It Is always when I sit down to clear my thoughts that a thousand more instantly flood to the forefront of my consciousness. Is it that way for you, too? The Universe's simple ask of me, to just be still and do nothing, is about as daunting as running a marathon or giving birth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly accustomed to vegging¸ via TV, pizza, or even a good book. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Those are pleasures I take seriously--distractions [and carbohydrates] necessary to dealing with life. But there’s nothing more terrifying than truly doing nothing--than sitting with yourself alone, hearing the sound of your inhale and exhale repeatedly, trying not to think, or move, or do.
I first attempted meditation a few years ago. Prior to that, what I had considered my personal meditation had always been writing or running or laying on the floor staring up at the ceiling thinking some good, big thoughts. I'd never truly tried the whole “sit with your eyes closed” spiel. Last year I started trying for one minute and that turned out to be pretty manageable. A few months ago I attempted five: a whole different ballgame. And now, as I embark on my attempt to meditate for 15 minutes every day, let me tell you: sometimes it's a real bitch.
Let me take one step back: if you came here for a detox that was going to be Megan & myself telling you we are rockstars at meditating, eating right, and not sweating the small stuff, [or swearing] you've come to the wrong place. If you dig a little more honesty with your chia seeds, then please keep reading.
Why is meditating so difficult, foxes? I have a theory: there's nothing that requires as much "unlearning" for us humans as doing nothing. Nothing is the antithesis to what we are taught in school. Nothing is our mind’s greatest fear; bathed in it we feel stagnant, helpless, alone, adrift, lost, useless, catatonic. So then what exactly are we seeking when we meditate? And why fucking bother with it at all?
We're throwing ourselves into the challenge of meditating because instinctively, we know we have so much unlearning to do. And I believe we're all collectively craving a Peace. A peace we don't achieve sitting at desks for 8 hours a day, being bombarded by societal expectations and gossip and tedious traffic and fits of coughing and listening to the news and overhearing the conversations of the swarms of people around us and the cat calls and too much coffee and you forgot to return my text messages and are you breathing? Are you even breathing?
We're not really breathing. And when we don't actively take the time to clear our minds of our incessant thoughts, we struggle. To keep our composure, to accomplish the next task, to not fall down the stairs...you get the picture. That's why we're meditating: because we realize "nothing" is at the very core of our survival as a species. So no matter how hard it is, no matter how uncomfortable we feel when we first sit down to Do Nothing, remember this: it is not just another task to accomplish. It is not just another Thing to Do. It is actually a means of getting back to our true nature. It is accessing a peace deep within us. And it is possible through simply our breath.
Here is a short but sweet visual meditation. It has the power to help regulate your blood pressure, increase the flow of oxygen to your brain, and restore your sense of calm in as little as one minute. I'm giving you permission RIGHT NOW to silence your phone, lock or shut your door, tell someone else to fold the laundry or let the dog out, and sit on the floor with your eyes closed. You owe nothing to anyone but yourself in this moment.
Sit comfortably on the floor.
Breathe in and out through your nose—deep yogic breaths or "Ujjayi breath."
Think of your mind like a shoreline; it's often cluttered with unnecessary thoughts.
Think of your breath as a crisp, clear blue ocean wave sparkling in the summer sun.
On each exhale, your mind is washed clean; on each inhale, the tide rescinds.
Breathe and repeat.
I encourage you, humbly, to try this each day for one minute longer than the last. (I switch my phone to silent but set a timer for when I'd like to stop.) As I've divulged, sometimes a few minutes feels impossibly hard. But here's what I forgot to mention, foxes, and why I suggest you try: sometimes, meditation feels like Heaven on earth. Some days, in the quiet space between my breath, I can hear the tide of the ocean even though I'm sitting on the cold wood of my apartment floor. I can sometimes feel that very moment between the thunder's clap and the lightning's strike where there is no anticipation. I hear the voices of generations before me and generations to come. I hear my own still, small voice: the watcher of my Soul that sits silently before me-- never in judgment, never in fear. This still, small voice has nothing negative or positive to say about anything I or You have ever done or will ever do. It simply watches the waves of my thoughts come in and out all day.
I think the point of it all, dear foxes, is that sometimes the stillness--the nothing--will feel uncomfortable and sometimes it will be our greatest reprieve. The best any of us can do is to try and quiet our thoughts, listen to our breath, and let that nothingness cleanse our spirit. You are part of something bigger and better than you ever imagined, I promise you. No matter your faith or spirituality; it’s just a personal Truth which a capital T that I want you to allow yourself permission to own. You are a part of that great ocean. And with meditation, you no longer have to drown in your own thoughts.
Here are some excellent resources on clearing your mind, making meditation part of your daily life, and reclaiming a sense of calm:
Miracles Now – Gabby Bernstein
What I love about Gabby is that she makes meditation and spiritual awakening accessible to everyone. While she has been criticized for using "tweetable" quotations at the end of each chapter in this book, I think there is TREMENDOUS value in a modern spiritual leader leveraging social media for GOOD! Bernstein acknowledges that in today's age, we may not have time to sit in silence for an hour; she encourages her readers to start small with super quick lessons that can help you access inner peace within moments.
Taming the Tiger Within – Thich Nhat Hanh
On each page is a short and seemingly simple affirmation by the revered Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh. As the Dalai Lama said of Hanh, "he shows us the connection between personal, inner peace and peace on earth."
Steering by Starlight – Martha Beck
This book absolutely transformed the way I think of my life; essential for anyone who wants to deconstruct their harmful, self-critical thoughts and get back in touch with that "still, small voice." We'll touch more on Beck's concept of deconstructing mental blocks on Day 7: Healing Old Wounds.
See you tomorrow!