I have been reading about the wonders of meditation for years. Sure, the idea of it all sounded great — sitting in quiet and letting your mind rest before starting your day (or ending your day, or taking a break in your day — whatever) was sure to be helpful. Yet the idea of sitting still and trying not to think for any amount of time was daunting.
Yesterday, I finally caved. After months of pandemic-induced stress and too many corners of my to-do list to get lost in, I needed to forcibly sit in silence, even though I was sure I'd be "bad at it." I signed up for a morning Zoom meditation with Lindsey Gaterman, wrote the event on my calendar, and accepted inevitable defeat.
Thankfully, I've known Lindsey for years, so taking her class was a very natural thing to do. I'd been in workshops with her before where some meditation exercises took place, so I couldn't call myself a total rookie to the concept even though I've never meditated by myself before.
After logging into the call and exchanging "good mornings" with the class, Lindsey had us all find a comfortable seat, place our hands on our legs and our feet on the ground, and close our eyes. She reminded us to be aware of how our body was positioned, to feel gravity pulling our limbs down, and to sit up straight. She asked us to release any stressors from our body and mind, creating free space in our mind.
That's where she lost me.
My ability to not think of anything — to have a "clear mind" is at an all-time low these days.
Do you see what's going on in the world? There is too much to think about. My brain is certain to be scattered in 87 directions no matter how zen I am in the moment. A clear mind? Was she kidding?
She continued to ask us to not be frustrated by thoughts that lingered behind but to acknowledge them. To "see them" and move on. This is where the practice continued for the next 15 minutes. Getting distracted, being brought back to focusing on my breathing. Getting annoyed at my inability to chill out, being brought back to focusing on my breathing. Thinking about my grocery list, being brought back to focusing on my breathing.
By the end of the class, I felt refreshed, energized, and ready to begin my day. This shocked me — I had just sat through 20 minutes of thought after thought, completely failing at what I assumed meditation to be. That experience did NOT match the zen graphics I had seen on Pinterest! But as Lindsey gave us a quick run-down of future classes and opportunities, she mentioned how she was proud of us for showing up.
She said, "that is the only way you fail — not showing up to participate."
Even my hot mess attempt to meditate did benefit my mind, body, and day. I did see a difference after a simple 20 minutes of quiet — I didn't have to perfect not thinking of anything to create a helpful experience for myself. Like many things in the wellness world, I just had to show up.
Will I meditate again? Absolutely. Will I be distracted again? Of course. While I cannot always control the weight of the world on my shoulders, I can actively choose to create a space for myself to breathe and prioritize my mental wellbeing. You can too! Even if you're "bad" at meditation, or whatever else you're attempting to do in order to give yourself room to breathe, you're showing up and that's what really matters.
Lindsey Gaterman is a former Odyssey employee.