By J.G. Lewis
Meditation, the art or the practice, is simply not working for me.
I have tried; damn I’ve tried, but as I sit, as I try to silence the mind and find this eternally elusive stillness, I often end up thinking my time spent meditating is unproductive if not counterproductive.
I turn on the salt lamp, light a candle (sometimes), burn incense (more than a lot) turn off the music or the radio, and try to tune out all that surrounds me. Sometimes on the floor, other times in a chair or bench, I sit with my thoughts—the profound, the profane, the questionable and the mundane—and try to channel my mind towards a place of purpose.
Of course I have a mantra, a gift I received when I was about 17, and of course I use it. And for a while it provides a focus.
For a while.
Then as I’m sitting as calm as I can be, another thought—a greater thought or a deeper thought (a random thought)—pulls me away from my intended silence and I’m no longer sitting passively. Perhaps the interruption is a reflection of the day, or a scene from last winter, or a passage I read ages ago, a vision of Joni Mitchell, or any number of people or memories that travel through my headspace, and my intention has suddenly been hijacked.
My meditation turns into 15 minutes (more or less) of sitting and staring at a smouldering candle. I get down on myself, for this is time I could be using any number of ways. I’ve got stuff to do, things to write, or commitments to tend to. There’s the regular stuff to take care of, finding time in between work and words, and sleep. Of course I’ve got to find time for exercise, and to eat, and to tend to the people you mutually rely upon to keep life on its fulcrum.
So my meditation becomes more like incidental contemplation.
This frustrates me, more than anything, because I’m not sure I want my attempts to meditate to turn into one of those things I sort of leave behind (I’m a Gemini; we do that). I’ve got a beautiful set of fairly-new Tarot cards I once saw a purpose in, and I studied the cards with great intensity (as Geminis tend to do) and they now look nice on the book shelf. They sit idle.
That’s not like me.
I’m impatient. I’m not one to sit still, I never have been. Even in yoga, I have trouble with the extended savasana in the middle of the class, the break where you are supposed to let thoughts flow through you like your breath. I can’t. There’s always something else on my mind, even just the next posture.
I had tried Transcendental Meditation years and years ago. I remember very little, except my mantra. I do think, regularly. I contemplate, foster ideas, and compose thoughts that grow into poetry, or essays, or excuses.
I have even developed a practice at the end of the day where I will lay in bed, breathe consciously, and take internal inventory, slowly allowing the thoughts to slow to a trickle. Some people may simply call this falling asleep, but I believe it is more purposeful. I believe I’m actually emptying my mind so I may find stillness, and—insomnia be damned—perhaps enter the most meditative state of the day. That’s my rationalization, and I’m sticking to it.
But meditation, the sitting-cross-legged-and-sitting-totally-still-type-of-meditation, is not working for me. Maybe I’m not cut out for this kind of inner peace. Maybe just sitting with volume of poems is enough for me to calm my mind for a stanza or too. Maybe letting my head follow the flow of Mahler, or Kernis, or any one of a number of Yo Yo Ma compact discs is enough to relax me.
Maybe this weakness, this inability to settle right down, is not a weakness, but a strength. I just need to fully figure out how to use it.
I admire those who can, daily, for more than 15 minutes at a time, sit and sort out details, or accept themselves, or think of whatever they do that provides the balance and the bounty they require. I’m not so sure that is me. I’m feeling it’s not as important to meditate as it is to find a practice that gets you thinking about something. Some people may find a contemplative walk is enough, others may get caught up in the rhythm of long distance running, or the intense concentration of power lifting, or archery.
Give your mind the time to do what it needs to do. Do what you need to do.
Find your peace wherever you are, however you can, and more importantly, whenever you are able to.
J.G. Lewis is a writer and photographer, a dreamer and wanderer, father and brother (an orphan of sorts), living in Toronto area. Formerly an award-winning journalist, he now writes mainly fiction and poetry. He practices Bikram Yoga, doesn’t take the camera out enough, and enjoys the snap, crackle and pop of music on vinyl. You can read more of J.G. on his website, www.mythosandmarginalia.com. Follow him on Facebook, catch his daily breath on Twitter at @sayit4word.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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