I have a curious relationship with meditation. Over the past several years, I’ve had several people recommend it to me as a way to cope with anxiety and calm my fears. Like lots of things throughout my life (exercise and writing are prime examples), it’s been an on again/off again affair.
I became more serious about meditation a little over a year ago, while reading a self help book entitled “Mind Hacking: How to Change Your Mind for Good in 21 Days” by Sir John Hargrave. The premise of this book is that we have the ability to “hack” our minds to change our thinking and overcome obstacles that prevent us from realizing our full potential. This book was actually a great read which empowered me to change my thinking, which improved my attitude towards life. I recommend to it anyone who feels they could benefit from an attitude re-adjustment. Here it is: images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/…/51HW57bSE2L.UY250.jpg
A significant portion of this book is dedicated to “mind hacking” exercises, which included something called the “Concentration Game”. This exercise, from my perspective, is essentially meditation with an interesting twist: Once you are comfortably seated and begin focusing on breathing in and out, you are to keep track of the number of times you find yourself following your mind (being “lost in the movie”), by either counting on your fingers or in your head. When I first tried this, it seemed like a smart way to be mindful, which greatly appealed to me. I had recently embraced the notion of practicing mindfulness, so I was “all in”. However, this exercise proved to be quite challenging for me. Here’s how it went:
I sat my tush down on the floor of the room we used in our sweet “Grandma” house as an office. I closed my eyes, taking in a big breath, then slowly exhaling.
Then I thought to myself: “Okay, I got this. Oh, I feel so relaxed”. Then “Sh*t! I had a thought! Alright, there’s #1”
Then I thought “Okay, don’t forget to write down the total down when you’re done” Ok, so this was thought #2. Then I thought “Alright, quiet your brain…D’oh! Now you’re at #3”!
Okay….blank mind, blank mind, breathe…..
Approximately 22 seconds later, I hear a noise I can’t quite recognize and think “Oh, that’s just hubs getting dressed in our bedroom”. Uh-oh! Thought #4….
Okay, breathe in, breathe out, in, out…then thought #5 pops into my noggin “I’m strong, I can do this”. “Shut up!” I tell myself. Okay, there’s thought #6.
Ok, so this was not necessarily going well.
Back to it. I’m breathing in, breathing out. In my head are the words “Breathe in love, breathe out kindness…oh, I like that. Very positive”. Crap! Now that’s thought #7. Focus, woman!
Ok, breathe in, breathe out…..
A maximum of 30 seconds passes, and it occurs to me that the alarm I set on my cell phone for this completely frustrating activity is likely to go off at any second now…whoops! Thought #8.
Okay, breathe in love, breathe out kindness, breathe in love, breathe out kindness. I am becoming more chilled out now. I start to physically feel the level of relaxation I experienced when hubs and I were on vacation in the Florida Keys (Islamorada) the previous spring. I could hear the waves flapping from the ocean w/seagulls squawking in the background. Then, I thought to myself “I wonder if we’ll be able to go back there someday”. Thought #9!
Ok, breathe in love, breathe out kindness. Then the random thought pops up about how many more thoughts I might have by the time I have finished this god-forsaken exercise. Thought #10!
So, essentially this wound up being less of a mindful, refreshing meditation and more of a game of “how many thoughts can I have while meditating?”.
Surprisingly, I continue to meditate each morning. It has a calming, grounding effect on me and sets the tone for the day. However, I refuse to count my thoughts while doing so. Instead, I set my timer to 10 (not 20 like the “Concentration Game” for Pete’s Sake) minutes. And then I breathe in with a customized acronym and breathe out to another acronym I came up with. I would bet (at least $1.08) that the number of thoughts I have in these precious 10 minutes are fewer than 10. Works for me!