my cat, Buffy.

8 replies on “We Try It: Meditation”

I recommend, like highly highly recommend, reading The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. He is a buddhist monk (and a Zen master), and I know you said you don’t like the spiritual mumbo-jumbo, but seriously, it is the best book ever. It’s not specifically about meditation (though he has books specifically about meditation), but it’s about being mindful of your life and living in the present… it basically talks about how to carry the nature of meditation with you. When I took meditation in college (yes, a college class, for credit – it was awesome!), this was the book my teacher recommended. It was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken; yes, we learned meditation techniques, but we also discussed the science behind meditation, the point of meditation, how to use meditation, etc.

Also, I don’t know what meditations you were seeing about eating less, but I do know part of my meditation class we did “mindful eating,” where we ate foods very slowly and experienced them – meaning, we felt them in our hands and described the texture, we placed them on our tongue and felt their weight, we rolled them in our mouth to get a hint of the flavor, and then we chewed them slowly, stopping every chew for a moment to savor the burst of flavor. It was a very interesting way to eat and to experience food, and it really made me think about how mindless I am while I eat. I am scooping the next bite only my fork before I even start chewing! How are you really enjoying and more importantly experiencing the food you put in your mouth if you aren’t even thinking about it as you chew but rather getting the next bite? As I’ve become more mindful of my eating, actually giving the food in my mouth my thoughts, I’ve become more appreciative of flavors, and I do eat more slowly, resulting in me eating less (but I still feel satisfied, I still eat enough, just not enough to be stuffed), but the eating less was a side effect of slowing down and enjoying my food more. I am sure there are cranks out there who try to sell meditation to reduce food intake for the purpose of weight loss, but there is also a legitimate part of meditation that involves being mindful of your food, because it involves being mindful of your body. There is a story in the book I mentioned that describes just this.

ANYWAY. The website my teacher gave us to do guided meditations was It’s also a fantastic free resource for learning about meditation. It’s not at all new-agey with crystals and auras and stuff — very matter of fact. I think it is where she got a lot of her material from.

This got a lot longer than expected.

Oh meditation. How hard you are. The only meditation I’ve done was a ten day sit at a Vipassana meditation centre. You literally sit and meditate for like 14 hours a day. And you can’t talk at all. It was very hard, but also extremely rewarding. The thing about stuff like that is that you don’t really have a choice. Once you commit to it, you’re there, you’re stuck, so shut up and sit and don’t move. That’s why it was effective though, once you’re denied choice, you do what you are there to do. No matter how much you want to pull your friggin hair out.

For me, books and tapes have never really worked. I’ll be all, yo, I’m totally going to get zen and you know what I do? Watch Buffy or dick around on the internet. (I think this is why I practice Bikram yoga. No choice. You do it, it’s hard, and you are totally there. Other yogas and I’m all, woo woo rolling around on the mat I want ice cream.)

Bonus thing about Vipassana? It’s free. There are centres all over the world, and they are all free. You donate when you’re done your sit, and if you don’t have a lot of money, well that’s fine.

When I was active in yoga, I only ever did vinyasa. This is relevant, I promise!

Vinyasa is really fluid, much less sitting still. But I still found myself in a meditative state during yoga because my focus, instead of being in my head like it always is, was on the physical: breathing, placement, balance.

For me, even after I stopped doing yoga as much, meditation happens when I shift my focus from the eight million thoughts in my head to…anything else, really. It’s time away from my mind, time to let everything sort of calm down a little. Reading a good book, some music, a hot bath, focusing all my energy on another person: that lifts the weight and the burden off my shoulders and my mind and lets me breathe easier for a little bit.

If the CDs etc. aren’t your bag, basically, find anything that takes your focus off your brain and your thoughts and puts them somewhere else for a while.

When I rowed, our coach had us meditate. We had a specific CD series, and we listened to it after practices, and we were also encouraged to do it on our own time.

I think a lot of it was fairly silly, but there was a bit in there about visualizing success, and I actually did think that part was helpful.

I checked out a book by Jack Kornfield, which my aunt recommended. It was pretty good. Not too much spiritual mumbo-jumbo. The Meditation CD was called Mindfulness Meditations for Tranquility and Insight. It was pretty instructional, but also really good.

As for the podcasts, I downloaded about 5, all having to do with relaxation and sleep. There are tons for free.

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