When my doctor told me that my heart pains were not angina but more likely symptoms of mild anxiety related to work I immediately asked what medication I could take. Her response was to tell me to try and meditate. Now there are many reasons why I love my doctor, one of them being her willingness to try alternative methods of treatment, but in that moment I was not impressed. However, she insisted, so off I went sans prescription and with a new mission to research ways to soothe my Type A inner beast.
My initial search routed me to sites dedicated to Meditation Centers which to me seemed a little too full on and religious-ish. I found several videos online and tried many of them, but it was either the cheesy music or the way I was told to sit cross legged on a pillow that turned me off. I couldn’t get past most of the introductions. I then tried to find books or a simple How To that would ease my way into this state of mindfulness, but eventually I would get distracted by...everything.
Cut to: A couple of years later, walking idly through the aisles at a bookstore I find myself smack dab between the World Religions and Holistic Healing shelves and I notice a small bright yellow sliver of a book titled “Sit Like a Buddha: A Pocket Guide to Meditation” and I recall the previous night’s chat with my husband. He brought up, again, his interest in finding out more about meditation. I buy the book, give it to him as a gift and leave it at that. That thin yellow book starts appearing in every random corner of our apartment, and out of curiosity I read a couple of pages. Interesting stuff, but I never have time to finish.
On my way to meet friends for dinner I spot a store front that says MNDFL. I take a quick peek inside and meet the co-owner. Yes, MNDFL is Mindful, yes it’s a center for meditation and no you can’t wear shoes beyond this point. It’s open and airy with up to date decor and not a hint of that “Hush, you are in a holy place, behave” feeling I usually get when passing Catholic Churches or entering yoga studios with a lot of candles. I grab a brochure that reads like movie theater schedule and find immediate calm in the lack of pretension. I promise myself that I’ll come back, in the meantime I treat my husband to a MNDFL gift card so he can sign up for whatever class he wants.
Chatting with a co-worker, she tells me she’s just downloaded an app for meditation. I tell her 'that's great', and then decide that I have too many apps on my phone. I’m not interested in even one more. As I'm setting up my Spotify playlist for a Pilates class I’m prepping to teach, an ad pops up. Apparently, Spotify is joining forces with Headspace. For the low price of $14.99 a month I can get my premium music settings PLUS access to unlimited meditation content. Hint (finally) taken.
It is a balancing act, allowing my phone to be a source of awareness. Especially when I’ve made the decision to not let tech rule my life anymore. Despite all this, I take a leap of faith and trust that the work which I’ve done to reduce digital clutter has paid off. I download the free Headspace app and begin to work on guided meditation.
“Practicing mindfulness also enhances awareness and your ability to set aside mental chatter, which may make it easier to focus during creative tasks.”
It helps having a voice talk me through all this. The pressure is off my shoulders, and all I have to do is listen. Answering the question of 'why' I want to meditate gets complicated before I firmly make the decision that I just want to...dammit.
Ten days, ten minutes a day seems like no effort at all. But it is. I am hyper aware of all the things that fill my day and even 10 minutes of committing to self care is a challenge. I struggle with feelings of obligation and relief. Neither feeling is bad, just unexpected. I complete this first stage and eventually realize that I call meditation a new habit. I find that I’m not ready to join a group or class. Rather, I enjoy the private nature of the practice and really can only manage those 10 minutes before I start to feel like I have to get up and do something else. My actions in general initiate from a more fixed intention. I delete my social media apps without panicking, downloading them again when I need to post an update to my schedule or to share something I think is truly lovely vs. something that keeps me “relevant”. And then I delete the apps all over again.
Time becomes more about the moment and less about how much of it is mine and is being wasted. I am pleasantly surprised by how effortless these changes seem. For instance, my heart rate. Once a steady 85bpm resting, I’m now at a safe and healthy resting rate of 61. Angina worries are a thing of the past and subway rides become way, way less stressful.
The total sum, so far, of my search for successful ways to meditate is running at 4 years. Lots of starts, frustrating stops, and (finally) an opening to a system that seems plausible if not practical. Clarity is not easy, but it is rewarding enough to keep trying. Like a small remote town hidden from any map or Google drone, finding Mindful has been a tricky path to navigate. With the help of some unexpected but welcome resources, I’m getting closer every day.