Trying Hard to Sit Still For Twenty Minutes

Lillybelle on turntable

I have begun to meditate, and I can’t tell you that anything magical has happened. I have been circling the idea of meditating for years, occasionally reading books or blog posts of yogis and others who have a regular meditation practice.

I need to do this at 5:30 am in order for the house to be quiet and to still have time for my regular pre-work tasks. In order to get up early, I can’t just plop down on the couch in the evenings and watch Anthony Bourdain reruns for several hours. Even though he’s pretty irresistible. (My sister-in-law calls him her “TV boyfriend.”)

Elizabeth Gilbert famously described her meditation practice in her memoir Eat, Pray, Love. Nothing much seemed to be happening and she determined to sit completely still until something did happen, and after a few hours she experienced a flash of overwhelming light.

This has never happened to me, but I don’t sit for 3 hours. And also I am not in an Indian ashram. I haven’t really had anything much happen. Occasionally I’m pretty sure I’ve just fallen back to sleep. I feel like I’m just sitting there, silently repeating my mantra in the back of my consciousness, while a steady stream of stories float through. What time is it? Did I finish that spreadsheet that my director needs by 10 am today? How is my son? Why is the cat making that strange noise – is she hungry or just annoying me? It’s raining outside. It sure is chilly in here. What time is it now? Back to the mantra. I shouldn’t have eaten those nachos with all those jalapenos last night. What was that dream I had – were we at the ocean? I need to call my mother and see if her foot is better. I hear a cardinal outside at the feeder. And back to the mantra.

And so it goes until the timer rings. I have not yet experienced anything really enlightening during meditation.

Recently, I stood on my porch on a cool evening, drinking a cup of water and watching cars drive down my street. This is when it really occurred to me that I am alone. Although I am married, have an adult son, have friendships, have coworkers, have extended family, one day, most of them will probably not be with me. My son may move away. My husband, who is older than me, is likely to die sooner than me, as will my mother. Of course I don’t know. I could die today. But the likelihood is that the people in my life in this form, will not continue as they are today. People float in and out of your life. But I am the thing that is always with me.

And the part of me that is always with me is my breath. We humans can live about a month without food, several days without water, but only a few minutes without breath.

I don’t know if the breath is the core of who we are, or if it’s a wrapper around the spirit that is our essence.  But I’ll keep sitting and see what happens.