Present Tense

Mindfulness vs. Restlessness….

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks.  I apologize; I’ve been ‘working on myself’.  Okay, not exactly.   I just didn’t have anything to say, until now.

I’ve been trying to incorporate meditation into my daily routine, hoping to find something to calm my fretful mind.  It’s a practice that I’ve tried to get into for years, but have never really been able to stick with it.  This time I seem to be getting the hang of it, with the help of some guided meditation podcasts that I found on itunes.

The idea is to sit quietly and clear one’s mind of all of the clutter, chatter, junk, worries, etc. that can keep us from achieving focus and clarity.  I was having  a bit of success and feeling much calmer and more focused, until I decided to begin a mindfulness meditation instruction podcast that was offered in 6 segments.  The class is taught by a wonderful, patient man who was or is, a Buddhist monk.

So, I’m sitting with my Ipod all fired up, listening to him welcome the class and explain who he is (this is a live recording of the actual class).  He’s going through a quick overview of the benefits and goals of mindful meditation.  Okay, I’ll admit that I got a little impatient and fast forwarded to the good stuff, like how to do it.  Here’s where it got sticky for me: all of the rules!

Sit on the floor on a cushion.  Check.  But, I’m not quite flexible enough to sit cross-legged, with my knees touching the ground.  Straighten your spine. Check.  But, I can only do that for a short time, before I slump.  Try kneeling  and sitting back on your ankles.  OUCH!  Ankles hurt!  You can sit in a chair, but you must be on the edge, with your thighs parallel to the floor and NO sitting back against the back of the chair.  Geez, okay.  Place your hands on your thighs, but DON’T pull your shoulders forward.  Check.  Hands carefully placed, on my thighs, which are parallel to the floor, on the edge of my seat.

Okay.  I’ve found my official meditating ‘posture’ as he called it.  So, now we get to the good stuff that will actually lead me to enlightenment.  I learn that once you’re settled, close your eyes and breathe. Well, I’m an expert at that!  I’ve been breathing for about 50 years, now.  However, I find that once you start paying attention to your breath, you start to kind of, well, panic. ” Am I breathing too fast? Too slow?  Too shallow?  Wow, what’s with my chest tightening up? Am I doing this right?  I thought this was supposed to be relaxing!  I think I’m hyper-ventilating……plus, I’m slumping.  Crap!”

And on it went for what seemed like hours, but was really only about 20 minutes.  My serene instructor then spoke for a little bit and opened it up to questions from the assembled serene wanna-be’s.

“I couldn’t get comfortable.”  “I was slumping”.  “How fast should I breathe?” “I could hear cars outside”.  “I think I ate too much before class, because I almost fell asleep”.   “How long should I meditate?” and on and on.  Apparently, my issues were their issues, which was comforting to me.

We all had something in common:  our restless minds and bodies.  Which is why we were all gathered, either live or via podcast, to learn from this man.  Buddhism teaches that we ALL suffer from this restlessness and dissatisfaction to a certain extent and that meditation is one practice that can settle the mind a bit.   However, one certainly doesn’t have to follow the teachings of Buddha to get something out of meditation; I know PLENTY of agitated people who might want to check out the websites below.

I will say that the second time I listened, the meditation went much more smoothly.  It’s like the first time you watch an exercise or yoga DVD and you can’t quite keep up, but  by the second and third viewing, you’re a pro.

If you’re interested, search for “zencast meditation” on itunes or check out their website here.

March 28, 2010 Posted by | Musings | , , | 10 Comments


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