In my younger days, I could solve all of my problems with a cup of tea, a hot bath and a handful of chocolate. As I aged, and the situations that life threw my way grew more complicated, managing stress became far more challenging.
When a friend suggested meditation, I was extremely reluctant to attempt it. I’m not a crunchy granola type of girl and I’d never been interested in hippie voodoo. For crying out loud, who has time to sit around contemplating the fuzz in their navel, anyway?
But still, in my role as a nurse, I’d seen mindful meditation work for countless people. So I thought, why not give it a try? Sit down, close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing for 20 minutes. It seemed like such a simple thing to do.
Holy Mackerel! Was I ever wrong! Apparently, I’d underestimated the mess in my head. If my mind was a jungle, you wouldn’t be able to cut through it with just a simple machete. No siree, in order to make any progress at all, you’d need a few dozen chainsaws, a couple of tractors, a GPS, ten men and a boy.
My first few attempts at meditation were a total bust. The following is an example of one of my more epic fails:
Breathe in and out. Breathe in and out. Good for you! You’re doing it. Breathe in and—oh, wait, that reminds me—I have to put the bills IN the mail today. Stop thinking, you’re supposed to be breathing. Okay, breathe in and out. In and out. Breathe in and—Did I feed the dogs before I sat down? They’re probably starving. I’m starving too. I’d really love some pizza, but I should probably have something healthy, like a salad. Ugh, you aren’t focusing on your breath. Breathe. Just Breathe. Breathe. Just breathe. Breathe. Caught up in the touch, the slow and steady rush. Baby, isn’t that the way love’s supposed to be? I can feel you breathe, just breath. Aaaugghh, Faith Hill, get out of my head. Nutballs! This meditation stuff is impossible.
Fortunately, before I completely gave up on meditation, I came across an offering from The Great Courses called Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation. It was taught by Professor Mark Muesse. I decided to give it a try and it was well worth every penny. (The man has a Ph.D. from Harvard, people, and his teaching was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! If you’re going to try meditation, I recommend getting this course. Professor Muesse is familiar with many types of meditation and I especially enjoyed the gratitude (metta) meditation which he introduced.)
I’m not going to lie, sometimes my mind still runs amuck when I’m trying to meditate, but I’ve learned that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. Now, I acknowledge my thoughts without judgment, put them in a bubble and blow the little suckers away.
My most successful meditation (so far) has involved focusing on my breathing and repeating Isaiah 40:31. This meditation soothes and comforts me like nothing else. If you aren’t familiar with the verse, it is as follows:
“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.”
It was from a fabulous sermon that I heard my Dad preach when I was teenager, and well before Chariots of Fire made this verse so famous, but I digress, because that’s just what my mind does.
At any rate, meditation seems to have reduced my stress levels, improved my focus, concentration and creativity. It’s even helped tame my chronic insomnia.
I’ll be honest, I doubt I’m ever going to experience nirvana, but the peace and quiet I’ve discovered through meditation is truly refreshing. I’m convinced the world would be a better place if we all got rid of our chill pills and tried meditation.