Quote of Inspiration

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Friday, November 5, 2010

On Meditation

I have been meditating each night. I meditate until I feel compelled to open my eyes, which has been 7 to 8 minutes. It's hard. It's harder than I could have imagined. I usually do it lying down, before I sleep, which is arguably not the "right" way to meditate. And it's still hard.

What's so hard? Well, it's hard to try to clear one's mind, to focus on breathing instead of the grocery list, whether or not the children have been properly raised and if my husband is safe and sound. My mind wants to run through that night's episode of Without a Trace, and then while it's reviewing the slides of that particular program, my mind wants to tell me that I shouldn't be watching that stuff anyway.

Then, I have to bring my mind back on track, which means focusing on the breath going in and out of my nose, hesitating at the top and the bottom of each breath before beginning again.

It goes like this for 7 minutes, and then I open my eyes. My mind has only been quiet a few seconds of that time, maybe. I have to continually bring my mind back to my breathing, where it sits for a second or two before moving on.....again.

I am reading a book entitled Mindfulness in Plain English (Gunaratana, 1996). It is a simple examination of meditation and explanation of how to apply and practice it in one's life.

I am hopeful meditation will be useful for me. There is a lot of mind that needs quieting up there.

Does anyone have any experience with meditation?



  1. Some experience here...about 11 years with some good ones in there ;) These days I meditate every day...have been for several months. It helps tremendously. I practice mindfulness-awareness meditation, eyes open, siting posture. Practice is to focus on out breath. Not too tight (anxious about following the breath...being a good girl), not too loose (spacing out). Sometimes talking about one's experience of meditation to someone else is not so useful...can just become something that they repeat in their head.

    All I'll say is that it changes over time and it's more important to be curious about it than to strive for any particular experience. Following the practice instruction is the only thing to come back to when you get lost in entertaining yourself with brain tricks (common in all meditators).

    The tradition in which I've been taught recommends open eyes to lessen the transition between the meditation cushion and the rest of your life. The idea is to be mindful and aware throughout your day/life. I'm sure there are equally good reasons to do it with eyes closed. Either way, lying down tends to make it easier to space out.

    If you have specific questions about your experience, please do ask. There's a good chance I will have been there... :)

  2. Maria - thanks for the response! I'm wondering - you say meditation has helped tremendously. I'm curious in what way? Is there anything specific or an overall experience? I have to admit that last night, while lying donw (at midnight), I actually fell asleep while meditating. Guess it's time to go back to sitting. Also, do you ever get to the point where it's not so difficult to quiet your mind and simply focus?

  3. I got into meditation because of anxiety attacks. So at the beginning I was trying to remedy a pretty big problem. The effect of meditation was very quick and positive. Within a couple weeks I wasn't having crippling anxiety anymore. But when the anxiety was lessened I realized that there was a whole lot of garden variety fear left...this takes a bit longer to work with...a whole lifetime perhaps. Meditation helps me work with fear and by doing this I uncover courage, self-respect, lots of love, and joy of living. By not being afraid of being in the world, love and joy emerge and it feels amazing. That is of tremendous benefit to me and to those I interact with. In terms of everyday specific benefits, I am able to welcome whatever is happening...if not immediately, at least eventually. It also helps to break bad habits. When I feel an unhealthy compulsion brewing, I can more easily detect it and come back to a sense of being ok which breaks the compulsion.

    Someone once said "Don't resist your own life". That statement has resonated with me throughout the years and my understanding of it has changed over time but it seems to be a good summary of how meditation helps for me.

    And yes like any practice, eventually bringing the mind back to the object of meditation becomes familiar and much more precise (think of Japanese tea ceremony). Every time I sit down in the morning to practice I am surprised at how chaotic my mind is already. Depending on what is happening and how much emotional upheaval there is, the number of minutes it takes to feel the space outside of my mind varies. Sometimes I never get there but it is still useful to do it and learn to be with myself under different states of mind and not freak out.

    The thing to remember is that meditation is not exciting. Letting yourself do one thing is hard, particularly when that one thing is not exciting. But once you get there it's like a mini-vacation. And patience develops as a result.


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