Monday, February 10, 2014

January Goal: Hydrate and Meditate

First of all, thank so much for your kind words about my new job and fancy website! It feels great to share some good news, instead of my regular dirge of panic and worry over graduation. Speaking of panic and worry (not really, but let's go with it), I realized I was overdue for an update about my goal for January. If you recall, I decided to take on monthly challenges this year in lieu of New Year's Resolutions, and kicked things off with an oath to drink more water and meditate daily during the month of January. Which means I should be extremely hydrated and clear minded as I type this, right? Well, not exactly.

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In a way, I failed at both my January goals. I'm okay with this. I learned something from both experiments, and that's the real point. (Says the person who needs to feel better about failure.)

I started off strong, as most people do. My Nalgene bottle never left my side, and I meditated for at least five minutes every day that first week. I was on a roll. Things were going well. I felt clearer headed, even though I had to pee all the time. Then, during week two, things slowed down. It got very, very cold, which made it very, very hard to drink water, as I had a hard enough time keeping my core temperature up. I switched to herbal tea and that helped a bit, but I was definitely not reaching my goal of 64 ounces of water a day. I was moderately hydrated. But I also cut way back on booze without meaning to, so I felt as if this was, perhaps, a good compromise.

As for the meditation, I just really don't like it. I downloaded a great app called Headspace, which guided me through ten minute meditations for a while. I liked having a guide, because if I don't have something to focus on - even if it's just a man with a soft accent saying "breathe..." - my mind will wander and rove and before I know it, I'm mentally writing grocery lists while sitting in the dark with my hands folded in my lap. Even with the help of Headspace, however, I only managed to meditate 10 out of January's 31 days.

Part of the problem, I think, is that I don't fully understand meditation. I get that it's suppose to make you feel focused and centered and everything, but what's the best way to meditate? Am I supposed to clear my head and not think of anything? Am I supposed to picture a rainbow or a cloud? Do I imagine a blue light traveling through my body, coursing through each limb inch by inch? Is it okay if I fall asleep in the middle of it? Does it count if I'm lying in savasana at the end of my yoga practice? I'm one of those people who needs to understand something in order to appreciate it, and that, I think, was my biggest mistake. I jumped in with my eyes closed (literally!) and expected to feel immediate benefits. When those benefits didn't manifest, I lost interest. That's not meditation's fault - it's mine, for being lazy.

Even though meditation didn't work out for me in January, I'd like to try again at some point, but in a more organic way. Maybe read a book about meditation, try different methods after I understand them. I will say that the best thing I got out of this experiment (besides a better understanding of myself, failures and all) is an appreciation for savasana. In the past, when we laid on our mats at the end of yoga with our eyes closed, I blatantly used that time to think about whatever I wanted, not even trying to clear my mind and "reap the benefits of the practice," as they say. This past month, I made an effort to do just that, and experienced one or two moments that were nearly transcendent. Those moments were a reward I may not have deserved, but they were enough to make me want to keep trying. Meditation, you haven't heard the last of me.

For now, it's February, the month in which I will write and/or make 28 cards and/or calls to people I care about. I'm excited about this goal, mostly because I like writing letters. I have a feeling this goal will go much better than January's. I certainly hope so!  

3 comments:

  1. There are many kinds of meditation--some use specific imagery, some invite you to just learn your own mind better. *How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind* by Pema Chodron is a little book that might give you support in the kind of meditation you seem interested in. Everybody who meditates starts with their minds wandering and making shopping lists, so I don't think you can count that a failure. That is just how we start.

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  2. I went to a talk by monks in Thailand over the summer, and they said to try meditating for only a few minutes at a time at first. It is very hard to focus without other thoughts simmering to the top. I really like this beautiful book by Jon Kabat-Zinn: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/112593.Wherever_You_Go_There_You_Are

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  3. Hey, friend! I think your post brings up a great point: what exactly IS the point of meditation? For me, part of it is learning my own mind better. Where does it wander during meditation? What happens if I call my attention back to my breath or whatever the neutral focus of the meditation is? Meditation helps me learn how to bring my attention back to the task at hand. It trains my brain to not see every fleeting thought as urgent. I also find that it is calming to meditate before bed--I let my brain do its wandering, I calm it down, and then we can both go to sleep :-)

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