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 | , ,


  1. Love it…so true. You will be a Zen Master yet!

    Comment by Margie | March 28, 2010 | Reply

  2. I am going to try the meditation website!

    Comment by Dawn | March 28, 2010 | Reply

  3. Oh I love this, Jane. I, too, have my meditation pillow and CDs and had a space picked out in my house…and my friend even gave me some meditation beads…I relate to this. But I will continue to try…because I like meditating. and to hell with the rules. Good one.

    Comment by Francesca Amari | March 28, 2010 | Reply

    • Francesca, I am finding that ‘the rules’ do have a place in turning meditation into a habit for me. But, man I’m just not that flexible anymore:)
      Getting better, though at watching my breath!

      Comment by janelondon | March 29, 2010 | Reply

  4. Meditation…and with all those rules/correct postures. Not for me. I truly think I would be more relaxed AND more spiritual if I found a really, really quiet place in the woods with John Denver songs playing in my head. (um, actually I have done that, and it was very satisfying, although it happened when I was in high school..many yarn ago) We had to write in a journal too – I sure found peace/self reflection with that lesson. Whatever works is my motto.

    Comment by Sherry | March 28, 2010 | Reply

    • Sherry,the point of meditation is to begin to live ‘in the present’and although I sort of made fun, more of myself, than the practice, that’s what it’s teaching me to do. If you enjoyed quiet walks in the woods, “way back when”, you might want to re-visit it NOW:)
      Your note kind of illustrates the entirety of what I’m exploring with my blog; attempting to get out of the “I used to” or “I should” mentality and into the “I will” frame of mind.
      Thanks for the comment!

      Comment by janelondon | March 29, 2010 | Reply

  5. Very funny! I can just see you trying to get “your antsy self” situated in a comfortable position.

    Enjoy – Ohmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

    Comment by Big Sis | March 29, 2010 | Reply

  6. Totally funny and so true! But it is not about the rules, they can help but you find your own way of doing something. I had a friend with a bad back who used to meditate laying down in bed in the morning. I will check out the links, thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Imasink | March 29, 2010 | Reply

  7. Your post made me laugh (because I’m laughing with you). Years ago I decided to take up meditation and faced the same challenges as you (and almost every other person who’s ever tried it). But after a week or two of sitting every day, the physical discomfort started to dissipate and my mind would settle more easily. Although I read several books and got many CDs on the subject, I finally started “getting” it after a 3-day retreat at the Shambhala Center near Ft. Collins. I’m not advocating you go to one of those retreats, but just to tell you it started to come together while I was there. All of those pre-conceived ideas I had about what to expect went out the window and I was left with a clearer understanding about what I wanted out of the practice.

    Long story short (too late!) I kept up with it for a year or so and it really helped give me time to “not think” every day which did help my overall sanity level. And, of course, I gave it up when I was more calm. Flash forward five years later and I’m right back there where you are…feeling my back hurt, falling asleep and generally not being able to “turn my brain off.” Hang in there…even if you give it up, it’s worth trying for a while.

    There’s also a great meditation “bench” I use that (for me) is much easier to use than the lotus position sitting on the floor. I can send you the info. if you’re interested.

    Comment by Chris | March 30, 2010 | Reply

    • Chris:
      Funny! I’ve been on the Shambhala website, looking at their programs!!:)
      Seriously, everyday it gets a little easier in terms of quieting the mind and finding a comfortable “posture”, but I would like info on the bench.
      I do 10 minutes in the morning (all I have time for) and 20 in the afternoon and that morning session is tough! Too many thoughts first thing in the morning I guess…
      Anyway, thanks for the note!! I really appreciate your insight

      Comment by janelondon | March 30, 2010 | Reply

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