Wednesday, October 22, 2014

15 Minute Afternoon Meditation

This is part two of three, maybe four, daily practices in what I call whole day fitness.

This is what Marcus Martinez says about meditation:

10-30 minutes of meditation/mindful breathing/close your eyes and not think of shit

The last one is the toughest to get people to do, but will deliver the most in my opinion. I won’t go into the benefits of meditation on this post, but if you’re one of those “I can’t turn off my mind for more than 5 minutes” then let me tell you that you’re one of the people that need it most.

I agreeeee.

This is how I do:

  • I have the intention set in my mind (in my timetracker, actually) that I will meditate every day in the afternoon. Almost always when I say "every day" I mean something more like every other day, which is perhaps an abuse of language; but for meditation I actually mean every day. That said, I fall short sometimes. Falling short is part of meditation. Soo much is part of meditation; it's really hard to say everything that I have to say about meditation, but I'm giving it a shot. Giving it a shot is part of meditation.
  • I'm at the point where I can feel when now's a good time to meditate, usually between tasks. So then, it's go time:
    • if I'm at work I make myself a cup of tea, grab my phone and my keys, step out the office and up a flight and a half of stairs. It's not perfectly undisturbed, but so far nobody from my office—i.e., nobody who actually knows me—has stumbled on me there. I set an alarm on my phone for fifteen minutes from now, and yes, I played a bit with ringtones and volumes so that the alarm doesn't startle me to death when it goes off. Being startled to death is not a part of meditation, I don't think.
    • if I'm at home I sit on the couch, and if the sweetie man's at home I inform him that I'm about to meditate. I set a timer on my computer—I use e.ggtimer— for fifteen minutes, and again check the volume before I start.

So, what's the deal with the tea. Idk, it just turned into a trigger at work, and specifically fragrant tea because there was earl grey tea and then constant comment tea that I was trying to use up. Making the tea and smelling the tea sort of signals that I'm stopping this and starting that. I don't bother with the tea at home, because why? Because it takes too long to boil the water, I can get hot water out of a tap at work, boom, tea.

What's the difference between an alarm and a timer? You have to calculate and enter the time into an alarm, you can just enter the minutes into a timer. A timer is better, I think most smartphones have timers; if I had a smartphone, I'd just use that.

  • So then I start the timer and close or unfocus my eyes, breathe naturally, and count my breaths, not out loud. I count on the exhale and "and" on the inhale, up to four. When I get to four, I start back at one. And that's it, until the timer goes off.

Except. That's never it. And it's not that the above is perfect meditation, and anything that deviates from the above is failed meditation. You get that "perfect" and "failed" are not the only two choices that life has to offer, right? In fact if I had to choose, I'd choose failed. Anyway. The whole thing is meditation: your mind staying focused on your breath, your mind wandering away from your breath and you not even realizing it, realizing your mind has wandered way away from your breath, bringing your mind back to your breath; mediation is all of this. Written even larger, meditation is also ticking off all seven days of 15 minute meditations last week and only two days this week. Or even larger, consistently meditating for twelve weeks and then just stopping for a month and then starting it up again—all meditation.

Right now I'm teaching one-foot balance to my learn to skate class and also to a couple of my clients, I tell them that there are two kinds of balance: one, where you're a calm buddha, perfectly centered and strong in your core; and two, where your arms and free leg are windmilling all over the place; and they're both valuable types of balance; and the real discipline of balance is being able to transition from windmill to buddha, by bringing yourself back, by drawing yourself in.

The real discipline of meditation is also just like that: you notice that you're halfway through a rant at somebody who hurtfully hurt your feelings, or you're busily planning a practice plan, or you're up to 57 in counted breaths. For any of these, I use a technique called "the parade," which in itself can be your whole meditation practice:

On any given day, the parade in my brain includes a wide variety of interesting attractions: mundane logistical thoughts that plod past me like the marchers in a high school band; silly thoughts that tumble through my head like clowns, noble thoughts striding along magnificently like the Budweiser Clydesdales, and humble thoughts that follow the Clydesdales to shovel up their inevitable load of crap. I don't judge or control the elements of my thought procession... I simply call them by name and watch them move on by. —Martha Beck, The Joy Diet

The above is how I started meditation, I switched from that to breath counting with the parade as my recovery mechanism because breath counting gives me that quiet place to return to. I guess I didn't feel like the parade encouraged me at all to go to the quiet place. I know I say this all the time, but now more than ever YMMV.

So when I notice that I'm halfway through a rant I pull back and quietly note, "rant," or even better, "hurt," and then I go back to counting my breaths, when I notice that I'm busily planning I pull back and quietly note, "busy," and then I go back to counting my breaths, when I notice that I'm up to 57 I pull back and quietly note, "haha, whoop" and then I start back at one and count up to four.

If I ticked off all seven days last week and only two days this week, I quietly note "gah, so busy at work," because sometimes it is so busy at work that I feel like I can't hide in the stairwell for fifteen minutes, and then I ask myself, how about now? And if now seems good, I make myself a cup of tea and grab my phone and keys.

If I consistently meditated for twelve weeks and then just stopped for a month, I quietly note, "away," and then ask myself, ready to come back? And if I'm ready, I reset the intention in my mind.

I think maybe the larger point is that at no time am I beating myself up over this. Or if I do notice that I'm beating myself up, I quietly note yadda yadda.

Last but not at all least, the crazy thing is how it turns into so much more than just fifteen minutes counting your breaths. I guess it's because basically you're practicing calmly bringing yourself back to the task at hand, over and over just in the fifteen minutes, then day in and day out, then week by week and so forth. That is a lot of practice, a ton of repetitions. You know what it is, it's WAX ON WAX OFF. You wax on, wax off for fifteen minutes every day, and then somebody tries to sweep your leg and WAX ON comes out of nowhere! Except not nowhere, it came out of those fifteen minutes. I have used it to calm myself down when I'm freaking out, and to turn myself back to my work when I'm obsessing over some stupid drama. In How to Meditate, Lawerence LeShan says that people who meditate might be thought of as otherworldly, but actually are quite grounded and good at things in the real world. Which I initially took with a grain of salt, but now I see it.