Decades beyond childhood, I’ve finally come to realize that all this internal churning, roiling and upheaval can’t be good for one’s health.
And when the blood pressure monitor confirmed this, I decided to make some changes. Meditation seemed to be part of the answer after I finally realized that remaining in a drunken stupor proved to be counterproductive. The stomachache, the stumbling, the sloppy, loud laughing—it’s all so unseemly and unattractive. And when you sober up, the issues that drove the blood pressure up in the first place are still there clawing at your innards.
It’s a new year, a fresh start and time to learn how to cope. Meditation seemed to be the answer. A while back, I believed that one didn’t have to learn how to master this skill. Isn’t it just about sitting comfortably and quietly, eyes closed, in a silent room? Apparently not. Apparently, that’s called napping at work.
A local community center catalog listed a meditation class to be held three evenings in a nearby office. I signed up. I was ready to learn how to meditate.
This new endeavor was heartily encouraged by my sister and my mother. I knew that they had long harbored opinions about my state of anxiety when I reported one evening, “I think I’m an anxious person. I think I carry around a lot of anxiety and worry all the time.”
The look on my sister’s face said it all. Apparently, she had known this fact for years. She had noticed the giant scarlet A for ANXIOUS long before I did. Calling it “full of energy and passion” was a euphemism I had used for living in a constant state of fright and flight. Telling myself that I was just very, very busy was a way to hide and disguise a fretful and wrought up nature.
All right, then. I’m a worrier and a ruminator. I chew on issues well past their expiration date, far beyond their immediacy, until they turn to finely mashed pulp.
On the day of my first meditation class, I was concerned. I was already stressed out about taking a meditation class. That’s not an auspicious start, I agree. And then, by the end of the day, I was both physically and mentally exhausted from work. What good was meditating going to do? I needed a nap!
I trudged off to the class anyway and arrived a little behind schedule to a room filled with other anxious, disquieted adults. I found a chair in the back. I didn’t want to be called upon to answer questions about my anxiety level. I also wanted to nap a little.
The instructor had the perfect voice for teaching us about meditation. Unfortunately, she used it a lot—for almost 50 of the 60 minutes assigned to the class. She tried to help me understand the basic tenets of the meditative mood and practice. She talked about the philosophy behind meditating. It was interesting up to the point that the room began to warm up and the tension from trying to find a parking spot had worn off. Then I just wanted to sleep.
Of course that would have been unlikely and impossible—not because I’m too proud to fall asleep in public, however. No, it was the dude outside of the classroom who decided that 7 pm was the perfect time to roll a flatbed cart up and down the hall. And he continued to do so for the entire class.
But mindful meditation teaches us to not mind these things. The instructor acknowledged the noise but didn’t close the door. Instead, she urged us, in her soft, soothing tones, to “accept the noise, accept the moment, and understand that everything is as it should be right now.”
I tried. I did. I focused on my breathing. I relaxed my limbs. I shut my eyes. But inside, where no one could see, I was out in the hallway, grabbing the inconsiderate little fellow by the collar, thrashing him soundly and throwing his damn cart down the stairwell.
Everything is as it should be right now. I’m going to have trouble with that one. For me, rarely is everything as it should be right now. And after a good deal of time spent ruminating on those “everythings,” I’m likely to get up and ask the offender to delay the cart rolling, stop the loud laughing in the office, cease the whispering in the cubicle next to mine, shut off the cellphone ringing, quit the pencil tapping, and so on.
The second class is next week. I’m bringing ear plugs and a nice pillow.