i started a regular meditation practice a little over a year ago on the advice of my counsellor. it took a while to develop it into a habit – it’s so much easier to adopt negative behaviours. much of the credit is owed to the daily reminder that pops up on my cell phone. one would think that doing things that are supposedly good for you would be easy to remember but i have a long history of setting aside positive things.
my resistance at first focused on the external details:
“i can’t meditate sitting up. i only like to do it lying down, like savasana at the end of a yoga class. i can’t do it any other way.”
turns out this isn’t true. i actually do fine sitting up. part of the initial struggle was related to my eating disorder. i was too aware of my thighs when i sat. realizing that helped me let that argument go. plus, my couch is more comfortable than i thought and off the floor is measurably warmer and more comfortable.
“i can only meditate first thing in the morning. if i miss it, i might as well skip it.”
this one isn’t true either. i prefer to meditate in the morning but shorter sessions later in the day have also proven beneficial. i think the resistance here relates to my perfectionism. it’s “one true way” belief pattern that i have adopted with so many things. if something doesn’t go according to plan, i often quit rather than trying to adapt.
“if i can’t do it perfectly, then i can’t do it, and trying is pointless.”
again, perfectionism raises its head. there is value in the attempt. you gain something simply from making the effort. i taught this to my son and apparently, it can be true for me as well.
not everything has to be executed perfectly every time. believing the opposite makes life challenging and negatively affects every area of your life. i expect perfection all the time, without fail, no matter what, and if i don’t get it then i judge myself as bad, wrong, and insufficient. that belief stops me from doing quite often. what’s the point of trying if you know you are going to fail? it’s a very black and white way of looking at the world, and one that my eating disorder also endorses. why take up painting if you will struggle in the beginning? why learn to cook since making a mistake has proven that you are incompetent? why bother to wear nice clothes and practice self-care when no matter what you do, you will not look like the air-brushed and professionally styled models that grace the pages of the fashion magazines? this perfectionistic mindset guarantees inertia.
“if my environment isn’t ideal, i can’t do it, and trying to continue in less than ideal conditions is pointless.”
the real challenge in my environment is not the lack of absolute quiet. it’s not the fact that sometimes my surroundings are not perfectly tidy (although that does bother my OCD). it’s not the struggle to find the perfect piece of accompanying sounds (i find i do better at meditating when there is peaceful music or nature sounds in the background). the problem is my cat.
cats, for all their good points, are notoriously poor communicators. they don’t listen. they don’t respond well to orders. they do what they want and make no apologies. i admire that mindset but it made my meditation practice more challenging once she decided to buddy up. once she decided that the sight of me seated on the couch with my eyes closed meant she should jump up, drape herself over my arm, and commence kneading my hip for the duration.
it didn’t seem to matter to her that i was working on my mental health. she didn’t care that i required silence and serenity. it didn’t matter how many times i pushed her away – she came back. the irritation and frustration that i was feeling was not conducive in any way to quiet thoughts. she was wrecking my meditation, damaging my calm, and would simply not give up.
i thought about abandoning the practice – giving up is easy enough to do; i have scads of practice. i thought about locking myself in my room to meditate, but really, i didn’t want to. i refused to be chased into my bedroom by my cat. one has to have some boundaries after all.
it was a guided meditation that showed me the way.
“let go of the things that are bothering you. let go of the things that aren’t in your control.”
a crash of insight. my cat was an actual object lesson on acceptance and working with reality. what would happen if i stopped trying to resist her affections? what if i stopped trying to chase her away in order to have the perfect meditation experience? what if i embraced her presence and incorporated it?
so i did, and i do. it was not easy at first. i was convinced that letting her sit on my lap was a sign of failure. i was convinced that giving in meant i was meditating wrong. it was hard to let go of the angry thoughts i aimed in her direction. i consider that fact that i persisted a win.
the cat has now been upgraded. she’s my meditation cat, my therapy beastie, my existential buddy. she recognizes the steps i take as i prepare to meditate and comes running, ready to jump up and curl up with me. i rest my hand on her fur and let it soothe as i sink into simply being for the twenty or thirty minutes i set aside. sometimes there are more important things than perfection of execution. sometimes there is love.
(feb. 17, 2018)
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My cat insists on jumping on my coloring book. I’ve learned that she’ll do that if she hasn’t been pet yet. Like “Me first. You can’t color until you pay attention to me.” Now I’ve decided having her in my lap while I color is probably better than not, even if it does make it more complicated to do…
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