Months have passed since I last uploaded a blog post. Most of this time was spent in Southern California, where I live now, save for a brief matrimonial excursion to Tennessee, followed by a week’s worth of honeyed moon spent in Virginia, which I am pleased to report, just as the state’s motto would tell you, is indeed “for lovers”.
Let’s all be classy and leave the matter there. Although, if you really would like me to gush about the wedding (the wedding part - calm down), feel free to call me. If you don’t have my number, there may be a reason. Or, I suppose you could message me. Weddings are sacred and lovely things (ours was perfection), but they are only of limited interest to those not directly involved. You can admit it; my feelings are not bruised in any way. You didn’t want to read another long, bloggy, rambly blah-blah-blah about a wonderful wedding.
Instead, I would like to spend the next few weeks discussing a few positive changes I have made to my life in the intervening months, excluding, of course, my marriage, which is, naturally, highly personal and experimentally non-repeatable. It’s not really something you can go out there and replicate with precision, although you are welcome to try. I recommend finding someone who makes you laugh and who challenges you to try and be your best self.
This week, let’s discuss meditation.
Yes, I am now one of those insufferable people who go around saying unbearably Californian things like, “Do you meditate?” It was only a matter of time. I already exercise and try to eat vegetables, etc, so clearly I've sipped the metaphorical Cool-Aid at some point since I moved out here.
But, honestly, I wish I had started meditating years ago. It is exactly as helpful as everyone says it is. Possibly more so. In this day and age of constant information and stress, we all know our brains are overly burdened, exerted, and whelmed. I knew mine was, but for the longest time I didn’t know what to do about it. I didn’t think there was anything I could do...until I finally tried that thing everyone always recommends (meditation) and then - surprise! - it turned out that the thing monks have been doing for millennia actually is helpful.
Who woulda thought?
Meditation doesn’t take as much time as you’d think. Ten to fifteen minutes. Personally, I use an app called Calm, although friends have also recommended an app called Headspace. For a low fee, these apps give you recordings of “guided meditations” where a person with an irrationally soothing voice walks you through the process. Basically, you sit still, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. You train your mind, just a little each day, to control its constant thinking. You learn how to appreciate the moment. It sounds boring, and it just isn’t. Trust me. It’s what your brain is longing for, and it’s what you haven’t been giving it enough of - rest. Not sleep, but a break.
Now, let me rush in here and say this is not a paid endorsement for Calm or Headspace. The makers of these fine apps do not have to pay me, because I have been doing this for several weeks now, and I am enjoying tangible mental benefits. Each morning, I get up - just ten or fifteen minutes before I normally would. I put on the coffee (because, duh). Then, I pull out a chair, I sit, I put headphones on my head, and I take a few minutes to clear my mind before the day really begins.
I always assumed that if I tried to do something that involved closing my eyes in the morning, this would just put me back to sleep. And, I do yawn once or twice. But, the strange thing is it actually wakes me up. I find I am drinking less coffee. Clearing my mind allows me to appreciate the little things I used to overlook, like breakfasts and sunrises and the sound of a song on my car stereo. I am finding it easier to enjoy my job working with children. I am simply more present.
The real kicker for me, though, is that this discipline of training my mind to let go and relax has been helping with my addiction to constant noise. As my wife could tell you, I have always needed to have a sound on. A podcast. An audiobook. Something! This was to drown out my constant stream of thought. This was always racing, it was often negative and self-destructive, and I had no idea how to turn it off. The only thing I knew to do was to drown it out.
But, it turns out your mind is a muscle. You can train it. This is not always easy, but, remember, it doesn’t take that much time out of your day. And, it gets easier as you go, like anything. Think of it as a really, really, relaxing yoga class for your brain. Only, unlike yoga, you don’t even have to move, and it only takes ten to fifteen minutes, instead of an HOUR AND A HALF. Seriously. I love yoga, but whoever decided an HOUR AND A HALF was a reasonable length of time for a class is…probably a better person than me.
What can I say? I am a work in progress, as are we all.
Now go meditate. Or, take a walk. We can all use a break these days. I'll catch you next week.