You know that feeling you get when you look at the scale for the first time in weeks, see a higher than expected number and wonder how you got to that point? I feel that way every March when I look at my full calendar. How did I let myself get this busy? I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I can’t believe I got myself into this mess.
My regular teaching and accompanying schedule is pretty crazy, around 30 hours a week, but this week and next I’ll be busy teaching, accompanying and judging for more than 45 hours. When I’m in the middle of one of these weeks, I always remind myself it’s only temporary – pretty soon I’ll go back to my regular schedule and in a few months it’ll be summer and I’ll have even more free time. So I buckle down and batten down the hatches and tell my kids (and my dusty blinds and unvacuumed floor) to do the same for a few weeks until things settle down again. And when I’m tempted to freak out or get depressed or beat myself up I just look ahead on the calendar and think about the day when the waves will settle down.
I can’t really feel too put upon. If I’m just a girl who cain’t say no, I can’t be surprised when I find myself in a turrible fix. And when I think back to leaner times when I wished for more work, I’m reminded how grateful I should be for the chance to be busy. Plus, when I have too much time on my hands I get lazy and watch too much television.
I thought that this crazy busy week would be a good time to try meditation. You know, to focus my thoughts, bring me peace of mind, and whatever else meditation is supposed to do to help. Maybe taking time to focus on something other than the dozens of obligations pecking away at me would give me strength to face them. (Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’ve read Eat, Pray, Love. I know how incredibly boring it is to read someone’s description of their meditation, but bear with me.)
I once heard somebody describe someone in this way: “I don’t want to say he’s not bright, but let’s just say he doesn’t have a rich inner life,” and for some reason I’ve never forgotten it. I like to think deeply about things, especially when I go for a walk or a long drive. I’ve always considered my thinking time as a sort of meditation but I’ve never considered actually setting aside a time each day to formally meditate. I didn’t really understand how to start or what the whole point was and I never felt like I was missing out.
But I tried it. I know many who practice meditation feel that morning is the best time to do it, but there was no way I was going to wake up any earlier than I already do to start teaching at 6:30 a.m. I figured the best time for me to have time alone in a quiet house was right before bed so I turned off all the lights in my room, set a timer, and gave it a shot.
First I tried to focus on my breathing and clear my mind of all thoughts, but that did not work at all. I guess I never noticed before how spazzy my brain is. As I tried to focus on my breathing (which made me dizzy so I probably wasn’t doing it right) I found myself forming a mental to-do list: “schedule that recital…inhale…email that teacher…exhale…remember to change the furnace filter…” I could not turn it off.
Then I remembered reading about focusing on a mantra during meditation and I figured that might serve as a good lasso for my thoughts. I tried repeating one I’d read but it felt false, so I decided to make up my own mantra instead. It’s kind of silly, but since I’ve been feeling lately that I need to be more demonstrative with my children, I just repeated in my head “Feel more love,” as I inhaled and “Show more love” as I exhaled. Pretty simple, but it actually worked – for five whole minutes (I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but for me it felt like a really long time), I didn’t think about anything else but “feel more love, show more love.” No other nagging thoughts entered my brain.
This worked for a few days, but I got bored and felt like I needed a new mantra. I had gotten only three hours of sleep the night before and then had an unpleasant experience at the school where I accompany. I was trying to calm down enough to sleep but I kept replaying the experience in my mind and started anticipating several possible follow-up confrontations that could happen the next day. I was stewing and wigging out a bit so my husband came in to talk me down. He made a lot of sense and he’s also very eloquent, so when I meditated that night, I used some of his advice as my mantra: “Rise above conflict even when others are drawn to it,” and “See the good and potential in everyone you meet.” I repeated those words to myself that night and was able to calm down enough to fall asleep and face whatever would happen the next day. (And, big surprise, nothing even close to what I had anticipated happened. I had a very pleasant day. Isn’t that usually the case?)
I managed to meditate regularly for five days but then as I got more stressed out about all my other obligations, I started to think that if I’m not giving myself time to exercise or even shower some days, I should not be taking extra time for some silly blog challenge, so I quit.
But today as I’m feeling frazzled and guilty for writing this post instead of folding laundry I wonder if ditching the five minutes of meditation because my life is crazy is like a nursing mother deciding not to take a few minutes to eat because her baby needs her too much. Maybe I should give it another chance to really see if it could benefit my life, bring me peace of mind and focus. I don’t know though, I’m still not convinced. Maybe I should just buy some chocolate and book a long vacation somewhere warm and quiet and far away from any pianos.