Outside the Comfort Zone: Meditation Bliss (Sorta)

This has been my desktop image for so long, I don't remember where I found it, but it always centers me.

Meditation! This week's "Outside the Comfort Zone" was all me; I was pushing for it. Niri, the other participant in this series, was on the phone with me sorting out our weekly challenges. I wanted, I craved, I needed meditation.  She said she used to do it regularly, but had fallen off so it would be a good challenge to try. Me? I've tried and stopped meditating a dozen times. I was even quoted in the New York Times about my utter failure to meditate. So, how'd it go? Monday morning:  Sit on the floor, pretzel legs. That little nobby part of my ankle is digging into the wood, and as I inhale good air and exhale bad air, I'm mostly just thinking that my ankles hurt. Length of attempt: 5 minutes. Tuesday morning: Sit on bed, legs out straight (hmmph to pretzel legs). Get comfy with pillows behind me. Start to inhale and exhale. Think I need a mantra of some sort and spend a few breaths thinking of one. Come up with: "strong and calm." Hey, getting into it! Cat climbs on bed, starts purring, and head butts me. I give up. Length of attempt: 9 minutes. Wednesday afternoon: I teach at 7:00 am and there's no way I'm getting up early to breathe. Sit in comfy chair in living room, legs in front of me. Start off with a few cleansing breaths and begin my mantra: "strong and calm." Decide I actually don't like mantra and should change it. Try to continue breathing, but stuck on bad mantra. Pfft! Realize tactical timing error when front door bangs open and my son arrives home from school. Length of attempt: 8 minutes. Thursday afternoon: You know how when you meditate you're supposed to empty your mind? How the heck do people do that? It's 3:00 pm, son is quietly doing homework, I'm in the bedroom, door closed to noise and the cat. I try an "Om" ... out loud. I kinda like it and do it again. Start inhaling and exhaling and adding an "Om" to the exhale.  I think (wrongly) that Om means "peace" in Sanskrit, but I don't speak Sanskrit so I try saying "peace" a few times. Just doesn't have the same ring to it, so I switch back to Om. Getting into the rhythm and going along and, holy cow! I actually think I've got the hang of it. Feeling rather blissed out. Peek at clock, length of attempt: 12 minutes!  Leave bedroom feeling chuffed. Friday afternoon:  Back to the bedroom and my "Om."  Cat sleeping on bed ignoring me. Try pretzel legs again and realize I just have bony ankles. Back to legs out straight, pillows behind me. Clearly I'll never cut it as a Tibetan monk. Get back into my routine and all is going well until the phone starts ringing. Trying to ignore it, but the flow is wrecked. I got 10 solid minutes in, but then go check the phone. Hmmph, digital distractions. Saturday night:  I've planned this one. My husband is out for the evening, son is sleeping peacefully, cat is passed out cold, belly up on a fuzzy blanket.  I get comfy in the living room, go all out and light a candle, and start breathing and add in a few Oms.  They feel good, just resonatingly good. This is making me, well, happy. Eyes closed, many Oms later, I just naturally peter out. I feel pretty amazing, kinda Zen, kinda vibrate-y in a good way. I slowly open my eyes and peek at the clock: 18 minutes. A personal best! But wait, it's not about personal bests, is it? Sunday late morning:  I feel so much calmer and I close the door to the bedroom to start my meditation. The cat is meandering around, but I don't mind. She eventually rests up against my leg and falls asleep. I'm breathing and adding my Oms and I feel pretty darned good about it. I've got the hang of it. I even forget to check the time so I don't know how long it takes. As I write this, it's Monday and I didn't meditate at all. It's been a hectic day with a rush of deadlines and, well, it just didn't happen. But I've tapped into that calm everyone talks about. Twice anyway and I can feel the pull of it. I want to get back to that blissed out place. If I can avoid all that hyper-kinetic, crazy life stuff and feel mellow more often that is definitely the direction I want to go towards. Here are a few thoughts if you'd like to try it yourself. There are a bunch of different ways to meditate, from shaved monk's head sitting on hard floors to very unstructured leaning against the pillows on the bed. It appears they all work, so just pick the one that seems like a good fit for you and go for it. Be prepared to stink at it when you first start. It's definitely a struggle to get into the habit and you have to negotiate with your environment and the people in your home to find the time to meditate.  That's okay as you'll figure out better habits as you go. Doesn't being calm sound incredibly appealing to you?  Not letting the day-to-day garbage eat away at you?  What's stopping you?  Give it a try.  You might be surprised. Om, Lisa (Full disclosure: Harvard Pilgrim is paying me for this series of posts, but I am very definitely writing with full editorial control. Mommy Niri and I came up with the challenges on our own.  Don’t forget to check out how she made out with this week!) Read other posts from the "Outside the Comfort Zone" series

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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6 Responses to Outside the Comfort Zone: Meditation Bliss (Sorta)

  1. Kris October 18, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    Ha! Well done friend. It is very hard, and I have been purposefully trying to breathe more lately.
    I’ve tried all sorts of things… candles, pretzels, rituals.
    Right now, I’m just into breathing :)
    I do like mantras sometimes –
    Breathing in I cleanse my body, breathing out I smile.
    And I’m never completely blank. I always have to come back to my breathe.
    But I’m also practicing this throughout the day — just a few minutes here and there – and it does bring me some calm and smiles :)

  2. Timmy Mac October 18, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    I have a pretty regular meditation practice.

    My particular flavor is Zen, but that’s neither here nor there. I would highly recommend investing in some actual meditation cushions. A zafu is a a thick cushion that raises your hips and makes sitting MUCH more comfortable. It goes on top of a zabuton, which is a larger, flat cushion that keeps your knees and ankle bones from hurting.

    In regards to emptying your mind – here’s something that really helpee me. The mind is built to think. It’s nearly impossible to “empty” it. When you notice your mind has wandered and you bring it back to your “empty” or neutral state, that right there is the practice. The mindful attention and re-centering is the actual meditation, not the empty mind.

  3. Fairly Odd Mother October 18, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    Oh, this is lovely. I really need to give it a go. I used to try to do this but always felt so darned self-conscious, I never stuck with it. But, I can imagine how the residual feeling might stick with you throughout the day. Maybe tomorrow I’ll give “OM” a chance.

  4. Lisa Johnson October 18, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    OMG Tim that’s a little epiphany right there … thanks so much for saying that. I’m still meditating after my one week challenge, I find it’s helping a lot with the upcoming video shoot I’m doing … centered is crucial right now.

    Everyone else, thanks so much for the comments, it’s really inspiring! I love my blog. L–

  5. Julian Cardoos October 22, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    Well said… as always.

    As a fitness professional, I see that most people have the “More is Better” attitude. Go, go, go. Move more. If 30mins of cardio is good, do 45mins. If yoga is good, go every day and do power/extreme/insanity yoga!

    A lot of people are misguided, unfortunately. The key is to calm the body and use the appropriate practice for what we need.

    Many sleep too little (or do not get quality sleep), work too much (myself included), drink too much caffeine & are stressed to the max. The amount of people with adrenal fatigue and spiked cortisol levels is mind-boggling.

    Quieting the mind and body is so beneficial to the human body. Weather it be through meditation or just listening. It allows us to be present for the moment and life!

    Now… I’m off to practice my ascension pose #5 ; )

    Julian Cardoos
    Boston Personal Trainer

  6. Lisa Johnson October 22, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    Great response Julian and I think I might be fighting that adrenal fatigue myself, my glands are swollen all the time … sigh. L–

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