How I became a meditation convert
I can’t open a magazine or look at a blog these days without reading an article about mindfulness and meditation. Though neither are new ideas – Hindus have been practising these calming techniques for thousands of years – both have recently hit the mainstream and are now popular with the over-worked and ultra-frazzled. Being busy is out and deep breathing is in. Goodbye multi-tasking, hello relaxation.
I never thought I was the meditating type. It sounded very nice and everything, but – like yoga, paleo and Zumba, – just not for me. My favourite relaxation activity involved a couch, a television and a block of chocolate.
But then my eight-year-old daughter started waking up three or four times every night, terrified and unable to get back to sleep on her own. She seemed happy enough during the day, but at night became a ball of anxiety. I tried everything: we talked about fear and stress, I gave her a set of worry dolls, she had a night-light and a teddy. Nothing seemed to help.
And then I bought a meditation CD.
“Tonight,” I said to her, setting up the first track, “you can listen to this as you go to sleep, and if you wake up in the night you can turn it back on and listen to it again.”
I pressed PLAY.
Take yourself on a meditation vacation, said a very relaxed woman. Travel in your mind to the mountains, in the snow … there’s a delicate snowfall … slow … floaty …
The narrator’s voice made me cringe. You’ve got to be joking, I thought, leaving the room. How incredibly daggy. I felt embarrassed at having bought such a thing. Nevertheless, I really wanted my daughter to let go of some of her anxiety, and if that meant going on a meditation vacation to the mountains, so be it.
After a couple of weeks she was still waking up during the night, but when she did she’d simply do her meditation and go straight back to sleep. It was a definite improvement.
“That CD turned out to be a good buy,” I said to my husband one evening. “Yeah,” he replied. “Maybe you should use it too.” “What do you mean?” I asked, putting a square of dark chocolate into my mouth. “For your anxiety,” he explained.
I am very anxious; it’s true. And I panic easily. But my method of coping involves extreme housework. If I’m feeling stressed I just clean something furiously. Afterwards, I feel better and the oven/floor/bath is shinier than ever. The end.
“I don’t need meditation,” I said to my husband. “I’m fine. Plus, I can’t stand that woman, with her soft, deep voice and annoying suggestions.”
However, that night I lay in bed, unable to sleep. My mind was whipping through its favourite topics: the kids, work, world events and my own mortality. I eventually got fed up with the circular thoughts and sat up. I considered watching television for a while, but it was past midnight and I definitely did not want to buy anything for four easy payments of $39.99.
So what did I do? I fetched my daughter’s meditation CD, set it up in my room, and got back into bed.
Take yourself on a meditation vacation …
For the first minute I remained cynical. What is this stupid ding sound effect? I thought. Why does the narrator sound so patronising? A meditation vacation is not the same as a real vacation! But as soon as I clenched and unclenched every muscle in my body (as instructed) my inner skeptic left and I found that I was able to go freely to a cosy cabin on a snow-capped mountain and actually enjoy relaxing by the log fire.
And, of course, I fell asleep quickly and easily.
The effect was so dramatic that I used the CD the following night too.
And then the night after that. And the night after that.
And now I listen to my soft lady every night without fail. Sure, she still makes me cringe slightly, but mostly I appreciate the way she takes my mind to a calm place. Will my daughter and I ever be free from anxiety? I don’t know. But are we both getting more sleep? Yes. And that’s a good start. Meditation, it turns out, is for me. Maybe I should take up yoga, paleo and Zumba after all …
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