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Midweek Meditation: Take a Mental Vacation
It’s been nearly two months since I last wrote about meditation. Truth be told, back in April, I didn’t know what to think about the future. I thought maybe come June, we’d be tip-toeing back into a new normal. That maybe the yoga studio where I teach would open back up, even if just in a limited capacity. That face masks wouldn’t be a thing, that hiking trails would be open, that music venues would be back. I truly thought my biggest worry was that I wouldn’t be able to get my balayage done in time for my sister’s wedding, or that I might miss out on sunny spring patio weather, not being allowed to people-watch while sipping a paloma with my husband on Mississippi Avenue here in Portland, Oregon.
Boy, was I wrong. I wish that was the worst of it. But as it turns out, 2020 is the year that absolutely refuses to quit.
I don’t need to lament the craziness that’s been happening in the world in the past few weeks. The pent-up quarantine energy combined with the massively overdue social uprisings has spiraled me downward into a place of so much sadness, fear, and uncertainty. Paired with some unforeseen health issues, my anxiety seems to be in constant overdrive as I keep thinking to myself, “What else can go wrong this year?”
Amidst the chaos and the unknown of the world, my yoga and meditation practice has kept me from completely losing it. And last weekend, I hit a milestone in my meditation practice: 50 days in a row of daily meditation (thanks to Insight Timer for keeping track).
As I’ve mentioned, my meditation hasn’t always been pretty. It’s easy, normal, and all too common to be distracted by all the things. But I’d always hit start, and the time would pass — sometimes oddly fast, other times incredibly slow — and I’d still get up when it was over, continuing on with the complexities of my day. I can’t say what exactly sparked the consistency this time around. Perhaps it was the unpredictable whirlwind of the world, spinning faster and faster, making my need for the stability in meditation ever more crucial.
And yet, I can say that — especially having crossed this 50-day mark — there’s no way I’m turning back. Having this ingrained into my days, dutifully placed into every day of my schedule (yes, I really type it in my very simple schedule in my Notes app every single day), I’d feel just as off not meditating as if I didn’t brush my teeth. It’s just something I can’t not do. And just like brushing your teeth, sometimes it feels amazing and sometimes it’s just another chore, but you know that it’s what you need to do.
I wish I could say that having this daily meditation has made everything in my life easier. In some ways it has, but at the end of the day, the uncertainty of the world stays the same, and my problems and challenges and disappointments still very much exist. I wasn’t able to attend my sister’s wedding in Michigan or go see my new nephew in New Jersey. I still haven’t gotten my hair done. And only recently have I seen close family and friends in Portland, but bars, restaurants, and my beloved yoga studios are still closed.
Of course, I'm fully aware that these inconveniences are incredibly minor compared to what many others are experiencing and have for generations. I am aware of the privileges I have as a cis- white woman, and feel extremely thankful for so much, particularly to work for a team that stands up for equality and mental health (and to have access to health care), when all of this and more is such a far-fetched dream for far too many. Meditation allows me the opportunity to cultivate gratitude and find perspective. This isn't to discredit whatever unique pain you're suffering, but putting my own unique woes into perspective is helpful in processing them.
While meditation won’t directly solve your problems, what it offers is a chance to sit with those unpleasant thoughts and emotions that inevitably pop up — from worries as big as pandemics and protests to the minutiae of overthinking an offhand comment from a friend. I’m able to breathe through it, pause, process, reel my thoughts in, and come back to the breath. Over and over and over. Oftentimes I notice my heart racing as I lay down to meditate, and I’m more calm by the end.
And while my problems, and the world’s problems, are still very much there, after meditating I move a little easier, with a little bit more peace and lightness. And as the practice builds upon itself, I’m able to tap into those silent, still breaths when I’m having a moment (or, you know, tons and tons of moments) throughout the day. And every day, I get the chance to come back to myself, my breath, and continue to cultivate and build upon that peace and ease.
I’ll offer two more guided meditations I’ve discovered in the past 50 days, from my favorite teacher on Insight Timer, Lama Yeshe Rabgye: Positive Breathing Awareness and Mental Vacation. I hope you’re able to carve out eight to ten minutes for these meditations and start on your own, unique, lifelong journey of meditation.