Sitting and Breathing: Day 27

What a wonderfully chill morning! I mean, it’s fairly cold out, sure, but more in the “relaxed” sense of the word. I ate way too much for dinner last night and passed out on my couch watching SNL. I had very vivid dreams punctuated by my dog moving around or asking to be let out or fed. I went in and out of sleep until around 11am, then ate some leftovers, played with the pup, and did some personal grooming. I suppose I didn’t need to share any of that with you, but then, I don’t really have to share any of this with you, do I?

Today’s meditation was a combination of the walking meditation and the lovingkindness meditation. I skipped the bus and just walked to the train station. I repeated, May I be peaceful. May I be happy. May I be safe. Then as people came into my consciousness (seen by my actual eyes or my mind’s eye), I’d put my attention on them, May you be peaceful. May you be happy. May you be safe. The streets of Chicago are hectic at this time of day (wet, slushy roads and sidewalks be damned), and I happened to connect with a lot of good friends electronically today, so I had no shortage of other folks to rest my attention on.

Occasionally I’d catch myself caught up in the rhythm of the words, not putting any real intention behind them. I found it easier to hold the individual in my mind if I visualized myself holding their face and staring into their eyes as I imparted my words of lovingkindness. A little creepy? Sure, but it’s my head and I’ll love people how I want, dammit. Also, this method really allowed me the chance to connect to the words in a much deeper way.

By the time I got to the station, I had turned the words into a song resembling Tiny Bubbles. Singing it allowed me to focus on the pleasant tingling of the cold wind on my face. The light crunch of snow that had just fallen combined with the smush of the snow that had already melted became more satisfying under my heavy boots (like when you’re a kid hopping from puddle to puddle). I had a stupid smile on my lips that started somewhere in my toes and went through the entirety of me.

I came out of my meditation as I got to the station. There was a woman crying on the platform where I transfer to the Red Line. A guy who got onto the train next to me said into his phone, “Did you just tell me to suck a dick?!” I can see the gray of the outdoors on most the passengers’ faces around me, but I also see the curling of lips and the brightness of the smiles that persist in spite of the weather.

Dan Harris got me intrigued by saying meditation can make you about 10% happier, and as week 4 of my practice comes to a close, I’m starting to agree.

Sitting and Breathing: Day 24

I got home from work around 6am this morning, walked and fed my dog, had some concentrated petting time so he knows I love him, then passed out. I woke up at 2:30 this afternoon (also 10:30am to feed him and take him out again), and in order to make it to work by 6pm, I need to leave the house around 4:45pm (a bus and two trains, and a little bit of time buffer to account for how temperamental public transit can be). After showering and getting dressed for work, I took him on a 30 minute walk, and handled some finance nonsense.

Given that this is my schedule much of the time, I feel like I am usually in a sort of waking dream state. I also feel like I don’t have a whole lot of me time, no less time to read instructions and meditate. So today I decided to break away from the guided meditation laid out in my book, and do a little mindfulness session of my own making.

There’s a little hipster coffee shop right next to the station where I catch the train, and I’m a big fan of it. The coffee is artisanal, the food is clearly made with a passion, and the staff is always friendly, but my favorite part about it is the atmosphere created by whatever interior designer that these folks had the good sense to employ.

All of the light fixtures are the kind I chose for my bedroom – modern LED lights made to look antique that give off a soft, yellow light that’s even pleasing to look at directly. Tens of them hang from the ceilings on long wires, and some are arranged in two fan-like sculptures with long bulbs that have helical innards.

The wall opposite the coffee bar is lined with a fake ivy, giving it a natural and calming feel. The tables are all dark wood, and they’re fit tightly (but not too tightly) in the small space so even when you sit by yourself, you feel like you’re in a small community.

The bar itself is tiled along the bottom in a way reminiscent of the mosques-turned-cathedrals-or-palaces that dot southern Spain (and other places, but I’ve seen those ones, so that’s what they remind me of). The ornate patterns are supposed to replicate the are starry skies, and were used as meditative inspirations by their designers and whoever hired those designers. Along the top is a two-foot wall of glass, and a lineup of small indoor plants blocking the pipes and wires of all the coffee-making machines.

I ordered a little loaf of bread with feta cheese, tomato, and egg, and a cold brew coffee. I sat at a table at the back of the dining area that looked out at the other guests and the street beyond (interestingly, this is the same spot I sat in last time I was there, and it was the only spot open that time, too). I shed my many layers of winter clothing, set down my backpack, read a little of Real Happiness, then just focused on being there.

I set my fork down between bites. I chewed with awareness of the texture of the bread and sesame seeds along its top. I sipped my coffee, then set it down and closed my eyes, swishing it around I’m my mouth. If I breathed out while chewing on the bread, I got delightful coffee aromas to mix with the savory flavors of the bread.

Occasionally my mind drifted to the other things going on in my life. Occasionally I thought about how cute the young women were in there, some studying, some chatting amongst themselves, the younger ones snapping pictures and giggling loudly. Occasionally I thought about how weird I must look with my hands on my knees, chewing with my eyes closed. But mainly, I was calm, I was relaxed, and I was present, and it was beautiful.

Snap! I finished writing this RIGHT as I arrived at my stop for work. How cool is that shit?

Sitting and Breathing: Day 21

So I flubbed yesterday pretty hardcore. I was on a bit of a time crunch so I thought, “Oh, I’ll just do my meditation on the train on my way to work!” Turns out that isn’t as effective as I’d have liked it to be. Every time I closed my eyes I felt nauseous. Plus I think I’ve had a resistance to meditation for the past couple days due to my emotionality.

My mind has felt like it’s been in a haze of emotion. I feel vaguely stressed by a lot of self-imposed timelines. There’s a long list of Have-To’s that I’ve got running in my head, and I feel the pressure of them all the time.

I have to become a bartender as soon as possible. I have to be more committed to my meditation practice. I have to exercise more often. I have to get myself enrolled in German classes. I have to complete my school application as far in advance as possible. I have to enroll my dog in reactivity classes right away. I have to buy a carpet for the living room. I have to read more. I have to write more. And so on.

Many of those are valid, but they’re all created and fostered by me alone. Really, I don’t have to do any of that, and my life would likely be just fine, but I’ve got it in my head that my happiness is dependent on their completion and it’s been causing me a lot of anxiety lately.

Anyway, I was back to meditating today, and I’m glad I did it. Today’s session was on Lovingkindness (it’s one word in the book, so it’ll be one word here). You start by saying to yourself, May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease. Then you transfer that attention to others.

The first recipient outside of myself was supposed to be someone for whom I had deep affection, so I chose my dog. Next up was someone that was having a hard time right now. The first object of my attention was an ex and close friend who I know is having a sort of emotional roller coaster of a week (yeah, you), then it moved to a couple friends who have a more perpetually difficult time.

Next up was a person I don’t really know, and I chose that old guy that stands on the corner, and pays zero attention to my dog barking at him. I don’t know that I necessarily harbor animosity toward him, but I will say I’ve been regularly frustrated with him in the past. Come to think of it, I’ve been regularly frustrated with basically everybody who received my Lovingkindness today.

Next was supposed to be someone who I have a hard time hearing, or who I often butt heads with. Per the instructions, I didn’t need to choose someone who the world was at odds with as it would be more challenging, so I chose a softball here and went with my mother (sorry, Mom, but I think you know that I don’t cut you enough slack sometimes, but I love you dearly).

Finally, I was to send Lovingkindness to all beings on earth. May all beings be safe. May all beings be happy. May all beings be healthy. May all beings live with ease. I felt a sort of aura radiating outward from my person. It was as if I was pushing those phrases out of me in every direction as hard as I could. After only a few seconds of this, I felt tired and overwhelmed with sadness. I’m not sure why, exactly, but it happened. I was able to recenter myself by the end of the meditation, but that was an odd combination of jarring and relieving.

I don’t know what a lot of this means, yet. I’m definitely feeling a connection that I hadn’t, but I wouldn’t say that my mind is clearer right now. It feels like I threw a heavy stone of awareness into the pond that is my mind. All of the shit that had collected over the last three decades of my life has been stirred up and it’s floating around in my consciousness haphazardly.

I’m eagerly anticipating the clarity that’ll come when all the dust settles back down on top of the awareness, but it’s cloudy as fuck right now. Constantly moving in every direction that I’m pulled by my Have-To’s probably isn’t helping. I guess we’ll just have to be patient. Gods, do I hate being patient.