The other day, as I settled my mind to sit – tucked away in a vacant change room at the office – I just couldn’t, well, settle. Over the past few days, I’ve done what I could to minimize distraction. Armed with a relaxing sounds iPhone app, I shut out other noises and try to just be. But then my mind kicks in, rambling faster than my mouth could ever be capable of, which, for those of you who know me, is quite a feat.
I’m torn between whether my mind is supposed to be empty, quiet and undisturbed, or if – as I’ve often heard in guided meditations—I can instead acknowledge random thoughts before gently nudging them away. If that’s the case, I’m having a bit of trouble nudging. There have been a handful of times in the past few weeks when, in the last five or so minutes of my scheduled sit, I find my mind clears and I can simply enjoy the peace. When the background music fades, or the singing bowl timer chimes to pull me out of it, I find myself wishing for just a few more minutes. So I’ve been taking it. But on Friday, this just wasn’t the case. I started to question myself, wondering why I’d been able to make it to that place some days and not others, waiting for the time when I would find it again.
This makes me my own worst enemy. Sitting there wondering why I’m unable to find that peace, and waiting for it to happen, I’m busying my mind with needless, counter-productive chatter. But I don’t know how to stop! Maybe it’s the journalist in me? Ever since I was a child I’ve had a habit of questioning everything, and while it serves me well enough in my career, it’s frankly a pain in the ass when I’m trying to settle into calm. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to multitask, a skill that I further developed over seven years of university, but all that rushing about has made it even harder to slow down and focus on a single, simple thing.
When I went into this week, I did so with the goal of making time for me, hoping that it would help me disconnect from the things that caused me stress/anxiety/worry/trouble and help me reconnect with my self. What I didn’t expect is that 15 to 20 small minutes a day would create such a significant opportunity for change. In such a short time, I find myself looking at so many things differently, from finally being able to create some distance from the stress of over-connection to recognizing the value of slowing down elsewhere and add a little calm to the rest of my day, not just the 15 minutes when I sit. Being mindful always, not just for a few, designated minutes each afternoon.
I’m not saying that five days of mindfulness and meditation has unblocked me or ‘fixed’ what I feared was broken in my life, but it is beginning to reveal that there are many paths to a single destination. And there’s the root of the lightness I experienced on that first day a few weeks ago. There’s that break in the clouds that made me curious enough to really give this a try, and that makes it all worth it.