I understand that it takes a smoker an average of six serious tries before he or she can kick the smoking habit for good. I\’ve been keeping this in mind the last few mornings as I try yet again to develop the meditation habit.
How many times have I attempted this? I can\’t remember–probably more than six. I started meditating sometime in the 1990s, and I must have tried at least once every year since then. Sometimes I manage to meditate almost daily for a couple of months; sometimes for a couple of weeks. This time, I\’m hoping it will stick.
I\’ve read lots of instructions on how to do it. It\’s not hard: sit comfortably, close your eyes, relax, and focus on your breath. A mantra is optional. Your mind will wander, and you will bring it back gently to your breath.
I follow all the above to the letter. I sit on a yoga cushion on the floor in a half lotus, which feels comfortable to me. I close my eyes, relax, and focus on my breath. And my mind wanders.
I think about the dog–big or small, Wolfie or Bisou–that has snuggled right up against my legs and is now snoring softly. I think about my mother. I think about the next clay piece I\’m going to make. I think about spring. Ideas for blog posts cascade through my brain.
I return gently to my breath, and next thing I know I\’m planning next season\’s garden, and worrying that it will soon be time to retire (i.e., kill) my three old hens to make room for new ones that will start laying next winter…. But back to the breath.
While my, as the buddhist call it, monkey mind careens through the jungles of my brain, I notice a familiar tingling sensation in my right leg. That\’s the one that always goes to sleep first. Soon the left one will follow suit, and by the time my thirty minutes are over, it will take me another five to regain full mobility. But never mind. I should focus on the present, on the breath that has been going in and coming out of my body the whole time I\’ve been ignoring it.
And so on and so forth.
Meditation is supposed to do wonderful things, both mental and physical, for you. If you do it faithfully, thirty minutes every day, it will actually change the structure of your brain, for the better. I can\’t imagine how something that feels so like nothing can be that effective. It\’s kind of like drinking green tea, which is full of amazing antioxidants but tastes only like slightly bitter water to me.
I do both–meditate and drink green tea–once a day, on faith. But often I can\’t help wondering whether both the tea and the sitting still aren\’t a huge joke that the inscrutable East is playing on us gullible westerners.