photo: original source unknown.
Now it's all over the freakin' web.By Crabby McSlacker
I know that meditation and other forms of mindfulness are good for me. But I have a horrible time sticking with any sort of regular practice. Anyone else?
When I do manage to make the time to meditate, I'm often obstinate, ornery, and resistant, probably because I have a very thinky mind. It loves to plot and scheme, to analyze and narrate, to fantasize about the future and reminisce about the past. The last thing my busy brain wants to do is shut the f-ck up and just be in the present moment.
So last time I checked in on this topic, I had bailed on meditating again. Why? because I was under too much stress. Yep, what an awesome reason to ditch one of the most well-proven stress reduction methods on the planet!
But the good news is, I went back to it right after I wrote that post. (Blogging=free therapy.) And guess what? I think I'm finally getting a little more traction.
1. I Had to Realize that Sometimes You Gotta WORK HARDER to get Better at Things You are Bad At.
Hard Work? Ick!
If you approach an endeavor you are unskilled and inept at, and half-assed efforts don't seem to be yielding sufficient results, you have several choices:
1. You can get all pissy and give up;
2. You can stay half-assed and sporadic and wonder why you're not making much progress, or,
3. You can suck it up and apply yourself with a little more self-discipline and actually move forward a little.
Duh, right? I know this about exercise. I have many times needed go all drill sergeant on myself to consciously up my Badass Quotient if I get too lazy and complacent.
But I realized I'd been letting the whole "doing something is better than doing nothing" philosophy distract me from the fact that sometimes there is a threshold amount of effort necessary to get to the point where habits are built and results are obtained and the whole thing becomes more self-sustaining.
For me, the sweet spot seems to be doing some sort of contemplative activity in a relatively "formal" and uninterrupted way for 20-45 minutes a day, most days of the week, plus adding mindfulness to daily activities whenever I can wrench my brain out of thinky mode. Which, strangely enough, seems to be happening way more often now that I have committed to daily practice.
Funny how that works, huh?
And the more I do it, the less unpleasant it is! I'm having lovely trippy experiences focussing on things I might otherwise not even notice. Except of course on the days where I'm really unmotivated and it seems so tedious and miserable that I'd rather jump naked into a vat of boiling sewage. Hey, just like it is with exercise!
2. I Have to Make it Fun and Sometimes Just Do My Own Thang
The essence of meditation is so simple (focus your attention on something and keep returning to it) that it seems ideal for a totally DIY approach, right?
And I am a great believer in doing my own weird thing. Traditional breath or mantra focused meditation seems mind-numbingly tedious to me unless I've already built some momentum playing with something more interesting.
This is why I "invented" the Mmmmmm© yoga alternative, and my Way More Trippy Walking Meditation method. I was totally high on recent walks in a way I wouldn't have been had I not been "meditating" at the time.
So yeah, when I realized I was a total stress-basket and knew I needed to figure out how to slow my head down and regain the ability to focus, I had two custom-made mindfulness practices perfect for my own bizarro brain. And I don't know if I'd have stumbled on them if I'd signed up for an intensive course or gone on a retreat or joined some sort of brainwashing cult to get started.
3. However, Getting Instruction And Support Can Be Enormously Helpful and Motivating!
I think part of the reason I've bailed on meditation so often is that I've been lacking crucial information about how the process works, and what sort of problems one naturally encounters, and how to get through them. Gosh, an activity that humans have been studying and honing and practicing for many millennia... what are the chances there is some useful wisdom available about how best to approach it?
I needed to get schooled!
Plus, attending a weekly sitting group if you can find one is a great way to learn more and provide some structure and motivation. I started dropping in on one in Provincetown, and I'll search out one in San Diego when we get there.
But meantime, guess what? Regulars here already know I am a huge fan of Rick Hanson, and those of us who are doing The Foundations of Well-Being Program know that the current pillar we're working on is mindfulness. Rick has always been awesomely motivating on that front, cluing me into all kinds of sciencey reasons for rewiring my brain through meditation and other techniques.
So anyway, I've been visiting family more often this fall, which has allowed me to attend a couple of Rick's San Rafael meditation group meetings IN REAL LIFE!
Anyway, not surprisingly, it turns out Rick is just as articulate and warm and sincere talking off the cuff as he is in his prepared courses. But, bonus: he's looser and more improvisational and even more funny and adorable in person! So if you ever find yourself in his vicinity for a live event, you might want to check him out.
But... wait, what was my point again?
Oh yeah, a group setting is a really helpful adjunct to solo practice. Because if you got bored and took your phone out and started playing Candy Crush or watching Youtube videos of the world's ugliest dogs, you'd look like a total asshole.
So you don't do that, right? Nor do you wander off to the kitchen to see if there's anymore kettlecorn left, or otherwise give up too soon, which is good for concentration and self-discipline.
But also, you know, the whole sharing knowledge and motivation and bonding and community thing. That's all good too.
And I will no doubt bore you at length in the future about Shinzen Young, who I'm also finding extremely helpful. His approach to meditation is mostly Vipassana, but it's pretty eclectic and permissive. Plus it's very analytical and nerdy and results-oriented. I believe he calls it an "interactive algorithmic" approach, and hooray for geekitude!
Yep, Shinzen's got the sciencey thing wired.
Photo stolen from Shinzen's blog.
BTW, unless I'm reading it wrong it looks like you can get the whole Science of Enlightenment program, which can cost like $80-90 as a CD set, as a downloadable mp3 audio on Amazon for less than ten bucks. How is that possible? I don't want to screw Shinzen over but it seems to be legit, and I also think he probably wants to spread the word about this stuff, especially to people who can't afford the $80-90 bucks.
And note: I'm an Amazon Associate so in theory I make a commission if you go through me.
Anyone else struggling with the whole notion of incorporating mindfulness into your life? Or got any helpful tips?