When Meditation Doesn’t Work
Life Lessons From Failing To Learn How to Breathe
I don’t know how the YouTube, Instagram and Facebook moms do it. Or maybe it’s the ultra filtered and curated moments of their lives that reminds me no one wants to air their dirty laundry.
Even without a baby, the lives of successful people seem smooth sailing, compartmentalized into tasks and routines, packaged into nice and easy to read listcicles of why I should wake up at 5am and meditate.
It’s addictive. It’s repetitive. It’s also unobtainable.
I don’t have anything against meditation, just that meditation using the traditional method puts me back to sleep — especially at 5am in the morning. I don’t have anything against waking up at 5am either. I’ve done it.
In fact, I’m part of the 4am club.
My alarm clock in the dead darkness of vampire hour? A hangry baby. There is approximately 15 seconds before the stirring escalates into a full blown fog horn. It doesn’t help that the silence amplifies the decibels.
It’s never wise to delay food for a hangry baby.
When it comes to meditation, what I often see are pictures or videos of Tim Ferriss sitting cross legged on the floor with his eyes closed. If not Tim Ferriss, then it’s some sort of attractive yoga gear wearing female or physically fit balding male in the same pose. Like social media, no one ever uses a picture that represents true reality.
The general advice for meditation goes — sit or lie down in a comfortable position, close your eyes, make no effort to control your breath and just focus on breathing.
Step 2 is usually where I start to fall apart. Meditation doesn’t work for me, unless I’m planning to go back to sleep.
Meditation is not about growth or healing or turning you into an ultra successful entrepreneur within 30 days.
The purpose of meditation is to cultivate stillness in order to obtain inner happiness. It’s about achieving a higher state of consciousness — whatever that means.
In the East, meditation is a method to connect with the almighty greatness of the universe. It’s about melting into your sense of existence and being one with everything through attention to the physicality of reality.
In the West, it’s used as a method to focus and silence, using breath as your main point of attention. It’s about slowing down in order to speed up.
Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse, wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out. (Catch Me If You Can)
For some, meditation works.
For me, I simply don’t get it.
Or maybe I just haven’t been ‘enlightened’ yet.
Or maybe it’s to do with all those images of the yoga pants wearing females with their stunningly beautiful but carefully edited bodies. They always makes me feel pretentious and inadequate every time I give it a shot.
Or maybe it’s to do with my personality.
Meditation seeks stillness. I seek progress and growth.
Meditation seeks silence. I seek thought through novelty and sounds.
Meditation seeks a state of acceptance. I seek a state of balance.
What I want and what I need works in binary opposites to what meditation works to achieve.
To me, happiness is a chase whereas in meditation, happiness is being content with one’s existence.
Being the person that I am, I will never truly content. To be content means that I’ve stopped growing and accepted my reality as is. To be content means that I no longer seek change and forever stuck in a single realm of existence.
I don’t meditate or even try to meditate anymore. I find the exercise a pointless way to spend the little pockets of time I have for myself.
I’m not a yoga body kind of mom. I thrive on practicality and productivity. So rather than sitting down and closing my eyes, I work on being mindful instead.
While there are a million other articles out there that speaks of meditation as a pathway towards mindfulness, my method relies on doing the dishes.
The state of my kitchen sink is often a reflection on the state of my mind. When the kitchen is messy, my mind is messy. Maybe that’s why Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos do the dishes too.
Cleaning up the house at the end of the day before bed is like clearing out the mental clutter in my head. It gives me a blank canvas to work with the next day. I do it with intention and with intention comes mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the act of being present in the moment and actions of doing. For me, the process of cleaning mindfully recalibrate my sense of being present.
I’m like a mouse that fell into a bucket of cream and its easier to focus on the next steps than think about the fear of drowning, aching limbs and if my churning efforts will actually work. I’m the type of person that needs to keep moving because circumstances won’t let me stop to indulge in meditation.
Mindfulness through mundane and routine actions works best for my current situation.
Each day has its own unique pushes and pulls, and some days it does get too much to a point where it overwhelms me. Physical cleaning of my spaces acts to undo the chaos, pushes and pulls I experienced throughout the day. It empties my head of to-do lists, obligations, worries, fears, bill payments, work, tomorrow’s dinner and whatever else is on my mind.
Not only that, I get things done at the same time.