Wednesday, March 28, 2012


A few years ago, I was laying on a mat at the end of my yoga class. The room was dark and quiet. My tummy rose and fell to the rhythm of my inhale and exhale. Peace.

The instructor then walked us through a full-body relaxation. She said, "Now, starting at the top of your body, sense any tension at the top of your head and your skull and your neck. And let it go. Now pay attention to your forehead, your eyes, your mouth. Release that tension."

This shocked me. I remember opening my eyes immediately, amazed that I had been laying here in a "relaxed" state for several minutes, but my face, my forehead, my eyes, and my mouth were contorted into some kind of worried state. The tension in my face (and the rest of my body for that matter) was so drastically noticeable, but only when I took the ten seconds to recognize it. Letting go often harder than hanging on.

I often hear people say, "I'm not stressed. I'm not high-strung. I'm just fine." Then they turn away to scream at their kid, "Sammy, stop fighting with your brother. And pull up your pants!!!!" I think most of us are more stressed, more tense, and more oblivious to our true state of being than we'd care to admit.

That's what I recognized in yoga that day. My chiropractor also suggests that by the state of my neck and shoulders, I probably spend most of the day with my shoulders touching my ears. And by hearing one doctor after another ask, "Do you handle stress well?" My snarky answer usually being, "Well, I don't know. I've never met someone who does handle stress well. I'm no more stressed than the next person."

My dad often has trouble sleeping because he can't stop the buzz of stress in his head. He gave me some CDs of short meditations that you listen to and focus on breathing and letting things go. This sounded like an excellent idea. So uploaded them onto my computer, hit Play, and dove right into my "relaxation" like a champ

After twenty minutes, I had to admit I did feel better. A little calmer. It was only that evening, when telling Jeremy of my recent accomplishment at meditation that I realized, I'm so high-strung, I couldn't even give meditation my full-attention. Because what I failed to realize during the meditation was that for it to be any ounce of effective, I would've had to stop simultaneously curling my hair, eating a bowl of cereal, and frying up some tofu on the stove. Which I did not do.

So with renewed vigor, I decided to add "Meditation" to my daily Star Chart of goals. I thought twenty-minutes would be a good place to start. But, because I know myself, I quickly changed the "20" to a "3" and went with that. And sadly, fitting in those three (yeah, count 'em, three) minutes of meditation has been...really hard (I've only gotten one star so far this week).

I think it's hard because I am only allowed to do one thing at a time, where I'm usually trying to do 3 and a half.

I think it's hard because it doesn't feel productive.

I think it's hard because it seems Who needs quiet? Who needs calm? Slowing down is for losers!

I think it's hard because I regularly applaud myself for how much I am doing instead of who I am being.

It's hard because it requires effort.
It's hard because I have to stop and think about it.
It's hard because I won't receive a paycheck, a pat on the back, or a report card for doing it.

So for now, a star on my Star Chart will have to do.

Until, of course, I recognize that it is usually peace, quiet, and calm that I need more than just about anything else.


Joe said...

Indeed, it is a well-kept secret that doing nothing is incredibly difficult.

Shreen said...

I love this. It's so hard to do things that aren't productive in some way. I've just recently started realizing how stressed out I am most, if not all, of the time. I like the idea of a star chart. Is it like from Concepts of Wellness at Union?

xfr said...

This is a really good point, and a great reminder. Glad you shared.

Katie Carlson said...

I've been using an app called Headspace. I don't know if you have a smartphone, but it's pretty brilliant. Ten minute meditations for ten days for free. It's really made a difference for me, and because it's an app, you can do it on the go--on the bus, on a train, in a lobby or waiting room, etc. I highly recommend it. They have a website as well.