I don’t know what I was thinking of …..

I’ve been attempting daily meditation. Like most of the good habits I try to form this one is sporadic to say the least. I first tried a couple of years ago and worked my way up from five to fifteen minutes over the course of about a month. Then I stopped. A few weeks ago I tried again and this time I just jumped straight in at the fifteen minute point like a fearless black belt meditator. Then I stopped again. Today I started yet again and since it’s still today and I may meditate tomorrow I suppose technically I can say I am meditating again. Well at least until I stop.

I have absolutely no idea what I am doing of course. I’ve read a few articles about it and listened to the odd practitioner on the radio over the years so I know a little of the theory of meditation but it’s not like learning to do something tangible like juggling. (I’ve lost count of the number of times I have embarked on a routine of ten minutes juggling every day but that never lasts either). The thing with juggling, unlike meditation, is that it’s fairly easy to know if you are doing it right or not. Generally speaking if the balls are in the air then you are juggling, if they are on the floor then you’re not. It’s quite straight forward. With meditation it’s just not that clear-cut is it? Most of the time I don’t actually know if I am meditating or not.

This is me juggling

This is me not juggling

As far as I understand it you are supposed to think of nothing, or not think at all, you see I’m already confused. Some say you should concentrate on your breathing, others say to focus on how you feel and your location in the room (mindfulness meditation). Forgive me, but that sounds a bit like thinking to me. And isn’t not thinking, sleeping anyway?

My own technique is to focus on my slow breathing and if a thought pops into my head to try and let it pop out again just as quickly. Sometimes I end up thinking about thoughts that are about to pop into my head and how I can keep them out and at some point in every session I think about how much longer there is to go before I can start thinking again. In other words, I have a long way to go before I achieve fifteen minutes of uninterrupted nirvana. I usually meditate with my eyes shut and one thing that I have noticed is that the colour behind my eyelids is like a slowly moving lava field that is repeatedly obscured by a darker colour that washes in like the tide over a sandy shore. It’s very calming and pleasant but I do sometimes wonder if it’s a product of my age and it’s actually just a hangover from being brought up in the era of the lava lamp.

It’s not a complete disaster. I do feel very relaxed at the end of a session and there is usually a moment, generally in the final five minutes I estimate, when I drift off somewhere. I suddenly become aware that I have no recollection of the previous moments, a bit like when you are driving and you realise to your horror that you can’t recall the last couple of miles. I’m pretty sure that I haven’t fallen asleep , (during the meditation I mean, not the driving) because I haven’t dribbled or fallen off the chair or anything so maybe I have actually meditated. It’s also impossible to know if these moments last for a second or two or a few minutes. Presumably, if I was a really good meditator they would last for fifteen minutes. All joking aside though, those few moments when I seem to get it right make me think that there probably is something worthwhile in this business and I really should persevere. I once read that twenty minutes effective meditation is as valuable as a good night’s sleep. Or did I dream that?

I am going to keep trying because if nothing else I have never heard of anybody saying that they meditate every day and it’s a waste of time. On the contrary all practitioners seem to agree that it benefits them in lots of ways and serious science seems to concur.

From lowering blood pressure to improving memory and slowing the ageing process, meditation has been credited with endless physical and mental paybacks. Studies using MRI scans have confirmed that a mere eight weeks of regular meditation will bring about real changes to the brain reducing processes associated with stress and boosting those responsible for concentration and decision making. About the only thing that it doesn’t seem to help with in my case, is the ability to form regular good habits; like meditating every day for example, or juggling. Something to ponder perhaps; when I’m not meditating.

Right; I’m off to sit in a darkened room to not think about lava lamps for quarter of an hour.