In 2011, when I used to do my long runs on my country road to Newburyport and back, I used to run by this meditation center that was tucked up into the woods behind the road.
I was so curious about it; enough that I looked it up online to see if they had offerings for people who had never meditated before.
My memory of the place was that it seemed closed off to newbies; that I would have had to commit to a 6 or 8 week meditation class in order to start going there. That was a lot of time to commit when I wasn’t so sure about meditation in the first place. So I filed the idea away for someday soon.
A couple of weeks ago, my next door neighbor emailed me that she had heard from a friend about a meditation center in Newburyport. Her friend couldn’t say enough about it.
So I went to the website to see about their offerings, and realized: it was the center I knew. And they actually had a plethora of offerings for newbies: drop in sessions, weekend sessions, AND a 6 week class.
Just so happened that there was a weekend introductory class last weekend, so I signed up and went.
I had no idea that meditation was so… well… accessible.
Running, for me, can be incredibly meditative. There are runs where, once my body is warmed up, I just run. No thoughts, my mind is empty, it’s just me and the road and the woods and my breathing.
As much as I love running (and would love to do it more!), I need to find that place in the midst of my day, when I’m trying to parent or work with my spouse or deal with work stresses and issues – where it’s impractical to escape for a run.
Not surprisingly, I found the walking part of last weekend’s meditation session comfortable.
Not as comfortable were the seated sessions.
I learned something about myself, though. When I feel uncomfortable, my mind’s reaction is akin to a mild panic. I found myself noting the knot in my back, the discomfort of sitting in one position, and my mind would say, OMG my back hurts. I need to move. Come on, let’s move. Maybe shifting my position this way will work? No, that didn’t work. Maybe doing THIS will work? Nope, still there. How long is this session going to LAST? Maybe I should stand. Standing will help.
It was kind of amusing, actually, to note. I mean, seriously, it was a knot in my back. I have carried that knot with me for years now – the gift of many hours spent in front of my work computer. Nothing to panic over.
This was the moment where I realized, though, that meditation could HELP me.
Because, you see, whenever I feel discomfort in a run – say, miles 15-18 of a marathon, when things start to hurt and you still have a LONG ways to go, for example – my mind completely takes over the experience. And though I can push through a few miles of it, trying to quell the panic (which, really, that’s what it is. My mind kinda screams, This hurts! This hurts! We need to DO SOMETHING TO MAKE IT STOP!!!!), I can only do it for so long.
Whenever I feel emotional discomfort in my life – say, when I feel like I’m not being listened to by either my husband or my son, which makes me feel hurt and superfluous and unimportant – my mind takes over the experience as well. It’ll write a story about it. Well, they’re not listening to you again, really, it’s like talking to a brick wall, and how are you supposed to get anything done if no one listens to you. We need to DO SOMETHING TO GET THEIR ATTENTION.
I am not good with discomfort.
Since Saturday’s class, I have added 10 minutes of meditation to my mornings. Right now that’s about the time I can handle; just before my iPhone timer chimes I have found myself wondering how long it’s been. But I am hoping to add 5 more minutes to the timer this weekend, to keep practicing sitting with my discomfort and focusing on my breath.
Already I’ve noticed how my body reacts when I’m uncomfortable, and during an incredibly stressful moment yesterday at work, I was able to recognize that my mind was freaking out and wanting to create a narrative. I did not allow myself to react that way – just dealt with the situation instead of freaking out and getting angrier.
You know what? It WORKED.
I’m not going to go as far as say that meditation is magic, but I will say that I have a lot of hope that it will have some very real influence in my day to day life.