Tag Archives: mindfulness

I Need a Mantra

After three weeks of almost daily meditation sessions, my mind still regularly runs away on its own tangents.  I thought having a mantra might help keep my focus.  I tried the traditional Hindu sacred syllable, “Om”, but it doesn’t hold spiritual magic for me and I just felt silly saying it (even in my head).  I then decided to come up with a few words, meaningful to me, that I could repeat.  Doing this on the fly during my meditation session (my mind running wild again), I came up with health (I’d been sick for three weeks at that point), joy (something I strive to recognize daily), love (no explanation needed), and creativity (a long-standing goal, a “someday” I see manifesting in different possibilities:  writing, card making, sewing, maybe even painting).

I like these four words as a mantra and it did immediately help my concentration when I focused on saying one with each breath.  However, I found myself playing games in my brain.  I’d say a word with each breath, then I’d say a word breathing in and another breathing out.  I found myself trying to make the words come out in a continual loop, rather than starting with health and proceeding, in order, with the others.  I tried starting with a word other than health and looping on from there.  Each of these thoughts led me off on another tangent of thought that wasn’t focused on breathing and mindfulness.

Maybe mindfulness meditation isn’t right for me or maybe it’s not the right beginning point for me.  I’ve decided I need to research the types of meditation.  I focused on mindfulness because that’s what first comes to mind when I think of meditation, but I know there are many other types.  I like the idea of lifelong learning, so…here we go again.  I’m not giving up, just learning and modifying.  Maybe my mantra should be “Never give up, never give up, never give up…”

Tilting the Pinball Machine (Part 2)

As I said yesterday, I’ve been listening to Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation.  In addition to figuring out the best time of day to meditate and the duration of my planned meditation sessions, the instructor also talks about where to meditate.  I go back and forth between two houses and I want to be prepared at both houses.  As I thought about my options, I decided that the closet is the best place in both houses.  Interestingly, the closet at one of them is already known as the Buddha Room.  It’s the back closet in a warren of closets off the master bedroom in our very weird primary residence.  Yesterday, at the other house, I slid the bathroom rug into the closet (it’s a cold tile floor) and placed a couch cushion on the rug (in a future blog post I’ll talk about yoga cushions and my thrill at having a reason to shop).  Today, in the Buddha Room, which is carpeted, I simply pulled a chair cushion onto the floor.

A few years ago I downloaded a meditation timer app.  Yesterday morning, I logged into the app for the first time in a long time, figured out how to use it again, and set my five-minute timer.  It’s kind of fun because the app lets you know how many other people in the world are meditating right then using their app.  There are a lot!  Many of those people were also meditating for short periods of time, so I felt in good company.

I lit a candle because I can’t stand being in complete darkness, sat down on my cushion, and tapped the start button on my app.  (I was going to say, “hit the start button,” but that sounds too violent when describing meditation.)  Five minutes!  I was really worried about how I would be able to sit still for five whole minutes.  I worked on keeping track of my breath – in and out, in and out, but I have to admit my mind wandered – a lot!  I found myself thinking of my mind as a team of horses pulling a cart.  They’d run wild and I’d have to reign them back in.  In and out, in and out – there they go again!  Reign them back in!  In and out, in and out.

When the horses ran loose, most often they ran towards writing this blog in my brain.  I had ideas about what I wanted to write.  What if I forgot them when the five minutes was up?  At one point, the horses ran towards writing this blog and then I laughed at myself as I thought about writing about thinking about what I would write (does that even make sense?).

Yesterday, I was completely surprised by how quickly five minutes went by.  I thought perhaps one minute had gone by when the five-minute timer went off.  I even checked to make sure it was set correctly.   Today I wasn’t as surprised, but I realize already that I can probably extend the time, but not yet.  I’m taking baby steps with the hope of cementing this practice in my daily routine, so five minutes is fine for now.

With two meditation sessions behind me, I feel the pinball machine slowing down, at least for those five minutes.  The ball is still in play, but I’m not so inclined to go for the all-out tilt.

Tilting the Pinball Machine (Part 1)

Today I began my second “someday” – meditation.  I knew this would be a hard activity for me.  I’ve tried to develop a meditation practice a few times in the past, but haven’t followed through for more than a few days at a time.  Yet I know regularly meditating will be good for me.  Just Google “benefits of meditation” and you’ll see a plethora of articles touting meditation’s rewards.  My problem, and I’m sure many people relate to this, is my mind runs as if the fast forward button has been pushed on the remote.  I once had a friend comment she’d love to see the action inside my brain.  She imagined my thoughts as a ball inside a pinball machine – ping here, ping there, lights flash, noises go off.  Yes, I know I need to learn to quiet my mind and let that quiet ripple throughout my body.  So, on to my second “someday”.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, in preparation for this month I’ve been listening to Practicing Mindfulness:  An Introduction to Meditation.  The instructor suggests a meditation practice of 20 to 45 minutes per day.  I heard that and just about crumbled.  20 to 45 minutes per day!!??  Luckily I didn’t hit the off button immediately because he went on to say even five minutes per day was adequate to start, especially if the shorter time contributed to making the practice a consistent routine.  Okay; I figured I could handle five minutes.  He also suggests figuring out the best time to meditate to facilitate making it a daily practice.  I know I write best when I write in the morning.  I also know the only way I’ve ever maintained an exercise program is to workout in the morning.  So, it wasn’t hard to decide my meditation practice needs to take place first thing in the morning.  Since the instructor also suggests wearing comfy clothes to meditate, I figured I’d hop out of bed, make a pit stop, and head right into my meditation practice.

Part 2 tomorrow:  Place and Time

A Different Type of Holiday Prep

Thanksgiving is not yet over and I’m prepping for December.  Every year there are the early preparations for Christmas:  ordering Christmas cards, compiling gift lists and starting the shopping, planning holiday events.  This year, in addition, I’m prepping for my December “Someday” – meditation and mindfulness.  I specifically chose this “Someday” for December because the holiday season can be so crazy and I wanted to force myself to slow down and be aware of the joys, the events, and time with family and friends.

Developing a meditation practice will be a big challenge for me.  After all, my motto is “Embrace the Crazy”.  One meditation expert says a key to mindfulness is to “live without frenzy” – seems a bit of a conundrum.  How will I figure out how to embrace the crazy while living without frenzy during the Christmas season?  My first step in preparation for next month is listening to an audiobook, Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation.  I began listening yesterday.  No practice yet.  These are baby steps.  I’m beginning slowly: listen this week and be ready to set aside a few minutes a day for practice next week.