20 January 2009

Hippy dippy woo-woo crap

So, I've been doing yoga for a few years now and all yoga practices incorporate meditation in some way. It's my understanding that yoga evolved as a way to get the kinks out of your body so you could meditate without being disturbed by a leg cramp or something. I don't know how true that is ... but for me, anyway, I started doing yoga as a way to get more fit physically. Eventually I started to notice some mental benefits - exercise is always a de-stresser, of course, but yoga in particular puts focus on mental and physical discipline and awareness and integration of the mental/spiritual with physical.

My therapist has been suggesting for a while now that I incorporate regular meditation into my routine as an anxiety management technique. I have an anxiety disorder that I take meds for every day, and I have tranquilizers available for urgent situations, but I'm not content to leave everything to the pharma-psychology to manage itself. Plus I really believe that meds work much better in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy. Meditation is one example of a CBT technique that I use but I have many.

Anyway, at my therapist's urging, I gave meditation a shot but was never quite able to work it into my routine - given the choice between sleeping an extra ten minutes and getting up to meditate, sleep always wins. Then recently I was talking with a friend about my mental health stuff (my friend has some similar issues) and my friend mentioned that she meditates on the train in the mornings. And I was immediately like, oh, BINGO! because otherwise the time on the train is wasted - well, I read, but I can't really do anything productive - it's not a long enough journey to get the laptop out and it's too jerky and crowded to be able to physically write anything. The train is sort of the perfect place, because cell phones don't work, there's no internet, no point in getting the laptop out to work, and even though you're in the midst of a crowd literally pressing in on you physically, emotionally you are completely isolated.

So I just shut my eyes and meditate through a couple of stops (or all the way in), and it doesn't matter if I've got a seat or have to stand, and I'm not chanting and I just look like all the other tired commuters. The only time it's really hard is if people are having a conversation nearby that's loud enough for me to hear distinctly - I almost always end up listening to it rather than meditating, but I try to treat those incidents as a challenge and a way to improve my focus rather than just get ANGRY SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU STUPID ASS I DON'T GIVE A FLYING FUCK ABOUT YOUR STUPID LIFE SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP BEFORE I STAB YOU IN THE FACE. Although trying to improve my focus rather than get angry doesn't always work. heh.

I generally focus on the breath - I cannot just clear my mind and blank out, especially on the way to work in the morning, I have to focus on something neutral or else I'll just start making mental to-do lists for the day ahead. Zen koans don't really work for me either. I am not perfect at it by any means - most of the time, thanks to yoga practice, I can sink right into a meditative state, but I'll almost immediately realize that I'm thinking again, at which point I refocus on the breath. I try to just take note of the thoughts as they pass through, just to kind of check in, awareness-wise, but I let them keep on swimming by without picking up a train of thought and riding it to the end. I've worked out a couple of visualizations, too, but I tend to be super-visual no matter what I'm doing.

It's been very helpful for me in a number of ways. For one thing, even though I am trying not to think about anything, I often do end up solving little problems that have been nagging at the back of my mind for a while. For another, I don't have to be afraid of my brain any more. I used to read all the time when physically possible - book on the T, book on ipod for the walk to and from the T, book on ipod for housework and at actual work whenever the level of work was low enough to permit a book on tape. If I was stuck anywhere I couldn't distract myself with a book or TV, I was miserable and started to worry immediately. You know those middle of the night hamster wheel thoughts? I had those all the time, and I just blocked them out as much as possible. I don't know if I'm describing the situation well, but it was pretty uncomfortable.

Somehow with meditating, the worries are no longer what bubble immediately to the forefront of my mind, and it's surprisingly peaceful to be able to sit quietly rather than working myself up into a panic attack within 15 minutes (not quite that bad, but definitely going in that direction.) I enjoy it now, enough that I try to remember to meditate on weekends, too (especially useful if Dave is wearing his cranky pants).

Sorry that was so long. If you don't have a train ride, it might be a little harder to set aside time and space. On weekends I shut myself in one of the bedrooms. If one or more cats is in there with me, that cat will probably want attention, so I try to use that distraction as a way to improve my ability to focus and shut out any disturbances. (Don't really have face-stabbing inclinations with the cats, fortunately.) Sometimes if I'm really wound up while at home I'll light incense and turn on a little water fountain and focus on the scented smoke and the burbling water. I think the key anyway is not to expect too much from yourself and to incorporate it into your daily routine.

Unrelated: fishtank update. So another fish "disappeared", this one immediately after I'd cleaned the tank. Dammit! I think I have been accidentally killing the algae eaters when I vacuum the gravel - they like to hide and I guess I am just vacuuming too enthusiastically or something. I think I may also have found where one of the bodies is lying. Ugh.


Sue-Ellen de Beer said...

I don't understand about the fish. You need more responsibility?!?

Anonymous said...

You need more responsibility!?!