We all laughed when in Eat, Pray, Love Julia Roberts as Elizabeth Gilbert, sits down in lotus position and attempts to meditate. Not a second after she closes her eyes, her monkey mind begins. “What am I going to do when this year is over? Where am I going to live? Maybe Chicago?…Why is this so hard?” Then when she looks at the clock turn from 1:50 to 2:00 pm: “Oh my god. Kill me!”
Funny because anyone who’s ever tried meditating understands the feeling.
Suddenly every single worry, fear, mindless concern seems to be front and center and there’s nowhere to hide from it, nothing to hide it with.
In that respect, how can meditation be really relaxing anyway?
I mean wouldn’t you rather plop down $100 to spend a day at a spa where people are ensuring your relaxation then spending 5 minutes of focused attention on yourself?
Somehow I think all the TV we watch, gossip we engage in and books we read to escape end up being more distracting and stressful in the long run. Like window shopping on our way to the grocery store, they impede our path. And while massage, manicures and shopping trips can be good for us and has their place in our lives, I think the thing we’re most afraid of (confronting our fears) holds the key to long-term change and ultimate happiness.
There’s all kinds of evidence to suggest it. There are research studies that prove meditation is good for our physical health (lowering blood pressure, decreases pain, increases immune function). But just like the choice between a healthy salad and a frosted scoop of chocolate ice-cream, it’s so much easier to lean to the right.
What is Good for Us Isn’t Necessarily Easy
The problem is, at least for me, doing nothing doesn’t feel like it should be any good. Sure sitting on my butt and watching mindless TV isn’t good either. But my mind is so distracted by flashes of light and attention grabbing verbiage that I forget about it for the moment. So although the repetitive motions of aerobic exercise or a bike ride when my muscles are aching really aren’t good for me, it feels like it should be. Maybe it’s growing up in the 80’s idea of pain = gain that has my mind twisted.
What’s hard is breaking the habit.
Even in a cottage where it’s fitting that my husband sits on a lounge chair under a reading lamp and reads as jazz plays on the stereo, I busied myself painting, crafting a short story and trying my hardest to finish as much reading as I could before the weekend was over.
But when I am really honest with myself, all the drama of avoiding meditation has to with the word guilt. If I’m not creating, I’m not being productive. If I am sitting on my ass, I am being lazy. Generations of women who ran around cooking and cleaning and working as their men sat and relaxed has caught up with me.
This journey to take the time to take care of myself has revealed that. I guess “when you know better you do, do better.” The question now is what will I do with that information. Will you keep doing what’s easy and comfortable to ease your short-term experience or will you face the seemingly impossible-sit in silence and don’t do anything? We shall see.