Focused Living, One Month at a Time

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Challenge #12, June 2012: STILL SITTING STILL


I will meditate for 15 minutes every day (déjà vu, right!)

Through meditation and by giving full attention to one thing at a time, we can learn to direct attention where we choose.
-Eknath Easwaran

Highly recommended reading:  Last month’s entry on this exact same subject, sigh.  I should actually rephrase the challenge:  I will catch up with my incomplete meditation month of May because I really want to get through it - and 30 days worth of meditation over 60 days should still count for something, right?

Here’s the Thing
It wasn’t any damn easier this month, it sadly just wasn’t.  Sitting still and quiet and trying to empty my head of all the extra-busy-lately swirling thoughts (pesky hamsters!) and focus on breath and just letting all kinds of brilliant revelations, epiphanies, and answers to all my worries and wonders appear in my brain DID NOT WORK.  Sooooo I made my peace and abandoned any hope of enlightenment, inner peace, salvation, blah blah blah. I instead used the time (alone, quiet, away from the computer and the smartphone) to do important stuff like:
·      Make a mental list to write down later of all the things I needed to get done that day,
·      Writing email responses in my head,
·      Picturing what the scale would read if I did lose that other 5 lbs. I’ve been meaning to,
·      Trying not to fall asleep,
·      And often, figuring out what I was going to eat for dinner.

Or, I often procrastinated/abandoned the meditating assignment by
·      Folding laundry,
·      Organizing my dresser drawers,
·      Checking Facebook,
·      Cleaning my desktop (either real or on the computer),
·      Or going for a walk (which often produced the same results).

How I (Barely) Got Through It
·      It was uncomfortable to sit in that cross-legged pose, I mean really now.  I just don’t have the stretchability to get there, so I stuck with my improvised pose – sitting on the floor against the couch, knees bent and arms wrapped around them - it was indeed relaxing after I settled into it.
·      I bargained with myself a lot, i.e.:  “if I don’t do 15 minutes today, I will do 30 tomorrow” – which was more than twice as hard to sit still twice as long.  But that is what I ended up doing more often than not, about every other day for 30 minutes straight.
·      Remember last month when I accidentally napped during a horizontal meditation attempt?  I actually closed out the month with my last session today with a nice 35 minute nap, and I am counting it, damn it - there was just no way I was fit in a real meditation session into my jam-packed day, and I needed the rest!
Conclusion:  Although there may be some value to it, I don’t see meditating becoming a long lasting regular habit for me - rather an occasional break.  I do, as I did last month, feel more relaxed and more energized a the same time after this month – less worried about stuff that generally bothers me, and more excited about my work and other projects.  But I don’t know if this is a side effect of the limited meditating I’ve been doing or not.   Does anyone meditate consistently every single day, for 15 minutes or more?

What’s Next
July is gonna be a piece of cake compared to this…well, a piece of cake made without eggs or butter, because I’m going vegan!  Vegetarian has been easy for the past 30 years, but now me and one of my favorite foods (dill havarti, smoked gouda, and bufala mozzarella to name a few) will try to live without each other.  I splurged on a “healthy” serving of gorgonzola tonight to hopefully tide me over until August 1st.  Let’s see how it goes…

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Challenge #11, May 2012: SITTING STILL

I will meditate for 15 minutes every day 
(sounds simple enough!)

Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don't realize this because almost everyone is suffering from it, so it is considered normal. This incessant mental noise prevents you from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from Being.  –Eckhart Tolle

Slooooooooooow down!  I am always trying to tell myself, sound familiar?  Why is always so damn hard to get the little hamsters off the treadmill in my ever-agitated brain?   Tasks to do, pieces to write, work to finish, connections to follow up on, work outs to do – it never stops.  So this month I decided to try to sit still for a while and see if this would really help quiet my mind a bit.  What is meditating exactly?  I knew very little, so I decided to look it up, and found there were many variations, most basically intended to create a “mode of consciousness to realize some benefit”, hmmm that’s pretty broad.  A lot of it is about focusing on the breath and proper breathing technique, and supposedly most beneficial to do it every day…

How It Went
Nominating this for the all time toughest challenge to date - winner by a landslide!  To actually carve out 15 minutes in my day, every single day to STOP and just breathe was kinda tortuous actually.  I managed to complete it only 13 of 31 days (irregularly, with no particular pattern among which days). Unlike the blissed out beach girl in the photo, I just couldn’t get into it most of the time. I usually found my mind wandering to all kinds of predictable places: hamsters sweating it out as they churned up a storm about everything from groceries to grant writing to gallivanting about the planet, all as I tried to simply breathe.

What I learned
·      I have new appreciation for people that do this every day – what’s their secret for staying focused and how the heck did they learn to kick out the hamsters?  Is it discipline that turns into habit, which eventually becomes a welcome pleasure, really?  Maybe I just didn’t try to plan/force/cram it into my day often enough to get to the benefits.
·      Sitting upright in a chair, on the floor, and once laying down (which predictably turned into a short nap) were the various poses I tried.  The floor worked out best, but my too-tight-from-running legs didn’t like that bent knee lotus position, so I modified it to just stretch my legs straight out in front of me, slightly bent which was most comfortable.  And eyes closed was definitely better than eyes open – less to potentially distract me.
·      Quiet is key for me.  The fewer leaf blowers, angry crows, basketballs bouncing on the pavement, and hammering of nails, the better.
·      I do actually think (probably subconsciously) as much as I did do helped me relax a bit overall, because I didn’t seem to let as much of the big stuff bother me in general this month – I am just recognizing that in retrospect now, hmmm.

What I am doing about it
FAIL is the word that came to mind at the end of this month, so I am breaking my own rule for this project and carrying this challenge forward to next month:  June is Meditation Part Deux – eventually getting to a full 30 days of 15 minutes a day, even though it is gonna take me 60 days.  At the end of May I hadn’t really picked out a challenge for the month that I was crazy about (Yoga was the most prominent idea, now gonna push that to July) and work has been so busy and all kinds of other (blah, blah, blah…excuses) things are going on such that by today I hadn’t started anything else, sigh.  But I am going to give myself a break and carry on, trying a few different techniques this month.  Does anyone else find meditating difficult (or easy)?   Am I a glutton for punishment for trying this again?