Monday, September 30, 2019

Staying away from the news

Saturday: 35 minutes sitting
Sunday: 37 minutes sitting
Monday: 37 minutes sitting

As I mentioned to M.H. yesterday, I can now occasionally maintain focus on my breath for upwards of 30 minutes at a time, which is a real accomplishment—try it for a few minutes if you don’t believe me—but I’m not entirely sure what that ability buys me in the real world.

Possible answer: enough awareness to know that spending time on Twitter or going deep into any sort of news right now is just going to royally piss me off, and that I don’t have time for that. Honestly, I didn’t need any further evidence that the moron was also a criminal. To me the only relevant question is whether his supporters (and. rally. goers.) whom I know personally have come to their senses in any meaningful way, and I can probably guess that answer so I won’t be asking.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Still at my desk

Friday: 35 minutes sitting

Today I was a whole different uhhhh…meditation practitioner. Is the term yogi? Everything that went wrong yesterday went great today, and I decided it’s like that phenomenon where you set a really early alarm to get up to go to the airport only to wake up every hour worrying that it’s time. I started a 35-minute meditation at exactly 8:25 when I needed to be at my desk at 9, and my brain just couldn’t take the pressure. That’s my theory.

I’ve been making a point of taking Friday nights and Saturdays off, but I can’t possibly do that this week. Every time I look at my inbox I find another piece of work I’ve been neglecting (or have already missed a deadline on). Will be sure to resume having weekends when the current emergency passes.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

It *is* harder

Tuesday: 35 minutes sitting
Wednesday: 35 minutes sitting
Thursday: 35 minutes sitting/lying down

My mind and body double-teamed me today to try to thwart my meditation. Nothing can make meditation “hard,” huh? Naive noob! Have you ever tried it with a sore back, stiff legs, AND a freaking-out-for-no-real-reason brain? Who’s calmly accepting whatever comes up now?

(I don’t know who’s supposed to be talking there.)

I didn’t have time for yoga today before meditating (people are actually expecting to be able to reach me by 9 a.m.), and I had a huge, impossible day of work ahead. Again. I sat down not realizing anything was that amiss. But then my mind and body both went berserk, and I couldn’t seem to stay either still or focused. I didn’t give up on meditating, but I did give up on sitting and finished the last 10 minutes flat on my back, which was only slightly more tolerable.

I wonder if finding time for yoga first is more essential than I thought, or if this morning was just a perfect storm? I’ve learned a couple of ways to try to work through stuff like this—calmly observe the emotions as they arise, mindfully change your position—but I don’t think my skills were quite up to what happened today.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Panic response

Monday: 35 minutes sitting

I was happy with my extension to 35 minutes, except that 20 minutes in, my phone gave half a ring and nearly startled me to death. I had Do Not Disturb turned on (I had forgotten to also turn on airplane mode) so I knew it was a call from one of my nearest and dearest, and I literally lunged for it before realizing they had already hung up. Not so mindful of me, but then again the little break/movement/heart attack midway through mostly kept my legs from falling asleep. :)


I wrote that first paragraph sort of judging/laughing at myself—and I’m leaving it the way it is—but I just remembered something. Probably the last early-morning call I got that broke through Do Not Disturb was the one summoning me to the facility where my dad was on the day he died. Good Lord. No wonder.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

This is me trusting the process

Saturday: 30 minutes sitting
Sunday: 30 minutes sitting (in a chair)

My book says Stage Two is mastered “when episodes of mind-wandering are brief, while
your attention to the breath lasts much longer”—soooo, if you’re counting, I’m moving on to studying Stage Three. I don’t want to move beyond that until I’ve worked up to 45 minutes per meditation session, and right now I’ve been letting my physical tolerance for sitting dictate when I increase the length.

To quote the book again, eventually “sitting still becomes so deliciously pleasant that it takes an act of will to move.” In the meantime, though, I keep thinking maybe there’s some magical leg position or hip stretch that will keep my foot from falling asleep. Then I get fidgety worrying about whether I’ve got it right this time.

My goal for this week is to chill, trust that I will adapt, and increase my time a bit regardless of what happens.

Friday, September 20, 2019

It is not harder

Friday: 30 minutes sitting

I made a minor error in a bit of work I did yesterday, which the client now known as Grumpy blew slightly out of proportion—or maybe it was just that thing where nuance does not come across well via email. But of course as an editor I already hate making mistakes, so I started my day harried and irritated. I don’t know if it was just that or also other things (I do have a ton on my plate), but I knew it was going to be really hard to settle down and meditate today.

But then I had this thought: Sitting still for 30 minutes does not get harder because of the state of my mind. It’s not expected or possible for my focus be at its best every day. All I have to do is sit down and follow the simple instructions, and the outcome is out of my hands. So it’s not possible for meditating to be “harder” based on my mindset.

That is a capital-I Insight that I definitely read in the book but had not really connected with my own life until now.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Onto Stage Two

Monday: 30 minutes sitting
Tuesday: 30 minutes sitting
Wednesday: 30 minutes sitting
Thursday: 30 minutes sitting

I don’t know if you’re really supposed to declare yourself ever “finished” with a meditation stage, because the book notes that you can move back and forth among them day to day or minute to minute. But it also says you’ve achieved the goals of Stage One “when you never miss a daily practice session…and when you rarely if ever procrastinate on the cushion by thinking and planning or doing something besides meditating.” So I’m going to focus on studying the chapters on Stages Two and Three and count Stage One as done.

Maybe it’s just because I got veryverybusywithwork and just want to have something checked off my list.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Running nostalgia

Thursday: 25 minutes sitting
Friday: 27 minutes sitting
Saturday: 27 minutes sitting (in a chair*)
Sunday: 27 minutes sitting (in a chair*)
Monday: 30 minutes sitting

Ruh-roh, better catch up. The blog suffers when I have a real weekend, but it is well worth it not to turn on my computer at all.

When we went out for a walk yesterday we ran into a couple of Montana Marathon** stragglers passing by Mile 20 rather late in the day. One of them was limping and looked awful—I wanted to pull her aside and ask if it was really worth it to press on for six more miles—but it still made me sort of nostalgic for the marathon experience. I no longer think it’s good for me to run such long distances, but I started fantasizing about training to walk it next year. I am officially slapping that idea away, though. The meditation thing is the thing I’m doing now, and I don’t want to make the classic Julie mistake of starting a whole bunch of other rules/resolutions at the same time.

* I have a chair in my closet that is great for throwing once-worn clothes on, and it also works for meditation when my normal spot is not available (perhaps because someone is napping near there). It was a pleasant little break to not have to worry about my leg falling asleep.

** I went looking for my race report, and it’s not on this blog but on a computer file and dated Sept. 20, 2009. Ten-year anniversary!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Tuesday: 25 minutes sitting
Wednesday: 25 minutes sitting

I’ve been in a weird, moody mood where I definitely don’t feel like working or socializing, but I do feel like weeding the lawn. Like all day, weather-permitting. I might just be crying out for fresh air and sunshine—or maybe it’s the sad, neglected lawn doing the crying. It’s infested with some insidious new kind of weed this summer that is really challenging my commitment not to use chemicals.

At any rate, my current status is: Wishing I did not have any other commitments so that I might spend a relaxing week or so filling cans with yard debris.

Monday, September 9, 2019


Saturday: 25 minutes sitting
Sunday: 25 minutes sitting
Monday: 25 minutes sitting

I dove into the index of my meditation book this morning to read everything it had on legs falling asleep, because that has suddenly become a major issue. The topic comes up a bunch of times, and it seems I have several options:
  1. Just meditate in a chair or lying down; it doesn’t matter
  2. Wait for the body to adapt; it will eventually get used to sitting for long periods
  3. Ignore any harmless sensation; it is practice for dealing with distraction
  4. If it’s too distracting, turn the focus to the sensation itself and meditate on that instead of the breath; I can then mindfully decide to change position if I want
I’m trying to get over the silly notion that sitting in a chair is not how the cool meditators do it. At any rate, #1 and #2 are mutually exclusive, so for now I’ll just try #2 and #3, resorting to #4 when I have to. Oh, and great idea* that just occurred to me: I’ll also raise my cushion a little higher off the ground for the time being.

I think I heard somewhere once that the whole original purpose of yoga was to make the body more comfortable in meditation. I really like that concept (which is why I’m not even Googling it to find out if it’s accurate), and I do enjoy some yoga before I meditate. It definitely makes sitting afterward feel that much more relaxing.

* As I was flipping around the book, I noticed that one of my earlier observations is addressed as well. I called it “The challenge of ideas”; he calls it “The Problem of Discursive Brilliance.” :)

Friday, September 6, 2019

Sitting and Twitting

Friday: 20 minutes sitting

I was planning to increase my meditation time by 5 minutes a week until I hit 45, but adding that precise amount of time precisely every seven days feels so arbitrary when I am clearly ready for more. (I swear I am not just trying to rush through Stage One!)

I know you’re probably very worried about how I’m going to find 45 minutes in my busy schedule, but I’m thinking I can take some of it from the approximately 15 minutes I waste on Twitter after every session before even getting up from my meditation cushion. Now you’re probably wondering what the hell is wrong with me, and I don’t know. I guess sometimes I don’t want to stand up yet because my lower legs are asleep, and sometimes I’m just succumbing to an addiction to my phone. It has a nifty meditation timer app that I like using, but I suppose I should at least start setting the thing down out of reach.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Gift from a neglected garden

Thursday: 20 minutes sitting

Sometime in, I assume, May, I planted some seeds in my little garden as if spring and summer of 2019 weren’t going to be a nightmarish haze. Fast-forward to September, and I’ve pulled some weeds now and then but honestly have no idea what else is supposed to be growing in there. There are several large, leafy things, but no vegetables that I can discern.

I honestly didn’t bother about it much, but then a few days ago, some part of my mind piped up with: Kale?

Yes, of course! A vegetable where the leaves are the finished product!

Brain almost immediately fortified with kale chips, I thought to have a look at my seed packets, and the other plants are supposed to be baby bok choy and Brussels sprouts—but if those are happening this year, they don’t seem to have happened yet.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Trips and traps

Wednesday: 20 minutes sitting

As I mentioned, the book I’m reading presents meditation as a journey that’s actually leading somewhere, versus just a thing to do for a few minutes a day to be better at life or whatever. Maybe that is not a surprise to you, but apparently everything I’ve read on the subject until recently has been rather Americanized.

Anyway, I’m on Stage One, where literally all I have to do is establish a regular meditation practice. I’m also working at the same time on Stage Two, where I aim to lengthen my periods of focus and shorten my periods of distraction. Doing both at once is fine (and book-approved), and I suspect—since I’m really taking my time to get Stage One right—that when I’ve mastered it I will have pretty much finished Stage Two as well.

All this stage stuff is tricky, though. You want to stay motivated and aware of where you are on your journey, but you also don’t want to get fixated on goals or achieving the next milestone. I feel like I could be vulnerable to that latter trap, so I haven’t even read the chapters about Stage Three and beyond.

Another trap, by the way, is categorizing any one meditation session as good or bad. That leaves very little to talk about in a blog post, but I will just say that today’s session was quite pleasant in general and that for the first time in a while no body parts fell asleep. :)

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The children

Monday: 20 minutes sitting
Tuesday: 20 minutes sitting

Dex graced us with a short visit on Monday morning, which was nice, because it’s been days now since we’ve had a child in this empty nest. His life is full of adventures that it’s probably good he never tells me about until after the fact: four-day backpacking trips with sketchy trail maps, full days spent rock climbing, a series of quests to soak in secret hot springs, that kind of thing. (Actually, literally those things.) I’ve always been glad we moved to Montana, but I think I’m gladdest about having brought Dex here. At least we will always know where to find him.

I wonder where Mik will ultimately end up, but I suspect it won’t be determined by something esoteric like the call of the mountains. I feel really good about where he is now, though, which, if you don’t know, is a teeny Midwestern college with challenging academics and a superior swim team. He’s just casually enrolled in Calculus II, hit the weight room, and gotten on with it.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The challenge of ideas

Saturday: 15 minutes sitting*
Sunday: 15 minutes sitting

Here’s an initial challenge to blogging about a meditation journey (as opposed to blogging about an Ironman training journey): While doing the meditation “training,” you don’t get to amuse yourself by writing your next post in your head. Writing in your head is an amazing distraction for, for example, swimming laps, but here the whole point is to not get distracted.

Actually, all sorts of ideas pop up while you’re sitting and breathing, but rather than entertain them, you’re supposed to pat them on the head, set them aside, and go back to focusing on your nostrils.

At this (early, early, early) stage, I have to say that ideas are a particularly tempting distraction for me. I really love to entertain them and have even been known to form elaborate plans and acronyms around them.

But all this is just a monkey running off with my elephant, so I’m patiently walking the path.**


* I am specifying “sitting” because at some point down the road I may break up longer sessions with a walking meditation or something else.

** The monkey is distracting thoughts, the elephant is my mind, and the monk at lower right is me.

 Image result for monkey elephant illustration meditation