The last two weeks, I participated in my friend Tammy’s 4th grader’s science experiment and meditated (almost) every day. Those of us providing data were asked to track our emotions before and after the session. I took it as a great opportunity to kickstart a meditation practice. I have been telling myself for the longest time to work it into my day because I strongly believe anyone attempting to raise children NEEDS meditation in his or her life.
I tried to fit in my sessions anytime and anywhere I could. One night, it was while waiting for Bear Shark to fuss himself to sleep (my version of sleep training?). Another night, I sat for a quiet moment right before I went to bed. When work got crazy, it was in the middle of the day while waiting for an important email to come through. I attempted a walking meditation one day when the weather was nice.
I leaned heavily on the information I learned from Sheila‘s meditation workshop I attended a couple years ago. For reference, these were the two blog posts I shared about that. It was a great Meditation 101-type class.
Of the two methods of meditation I learned, I definitely used shamata way more as it gave me SOMETHING to focus on (breath) rather than fighting with my internal thoughts and telling them “not now.” I have found ways to tell my actual toddler “not now,” but I seem to be in a losing battle with my own annoying internal thoughts.
I managed to sit for 10-15 minutes on quite a few occasions. Sometimes, those 10 or so minutes felt like pure mental chaos. Without a truly quiet space to sit, I was not only distracted by my internal chatterbox but also my kids, my husband, the tv in the other room, sounds of movement, the heater blowing on or near me, etc.
I found myself feeling very angry throughout the process as I tried to let go or push out thoughts that kept invading my brain. I also found myself bored trying to count my breaths or think inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. No one said meditation works the first time or every time. In fact, I’m not even exactly sure what constitutes proof of meditation working. Is it a guaranteed feeling of calm, relaxation, no stress, no worries, enlightenment, peace…? I have no idea what the end goal is or if there is even an end goal. Maybe each person’s journey and experience is whatever meditation will be for that day and time.
What I did find from my own tracking of emotions was that I felt lighter after each session. I may not have felt happier or less angry or less stressed necessarily or by any quantifiable measure. However, I felt a little less beat up by life. It wasn’t cumulative – at least not for the 2 weeks. My mood from week 2 didn’t show “improvement” over week 1, but within the before and after of a single session, the needle moved a tiny bit.
I bet with practice, I will see greater control over those inner thoughts. Maybe a more even keel to how I handle difficult situations that test me.
Side story: If you knew me as a child, I was a kid with explosive emotions. I grew up with 4 siblings who all knew exactly which button to push to send me into tears or make me so angry I’d take it out on a poor door handle (true story). I was the complete opposite of a stoic, unemotional Asian who is supposed to quietly and politely accept whatever life hands them.
I think there is no coincidence that ever since I began practicing yoga asana – or moving meditation – 8 years ago, I don’t have nearly the roller coaster of emotions that I used to. I have even been told by an old co-worker that I was too zen. Who ever thought that could happen? Haha.
All this to say that 2 weeks of almost daily meditation has shown me enough to keep going on this meditation train and see where it takes me. I think I’ll be needing a lot of it in 2015.