This morning, after meditating – a meditation in which the themes of meditation itself, sex addiction, and narcissism all featured prominently – I went back and read a bunch of my old posts on those subjects. Wow. I’ve written a lot.
In recent days, I’ve been watching how people read my blog – the pages that Google brings people to, and the pages people seem to like. I’m puzzled that the pages that feature most prominently aren’t the ones I think most characteristic of the blog as a whole. I don’t really get the whole SEO thing, and I’ve never invested much energy in it. But it got me thinking about topics I haven’t written on in a while, and I thought it might be fun to revisit them with the benefit of some months’, or even years’, having passed.
I’ll start with meditation.
My meditation practice is a little more than a decade old now. That’s ten years I’ve been figuring out what it means (for me) to meditate. Insh’allah, I’ll have several more decades to figure that out. But where I am today is this:
Almost every morning, at around 5:15 or 5:30, I fill an electric kettle with water and turn it on. I scoop out some coffee (4.5-5 scoops of Zabar’s French Italian, and 1-1.5 scoops of their hazelnut) and put it in my French press. I grab a zafu cushion, place it on a chair in my kitchen, and place myself on it. I cross my legs, set a timer (I use the “Insight Timer” Android app) for twenty minutes, and close my eyes. I breathe. I count my breaths. I label my thoughts. I note what pulls me away from my focus on my breath. I note the thoughts, and categorize them, roughly (usually after the meditation), according to the five hindrances (sensual desire, aversion, listlessness/restlessness, sloth/torpor, and doubt). And I make myself some coffee.
Some days, I grab an extra few minutes of sleep, and make the meditation happen later in the day. Others, I lazily meditate in bed after my alarm goes off. In general, I feel better on the days I actually take myself to my kitchen for the meditation. This knowledge doesn’t always trump my sleepiness, though.
Meditation serves as a refuge for me. It’s a venue for me to slow down and be an observer of my thoughts, my feelings. The daily practice of meditation softens my relationship to those thoughts and feelings, allowing me the space to feel a bit of compassion for myself, to see clearly just what it’s like to be me.
For a little more than two years now, I haven’t missed a day. In the years before that, I would miss a day here or there, and sometimes, I might miss a week.
A note on my breathing: when I started meditating, I took twelve to fourteen breaths per minute. Nowadays, it’s more like six to eight. The pace, depth, and quality of my breaths are diagnostic, informative.
Nowadays, there are days when I only manage five minutes, but there aren’t days when I manage less than that. Some days, I manage an hour or more. I feel best when I’m able to snag a 45-minute sit some time between when I wake up and when I turn in. Forty-five-minute stretches are hard to come by in the current configuration of my life. But I’m always grateful when I manage to come by them.
I have tried meditation on several occasions, but just never managed it. It sounds like the perfect time to just return to yourself, to focus on yourself, and make the outside world go away.