I'm done. I quit. It's not working, and I finally realized it. You have my permission to quit too.
I know I've talked about the benefits of meditating before, but I've also talked about how it seems to hurt the language side of my brain (purely anecdotal of course).
In fact, I'm beginning to believe it's a bit of fad. I confessed this to my mother last month, and she was in total agreement.
"When you get as old as I am," she told me, "You start to notice these trends periodically come back."
And in her day it was all about transcendental meditation, and she had some pretty good stories about what a scam that was (it cost a lot of money, I think it still does too). Apparently, some of her friends who really got into it (like meditating for HOURS a day) kind of lost their minds for a while. Obviously, that isn't something I want.
Before I came this conclusion, I tried to meditate daily for over a year (trying different apps, Headspace, YouTube videos), and it never got easier. I kept wondering what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I do it? Why couldn’t I focus? It just made me feel restless and annoyed.
And then I had this epiphany – dude, I am GREAT at focusing, just not on nothing. The sensation of my butt sinking into the chair is not interesting. Of course my mind would wander, which would lead to this palpable sense of failure each and every single time. Kind of defeats the purpose doesn’t it? (This New York Times article does a great job of describing that particular trap of mindfulness.)
However, I am good at focusing on my body when I do yoga. I’m good at focusing on music when I play the piano. I’m good at focusing when I read a book, or take a stab at writing a story. I used to notice this when I was a kid – when I would play the piano, it was like I would “disappear.” That obnoxious voice in my head would finally shut the fuck up. And that was half the attraction of playing.
Realizing this, I recently gave up even trying to meditate (or putting in on my endless to do list), which freed up more time to do stuff that I enjoyed AND actually made me feel more grounded and focused (like yoga, reading, piano, etc.).
Anyway, I just think this idea that EVERYONE SHOULD MEDITATE is just another fad, like skinny vs. boot-cut yoga pants. Different styles work on different people, which is why it’s so infuriating when the powers that be decide what’s best for everyone.
So I say, if meditation isn’t working, find something else. I think we’ve forgotten that any creative activity (dancing, cooking, gardening, painting, writing, etc.) can be just as meditative (if not more) than sitting in a chair trying to think about nothing.
Plus, then you also get to enjoy the benefit of your activity (exercise, good food, fresh vegetables, beautiful pictures, stories, and so on) instead of opening your eyes and realizing you literally just spent 10 minutes of your life doing nothing at all. What a waste of time. (Also, side note, when did the imagination become the enemy? That’s kind of fucked up, right?)
Sorry for the novel-long length of this post. I obviously feel passionately about this topic. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Fuck meditation. The last time I meditated really “well,” I tried to write afterwards and ALL THE WORDS WERE GONE. I literally couldn’t think of individual words. That can’t be good! So screw it. And I’m not going to feel bad about it either. If it works for some people, awesome, but it doesn’t work for me, and that’s fine. I’ll do my own thing.
I will say this, however. I do believe meditation can help when you're feeing REALLY out of whack. I think it's pretty good at resetting your emotional equilibrium. I noticed it helped me a lot when I was struggling with marriage issues last year (I really liked this YouTube video). But once my husband and I resolved those issues, and I wasn't feeling quite so bad, I honestly don't think meditation helped anymore. Instead, I think gardening and yoga helped me more. Just different ways of practicing mindfulness, I guess.
So meditate, or don't meditate. Just don't feel like EVERYONE HAS TO MEDITATE, because I think that's b.s.
What do you think? Do you enjoy meditating? Totally cool if you do. But if you don't, I totally get it now. I'm chalking this up to a learning experience about fads. Just because everyone says to do something, doesn't mean it's actually/automatically helpful.
p.s. This post was partially inspired by this great read at All & Sundry. You should check it out, made me laugh, because it's so true.
Writing, editing, and doing science when I feel like it. Just a book without a genre.