I know the secret to feeling good, increased resilience, better sleep, a happier outlook on life and an overall improved sense of well-being. Its benefits are well-proven. I know how to do it. It doesn’t take much time. It’s free. I’ve done it in the past. But I don’t do it. Given all the I know, I’m curious why I wouldn’t utilize this elixir of well-being, meditation. It makes no sense.
About six years ago, I took a meditation class. It was the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Our homework was regular meditation, yoga and mindfulness during our days. Meditating at home felt weird, but I always do my assignments. Instead of telling my husband I was going to meditate, I would tell him that I was going to do my homework.
I felt the benefits almost immediately. I began looking at the world with amazement. I was startled by the beauty surrounding me on my walks. It felt like I was walking inside a large diorama. The sky was bluer; the grass was greener. I enjoyed my food more. I took setbacks in stride. I was more affectionate and cheerful. I slept better.
After meditating regularly for a few years, I gradually meditated less and less. Eventually, I stopped. I had more anxiety, I slept less well and felt like I was on a treadmill. But the changes happened gradually. I felt too impatient and hurried to begin meditating again. I thought that I didn’t have time for that!
Several months after my mom was originally diagnosed with cancer in 2014, I took a one-month meditation tune-up class. My mom’s prognosis was poor and I wanted to get my feet on the ground as much as possible to brace myself for the future. After our initial meditation at our first class, we introduced ourselves and told each other why we were there. I broke down and sobbed almost uncontrollably as I told the group that my mom had finished radiation, but I didn’t know if she had 2 more months to live or two years or more. (It ended up being one year.)
As our first class ended, our wise teacher told us that our homework was to meditate 40 minutes/day. We could break it up into two 20 minutes sessions and do it whenever we wanted. As she told us this, I thought to myself, “40 minutes every day!? There’s no *#%! way I’m doing that.”
The next morning, I was on a walk and thinking about the class and the assignment. I went to the class for a reason and I wanted the results. But I wasn’t ready to do the work? Hmm…this didn’t add up. Why would I take the class if I wasn’t willing to do what the teacher wanted us to do?
I decided to try an experiment and comply with the assignment for a week. If it was horrible, I could quit after one week. But a meditation experiment seemed harmless enough. And it’s incredibly hard for me not do my homework.
The benefits were remarkable. Within a couple of days, I began to feel durable. I could take what life threw at me in stride. One morning I had to get up at 3:45 AM for an early flight. I normally feel awful this early in the morning. Unbelievably, I felt fine. I didn’t feel sick with fatigue. My husband even wrote me a sweet note, asking me to please not stop meditating! I was nicer to him and more affectionate.
I continued this meditation practice for months and eventually began to meditate less. I now meditate infrequently and don’t make it a priority. Yet, I want to feel good, especially after the tough year I’ve had. I want to have the most sunshiny outlook on life I can. I know the secret. And yet I don’t partake.
I suppose that many people know of a habit that makes them feel good and improves their health: getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food and exercising. And they don’t do it. Perhaps it’s because initiating a new habit is difficult.
Nobody can make me meditate. Perhaps this is why I’m writing this entry – I’m trying to talk myself into meditating regularly! It might be time for another experiment with meditation.
We’ll see if it works. I’ll let you know.