I've never been able to meditate. I don’t have the meditation gene. I am pathologically incapable of sitting still. Instead of noticing my thoughts non-judgementally from a calm centred place within, I’ve always preferred to become my thoughts and skitter off, mostly into regrets about the past or some future catastrophe, propping myself up, getting right into my big juicy ego to confirm that I EXIST!!!
My inability to still my mind – what I prefer to call my gift of lateral thinking (baha) – didn’t start in adulthood. It’s been a gift my whole life. In kindy, when they had rest time for those nine hours after lunch, my cot was in an isolated room so that I wouldn’t interrupt others as I told stories to myself. In school, I spent more time outside than inside classrooms. I grew up with what I would say was a severe meditation handicap.
In fact, I’ve probably put more energy into finding out how to meditate than actually meditating if it comes down to it. I did a yoga course in a proper ashram in my twenties. I didn’t relax, not even in corpse pose. In my thirties, I bought a book by a Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, called When Things Fall Apart, that had meditation instructions involving the posture, the eyes and the hands. It was a good book but the meditating nearly sent me crazy. I found myself hating Pema Chodron unreasonably. Then I did a course with a meditation expert in Canada, after which I made myself sit for twenty minutes every day for a week. It was excruciating. I can’t tell you how excruciating. Imagine being at the dentist without anaesthetic during a root canal and you’ll start getting the idea.
The Buddhists call it the monkey mind and the name fits for me. My mind is a monkey. I’ve always told myself that it helps me write (she said) because it will make unexpected connections among seemingly unrelated facts (even I don’t believe that). It goes from one thing to another to another without ever stopping to rest or consider. It’s constant and exhausting… and I’m completely addicted. The internet has made it so much easier to indulge my monkey mind. I can check social media, see whether baby George has burped today and be into a story on the future of feminism, all before breakfast.
I’d consigned meditation to the great big bin of life lessons that just don’t work for me, along with running, sewing and civil engineering. But then came this year when my life revved up a gear in terms of personal stresses. When I woke one morning after another night of only an hour’s sleep, in which I dreamed I was going on a trip but oh dear, I haven’t packed and the car I need to drive to the airport is locked in the parking garage and ooh, I don’t have a passport, and goodness, the plane’s leaving in twenty minutes and I won’t be on it – I knew I needed to do something. And then, through a writing buddy, I lucked onto a site called My Diamond Days. It’s run by another Brisbane writer Kathy Wilson who has her own cracker story about why she started meditating that makes my sleeplessness look churlish – but that’s for another day. For a small monthly fee, My Diamond Days sends me an email every morning with a ‘guided’ meditation, which is someone talking to me or playing music while I sit (or mostly, frankly, lie down) and do what I’m told.
My Diamond Days isn’t for everyone, but it works for me because I’m paying a fee which the Scot in me won’t waste but also because of the mixed bag of meditations, everything from Sri Sri to ocean sounds. For me and my little monkey, this is the appeal. Meditation’s like a box of chocolates. I never know what I’m going to get. I’ve been doing my ten minutes a day for over a month now. I’m sleeping better and finding I’m just a little bit more focused at work. And occasionally, just occasionally, I sail off into a zone between waking and sleep where anything is possible, even peace.
Based on the column published in The Courier-Mail Qweekend on 5 October 2013. I write mainly about writing, education, birth, health and the thrill of parenting. You can Get in touch, tick the box to receive emails, Like Writer Mary-Rose MacColl on Facebook or follow MaryRoseMacColl on Twitter. Have a great day!