Reflections on a challenging meditation: a year later

Over a year ago, I wrote about a challenging meditation experience I had. My practice today reminded me of it.

I was fairly new to meditating at the time. When my freelancing work began to pick up, I found myself facing what I called a “butt-load” of resistance. The more work I got, the less my brain wanted to cooperate and the longer I was procrastinating tasks. My brain wanted to do absolutely nothing.

In an act of resistance against my resistance, I started to meditate. If my brain craved nothing so badly, then let it do nothing for 10, 15, or even 20 minutes at a time.

Meditation has been a part of my periphery for a long time. I grew up during a time when yoga and meditation were becoming increasingly popular in America, and I knew what it was long before I had any interest in it.

My first real taste of meditation came when I was 17 and taking classes at a community college. To get my gym credit, I opted for a yoga class. During one session, the teacher had us lay on our mats for a 20-minute, full-body scan meditation. My brain did what new brains always do during meditation and wandered aimlessly. But the further the recording progressed, the better I was able to follow it and by the end, I was in a zenned-out state of bliss.

But I didn’t come willingly to meditation until 2020 when my partner and I decided to give it a go with the Waking Up course by Sam Hill. (If you don’t know where to start with meditation, this course is good. It covers both the practice and the theory of meditation and there are hundreds of hours of resources.) We started our mornings with Sam’s free course and diligently followed it for 12 days. I learned a lot but didn’t concern myself with daily practice after we were done.

This brings us to March of 2021, when my freelance work started to pick up. I work from home and was alone most of the day, which made it incredibly easy to do whatever I wanted – and what I wanted to do was not work. I was procrasti-cleaning, doom-scrolling, practicing tik tok dances – anything but sitting down and hitting my keyboard.

I was already practicing yoga (or, more accurately, an Americanized, white-washed version of yoga that leaves out most of the spiritual/ religious elements) so meditation was an easy addition. I started with 10-minute videos but found that wasn’t quite long enough to soothe the part of my brain that was adamant about doing nothing.

Sitting for my first 20-minute meditation was an incredible challenge. Suddenly my brain wanted to be doing something, anything other than sitting on the couch with my hands in my lap and my feet on the floor. By the last few minutes, it was physically challenging to sit still. But the next time I sat for 20 minutes, it got easier, and soon I was regularly sitting for 20 and 30 minutes sessions.  

This amount of time really allowed me to find my stillness and let the track in my end run out. It takes a solid 15 minutes just for my brain to tire itself out running in loops and jumping down rabbit holes. Some days, it takes even longer. But when I sat for 30 minutes consistently, I was able to drop into the beautiful, vast space of stillness where time meant nothing.

And it worked. By the time my videos ended, I was itching to get started with my day. My brain had its fill of nothing and was ready to work.

Right now, my practice is less frequent and shorter, I usually sit for 10 – 15 minutes. I don’t have as much free time this year as I had in the first half of last year. And that’s okay – it’s still more helpful to sit for 10 minutes than not at all. I know meditation isn’t going anywhere; I can always come back to it.

I had to laugh at myself this morning, sitting on my mat with the video playing after a year of consistent practice– and still, my mind got distracted by the sound of my dog eating. Some noises are harder to listen to than others and her smacking her lips together is not a pleasant one. But I also that if I had been meditating for longer more regularly, it wouldn’t have bothered me as much.

One thing I hear about consistently in my meditations is the importance of a beginner’s mind and a willingness to come back to something time and time again. It was like a little reminder from the universe that the benefits of this practice are fleeting and without investing my time, I won’t see the benefit. But I think it was also a reminder of gratitude; both for how far I’ve come and how much further I can go.

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