Meditate or... Contemplate?
There is an overwhelming pressure to join the woke revolution, and the overuse of words associated with that religion puts us off trying the thing that may be precisely what we need.
Whenever someone comes to see me about anxiety, I anxiously anticipate discussing relaxation and meditation apps to add to their ‘tool kit’ (eyebrow raise emoji). I know I have very little to offer in the way of publicly funded access to appropriate support for mental health issues, but it can feel so trite to talk about techniques we have appropriated from ancient wisdom. The commodification of Eastern traditions is embarrassing, and the didactic way it is often taught gives the student performance anxiety, and the point is lost.
I need real-time solutions, things people can use in a meaningful way now. The word meditation evokes “I could no sooner sit peacefully cross-legged than fly to the moon” type thoughts. What I want for the person with anxiety, or any person for that matter, is the ‘effect’ of meditation. For this to be accessible, we almost have to remove the ‘m’ word altogether. We must stop insinuating that there is some magical, secret way to do the thing that only certain people know how to do. Commercialisation and patriarchal guru worship have created unforgivable obstacles for the lonely soul seeker.
Speaking of patriarchal gurus, I am observing a daily contemplation ritual written by the Indian mystic Osho - a man. When I wikipedia’d him, I discovered he died at fifty-eight. This is an aside, but I am interested in the age of death, especially for those who do their life’s work in public. My seeming contradiction is purposeful. I don’t think we should throw the meditation apps and gurus out, but we have to make it ok to access them in any way that works for us.
I spend time contemplating an idea of Osho’s every morning; it’s usually something to do with a god of sorts that resides in all of us. Before I do this, I write morning pages prescribed by Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way to clear the dust from the corners of my mind.
Somewhere in the middle, I make a cuppa and do some stretching (don’t call it yoga), so my hips and lower back can sigh, and I can tolerate lying in bed a bit longer sipping my tea. This one to two hours every day prepares me for what lies ahead. I feel ready to be in the world and to make a contribution. My mind is quiet and clear, my heart is whole, and most importantly, I feel peaceful. And without a doubt, it will be when my blood pressure is at its lowest. Aren’t these the goals of meditation? I have found a routine that works for me. It is multi-denominational and personalised, and I don’t have some nagging doubt that I’m not doing it right.
Exercise is the same. Every overweight person who goes to see their doctor dreads the moment they’re told they have to exercise. They already know that. Who hasn’t been inundated by ‘perfect’-skinny-muscled-tanned people on sponsored social media posts preaching that their way is the only way (eyebrow raise emoji) to a fit, healthy body? It is demoralising and only creates more barriers, not least the cost associated.
I was so happy when Zumba became a thing fifteen-odd years ago. Not because I was ever going to be good at it but because I sensed that many people who hadn’t found their gig in the exercise world were about to. Rhythm does not discriminate, and Zumba calls to every person with rhythm regardless of size or shape.
If you hate something, you sure as hell won’t do it for very long. If you feel like there is only one way to do something that will NEVER work for you or your body, you’ve lost before you’ve begun. The expectation that a daily twenty-minute walk evolves into a half marathon in six months is more pressure than most people want. Moving our bodies is essential if we want them to last until curtain call. Finding a way to move your body in a way you love is vital, and yep an hour of vigorous sex every day counts. I won’t labour the point but block those exercise machine ads; you’re more likely to find your own way then.
Ditch the inspiration porn as well. As a society, we’ve become obsessed with the disaster-to-star narrative. Every successful ‘seen the light in the depths of my despair’ person seems to be on a twelve-step program for something, and the ‘lost half my body size’ folk should be celebrated, but you don’t have to be a complete disaster to launch. We get put off because we don’t think our drive will be as strong as those who drank, drugged, or ate themselves to the brink. Start now. Move your body and find a place where you can contemplate something peaceful. If you feel lighter and can breathe slightly easier afterwards, then keep doing it x
Yet another beautiful bit of writing that resonates with me. I have a note in my calendar every morning to reminder myself, I'm starting to remember without it so something is starting to work again, to "give myself 5 minutes to feel the sheets on my skin and listen to sounds of nature". Every time I wake and my thoughts start to race off with the tasks to achieve today, I remind myself to come back and start my day again. The other notes about no technology, making a drink, stretching,... haven't quite made it to become a habit yet but I kindly remind myself, one step at a time. Thank you Melissa. Keep them coming. :) xo
So timely. I’m in a similar space. I remember you asking me at one visit how I brought my BP down and to cut to the chase I said, “meditation.” But honestly the foundation of my practice is the centering even breath-work for autonomic nervous system balance that I was introduced to by HeartMath. My husband and I did a study using it with 150 people and results were staggering. I feel it’s a shame that people feel they must posture or follow a meditation tradition, etc when in actuality regulating our breath throughout our days is a little bit of a miracle for so many emotional/physical woes. I’ve seen folks with clinical panic disorder reverse it quickly sans meds. It just sounds too easy for most. Why do we generally assume an effective practice has to be so very complicated, even uncomfortable, to be effective. I’m with you re creating a morning practice that feeds our soul as a beautiful way to connect with ourselves and start our day. Thanks for sharing.