Saturday, October 10, 2009

Meditation, Schmediatation!

by C.C. Coburn

Ever tried meditating? I’ve never been successful as I can’t seem to turn off my brain. It’s constantly running on overdrive about things I have to do, buy for dinner, appointments, functions, dates.

Of course I could probably clear most of this out of my mind if I kept a diary. Tried that, kept losing it!

I’ve tried self-meditation as recommended by dozens of women’s magazines and failed. I’ve even tried meditation CDs. In the end, the constant bonging of a metal gong - meant to slow my rapidly beating heart - had me so annoyed that my blood pressure must’ve shot through the roof. I ended up pulling out the earbuds and almost throwing the CD player at the wall in frustration.

I’d even heard of people who claimed they meditated in the car while driving to work. Which made me thankful that, a) I didn’t live anywhere near them and, b) I work from home, so was unlikely to be run over by them on their way to work.

So when my daughter was having difficulty relaxing before exams and asked me to attend a meditation class with her recently, I wasn’t exactly leaping at the opportunity for a mother-daughter-bonding-in-the-lotus-position session.

However, I decided: This was the time to put all my previous failures in this area aside and really work at meditating successfully.

We arrived just as the class was starting. As we crept up the stairs to the meditation room, they creaked noisily. We turned and started to flee, but a man in a sarong beckoned us, indicating with strange hand gestures we should take the only two spare mats in the room.

Everyone was lying down, breathing rhythmically. I thought: I can do this. I can breathe. The easy breathing session was soon replaced by deeper breathing. An older man nearby had some sort of nasal disorder and sounded like a bugle. Someone else started snoring loudly. Not relaxing!

We moved into chanting something that sounded like, “Om, romm, gomma gong.”
It was okay while we were murmuring it, but then it got louder and louder. I was starting to feel distinctly uneasy, feeling as though I was imprisoned in some 60’s Hare Krishna ashram. Everyone lay silently, chanting,Om, romm, gomma gong,” together like automatons. I just felt silly.

The chanting died down and we were urged to concentrate on our breathing again, thinking about our organs as we breathed in and out. This seemed easy and quite relaxing thinking about our pink lungs giving us “lifebreath” and our hearts faithfully pumping, our livers doing whatever livers do. Organs all present and accounted for and even better – happy and relaxed!

Until we moved down to our bowels. Urged to think of our “lifefood” making its happy way through our bodies, someone noisily passed wind.
I wanted to get up and run. I glanced around the room but it was as if everyone else was in a trance and hadn’t noticed this transgression in taste and public behavior. Soon the bowel references had several members making trips to the bathroom, located in the same room. They stepped over me in their haste to use the facilities and then none of them bothered to close the door after using it. Assailed by the sound of flushing toilets and unwanted smells, I had to interrupt my meditation efforts to close the door after them. Not relaxing!

Finally, bowels emptied, the room settled down again. We were urged to assume various positions, none of which I seemed to be able to manage and all the while my mind kept racing with the thought of how many more useful and productive ways I could be spending my time. We tried a breathing technique with fingers and thumbs that totally confused me. The effort of co-ordinating my breathing with my digits wasn’t relaxing.

When sarong-wearing Zen master put on a CD with the sound of a bonging drum, my blood pressure spiked.

There was also this irritating beeping sound in the background. I wondered how anyone was able to relax with all the distractions and noise.
Finally, I realised the beeping was the alarm on my cell phone reminding me I had a dentist’s appointment. I leapt to my feet and ran for my phone accompanied by the death stares of my fellow meditators.

I felt like telling them that a beeping phone was far less distracting than toilets flushing and people flatulating and honking like trumpets, but decided that it was just best to grab my towel and my daughter and run down those creaky stairs to freedom thinking: That’s a whole hour of my life I’ll never get back!

I’m sorry, but I just don’t “get” meditating. I’d far rather take that time to curl up with a good book. How about you?



Marcie said...

On occasion I do yoga at home. At the end of each session is a meditative period. Sometimes I can free my mind and sometimes I can't. But this is at home where the only sound is the music from the DVD.
I wouldn't have made it in the type of class you described. I can't relax when there's a lot of noise, so I don't know how anyone who left that class could be!
How did your daughter do on her exams?

Linda Warren said...

Hi CC,
I'm like you. Give me a book and I can float away into someone else's life. That's my meditating.

Hope your daughter passed the exam.


Linda Henderson said...

All that forced relaxtion would have driven me bonkers. Although I do like Indian music with the drums and flutes. Every time I played it in the car my smart-ass daughters told me they felt like we should be sacraficing a chicken.

Estella said...

I'll take the book, also.

Anonymous said...

Thanks CC,

I've never laughed so hard and that's probably better for you than meditation.

I was in a martial arts class once. We always started class with a few minutes of meditation. At one class, a four yr. old girl accompanied her parents (no babysitter). She sat quietly to the side as class began. The room was extrememly silent during meditation, except for the sound of someone passing wind. Well, we were all mature adults so no one said a word. That is, until the little girl called out "Who pooted?", then we all roared with laughter. So much for meditating!

Your story brought back the memory.

CC Coburn said...

Hi Linda and Marcie, Yes! she passed the exam and is now a qualified teacher. :-)
LOL! Linda so long as you don't sacrifice the chicken in the car that's fine with me (wink!)
Hi Estella, I agree there's no better way to relax than to read a good book.
Anonymous, I really wish we'd had that delightfully honest 4 year old in our class - what a hoot!
She'd also probably have told them to close the bathroom door!

Anonymous said...

I also used to participate in a martial arts class with meditation. I had a very good instructor though, and the key to it all was to relax - not bend yourself into physically uncomfortable positions, not to listen to funky music and commune with cosmic chooks. I found it helped, because I'd never really slowed down to just - breathe. Taking a moment to just relax and breathe can be quite the stress-buster in and of itself. And I try to pretend it's not me passing wind (thank god I've never focused on my bowels!)
I do think meditation can help you focus - but you need to find the right form. I would prefer the book, though!
Thanks for the laugh, CC.

Maxine said...

Hi CC. The only time I did meditation I fell asleep. Of course, it was after lunch and the sun was shining in the room and we were supposed to close our eyes and relax.... and well, you know the rest. I just hope I didn't snore. :)

Alice said...

Hey CC, enjoyed reading about your experience. The only meditation I've done is following yoga, with me completely in control in the comfort & privacy of my own lounge room, & to some very soothing music on my yoga CD. So I found some real benefit from it. But like you, I wouldn't be at all tempted to join a meditation group, & even less since reading your experiences!

Eleni Konstantine said...

Hey CC, thanks for the laugh.

I've not really accomplished proper meditation - Most CDs I fall asleep too!

I have a CD with music designed for people who have problems with their ears (balances) - and sometimes I can relax to this and go to sleep and other times I find the sound of the rain irritating.

I do find I can relax and breathe and let go when I get a relaxing massage (not my usual get the knots out massage - they're painful but necessary!)

I think everyone should find what helps them. Maybe as writers it's harder for us to tune out?

Anonymous said...

Along the lines of meditation cd's...we had a comic in the local paper last week of two guys stranded on a tiny island with nothing but a record player and a single record titled "Soothing sounds of the surf". Cute.

I'd rather be stranded with a romance novel. That's how I destress. Meditakes me to another world.

PamStone said...

Love your blog, CC. Mirrored my thoughts exactly. A long walk on the beach helps me. Getting lost in a romance novel or movie at times can help. But writing is my best therapy. When I need to destress, if I can sit down and write on my work in progress for a couple hours, I come away a much happier, calmer person. But hey. To each his own. I'm glad it works for some.

Ann Roth said...

CC- This made me laugh!

I have learned that there is no "correct" way to meditate. For me, the simple act of quieting my brain while a celtic harp plays on the stereo works. Closing my eyes, I relax. I visualize the kind of day I want for myself, and whatever else that comes. When I open my eyes some 5-10 minutes later, I write in my gratitude journal. Three-five things for which I am grateful. That's pretty much it. I don't think I could do it in a group.