When it comes to sitting still, I’m not what one would consider an achiever. I vividly remember the first day of my first “big girl” job after college: At 10:00 am, I thought, “Wait, so I just sit down.” All day. That’s all? Is it?” So, I began a rigorous daily cycle of drinking tons of water just so I could turn on the water cooler and refill my pitcher. I made it a point to learn all the names of every one of my coworkers and would stop to asking about their pets and their overwatered gardens, then I would go to the bathroom, fill my water bottle, and do another flush. You get the gist. And, almost fifteen years into my career, I’m just a little less restless (a unless there is a real housewives marathon, in which case, you have my undivided attention, no worries).
I’ve toyed with the idea of meditation before, thanks to helpful nudges from my therapist, a friend, or my husband, who, all Zen types, practices regularly. I admire and even envy people with a measurable amount of shivers, and meditation has always seemed like a nice thought to me, but also a very… what do you say? Indulgent? Would I just… sit down? And not being productive (or, at least, by the high-achieving American millennial standards I’ve been forced into, which is another essay entirely)? On this very topic, my therapist once asked me what he was so afraid of and I couldn’t really give him a straight answer. It’s not that he was scared, it’s just that he didn’t really get the point and, at the time, he wasn’t too worried about trying to get the point. I think, too, that I was worried about boredom, about sitting with my own thoughts for too long, that it would creep in, and if I would be able to rest with it, catch it, tackle it, and then release it again. .
I was worried about boredom, about sitting with my own thoughts for too long, about what it would creep in, and whether I would be able to rest with it, catch it, tackle it, and then release it again.
Prior to these dedicated ten days of which I speak, the closest I had come to a meditative state was a few straight miles of running. My mind would melt, my thoughts would split up like heavy clouds, my body would deal with nothing but the cyclical rhythm of my body carrying me through space. Until recently, it’s the only time I’ve felt a sense of true calm and relief. The only time I was able to muzzle my brain and its cacophony of worry, to-dos, excitement, or angst. Just my breath, my feet, and my unwillingness to quit after mile six, seven, or ten to go back to my boisterous brain.
You’d think, after such a mostly enchanting experience (leg aches aside), that I’d try to recreate it in other ways as often as I could. On the other hand, you would think wrong.
I don’t really mind admitting this, but it may have taken the direct hit of 2020 (you too, 2021) brute force stillness to make me consider putting some of that sudden stop to use. And I don’t mean “use” in terms of productivity, but perhaps the introspection that I personally needed to literally sit down.
So, out of wine and ideas, I decided to give meditation a try. For ten days, ten minutes a day. Just to see what would happen.
My first date was awkward. I selected a class, randomly, in an app (which, to me, seemed counter-intuitive, but options are limited here, folks), sat upright and upright, and lamented about how unbelievably cheesy the music was. . My attempt was as unfocused as it was half-hearted, but technically it was an attempt.
The second day I promised to give it a good chance, crystal harp tunes and all. I kept my eyes closed the whole time. I concentrated on my breathing. I actively tried not to think about my upcoming meeting, dinner plans, or if my little boy had pooped his pants. Most of all, I realized that all this absolution of my thoughts was very difficult for me. He wasn’t good at it.
And that, right there, doing it wrong, not being good at it, not understanding it, turned out to be the part he’d been leery of all this time. I told myself that maybe, just maybe, that’s why they call meditation practice. The practice of stillness, of complete presence, is required over and over again.
Somewhere in the middle of my ten-day experiment, I chose an acceptance-focused meditation. The instructor (newbie question, but do you call them instructors? Am I doing this right?) He didn’t say much, but at one point he did ask the very direct question: “Is there something you’re having a hard time accepting? ” And I broke. I opened up, spilling salty tears and snot everywhere and it took me a while to pick up the mess. The truth is that it was a clemency of chaos that had been long overdue.
It took me to do absolutely nothing more than sit, quiet, nervous, and somewhat bitter, to realize that I couldn’t get past a single unacceptable item on my list of annoyances.
At that particular moment, there were many things that he could not accept. There are many things that I still can’t accept. Too much to write here in this ever expanding internet, in fact. There were also a lot of things that I was kidding myself with into thinking I could hold out if I just outworked and ran and beat. And I had to do absolutely nothing more than sit there, quiet, nervous, and somewhat bitter, to learn that I couldn’t outsmart just one of the unacceptable items on my list of annoyances.
My ten days are up and what have I learned? Maybe meditation isn’t so bad after all. I don’t expect to be diligent enough to continue every day (I still prefer running), but I’ll add it as often as I can. I also don’t expect to have an incredibly influential meditative practice every time, with such pointed questions. However, it has been shown to help me relax my jaw, increase my self-awareness, and protect my peace. Some decent perks, if you ask me. So, consider this rather converted skeptic; in his amateur way and still quite energetic.
April (Swinson) Smasal spent her formative years in Wyoming, where her career options were limited to being a rodeo queen or a writer. Foregoing the allure of an impressive collection of belt buckles, she opted for the word thing. Now, she is a copywriter and writer living in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her husband, Nick, her baby girl, Hank Danger, and a very cute and pampered French bulldog, Arnold E. Biscuits.