I suck at meditating and why I do it anyway

Years ago, I used to meditate every day. I enjoyed it. I’d light a candle, curl up on the couch, take a few deep breaths and twenty, thirty, forty minutes later get up feeling nourished and enlivened, ready to take on the day.

Not any more.

Now, my time on the couch feels like an incarceration. I’m in jail and my celly—my mind—is a whirling dervish with a fondness for self-flagellation.

Meditation used to be a sanctuary, a place to go and find relief. Back then I had a routine. Moving through my body in my mind, I’d breathe relaxation into my toes, feet, calves….By the time I reached my chest, the top of my head would be buzzing and soon I’d be floating on beta waves, my cells fat with oxygen, my skin alive with spinning electrons. I was a regular guru. Back then, I could meditate until my clothes went out of style.

Not any more.

Now I sit and squirm. My hips hurt. My shoulders ride up around my ears. I obsess over how to position my hands. Should they be on my knees or in my lap? Should my thumb and forefinger form that O or is it better to tent them?   

Who gives a shit. Just focus on breathing.

I conjure up an image of the ocean. Waves ebb and flow. I think of the sea swells but that reminds me of whale watching last summer which gets me thinking about Dramamine then Benadryl then hay fever then the weeds in my garden and how I should go to Home Depot to replace the crappy clippers I have in the garage but isn’t the CEO of Home Depot a friend of Donald Trump’s and how the fuck did that man get to be our President and…and…and…

Calm down. Return to the breath. 

I let out an audible gale of exasperation that sounds an awful lot like annoyance but I breathe and persevere. Soon Lilly the Cat slinks into my lap and I fool myself into thinking I’ve attracted her with my highly-evolved vibratory patterns. For a moment, we become a scene from one of those Jacquie Lawson animated cards that come with flitting butterflies and ragtime. Momentarily, my mind quiets and slips into neutral and I’m back on track until Lilly stretches her front paws up my thigh and it occurs to me that ten, needle-sharp talons are now inches away from my crotch.

I hate meditating. Why do we do this?

Thoughts bounce off bumpers setting off bells…ding, ding, ding. The other day in meditation, I wondered whether Putin’s agents were capable of hijacking the camera in my computer, and whether they were—maybe right now—watching me meditate.

I suck at this. 

I want to blame my roving mind on something other than myself. Mr. Trump is an easy target, as is the media, social and otherwise. Or maybe it’s that I’m fast approaching 60 and my life isn’t where I thought it’d be. Or maybe it’s the hours I spend playing Spider Solitaire. I love Spider Solitaire. I only wish the zen that comes from arranging cards from King to Ace was the same as meditation. But I know better.

Like playing Rachmaninov on the piano or pitching a perfect ball game, stilling the mind is crazy hard. It’s not a natural state, not in our culture anyway. That’s why they call it a practice.

Sitting in meditation requires discipline. You must be willing to withstand perpetual failure, to continually surrender judgement or spend your time in self-loathing. Generally, I don’t do thing I don’t do well. I prefer excelling.

So, why do I endure the discomfort of a spiritual practice?

Because I remember what’s possible. Because sometimes, I catch sight of the inner peace I crave. Because sometimes, in between the yack-yacking, there’s a clearing, like the silence in a beautiful piece of music—that precious, pregnant pause when I hold my breath, waiting for the next note that I know will fill me with transcendence.

I practice because, on rare occasions, I feel my mind and body melt away and what is left there—in that beautiful empty space—is love. I practice because that love is not mine alone and may well be the one thing strong enough to heal us all. I practice because it gives me hope.

  • Julie
    Posted at 07:11h, 11 April Reply

    Amen Sister!

    “I could meditate until my clothes went out of style”
    Love it!

    Thanks Cathy!!!!

  • Kim
    Posted at 08:08h, 11 April Reply

    It helps me to remember that there is a “dead space” between every breath. It happens every breath. It’s a place to find the breath – between the breath. I suck at it too.

    • ckrizik
      Posted at 08:10h, 30 April Reply

      “Dead space”. I love it. As you know, it is far from dead. If we stop to notice it is terribly alive!

  • Charlotte Anne Ziems
    Posted at 08:54h, 11 April Reply

    Love this Kathy! And I feel the same way–I wish I could meditate but suck at it. I’ve been getting some little respites with my iWatch Breather app–that thing that gives you a visual and sensory frame for breathing in… and breathing out… and breathing in… and out, for a minute at a time. That’s all I can manage most days. One fucking minute. You’re a master compared with me ;-).

    • ckrizik
      Posted at 08:08h, 30 April Reply

      Charlotte, if you suck at meditating I suck at WordPress. I just discovered your comment ‘unapproved’ in my WP dashboard. Thanks for reading and commenting. Hope all is well in your world. xox

  • Ifatolu
    Posted at 10:50h, 11 April Reply

    Dear Cathy

    Lovely piece! You wonderfully interweave wit and thoughtful insight…made me laugh out loud and smile and nod my head….thanks so much for sharing your beautiful writing with the larger world…truly a blessing…xo

  • Siobhan Nash
    Posted at 12:48h, 11 April Reply

    “I practice because that love is not mine alone and may well be the one thing strong enough to heal us all. I practice because it gives me hope.”


    Love and hope are EVERYTHING. Without love and hope, there is nothing. We are nothing.

    I hope your practice brings you more peace and ease and love for yourself as much as for others.


  • Veronica
    Posted at 11:41h, 17 April Reply

    Just finished reading this…after meditating…with my cat on my lap…and mind wandering wildly about … . Well done, again!

  • Lyle
    Posted at 12:24h, 17 April Reply

    I love that post! And can relate so very much.

  • Lisa Borok
    Posted at 13:34h, 24 April Reply

    I named my inner chatterbox Hermione. She’s smart, she wants to share, she has opinions and can think really, really fast. I love Hermione; she does so much for me. And she’s a pain in the tuckus when I want to meditate. She gets in her opinions, she makes clever suggestions… We’ve had more than one discussion about this. Sometimes I ask her to just sit quietly in a chair across the room. Sometimes I give her a task to keep her occupied elsewhere (“Please go count the aphids on the rose bush; yes, the red roses, although theyellow ones should be looked in on as well.”) Sometimes it works. Mostly it works when we’re both in practice. Practice. More practice.

    • ckrizik
      Posted at 08:12h, 30 April Reply

      Lisa, you crack me up. We all have our Hermione.
      I just discovered in my WordPress dashboard a slew of comments…yours among them. Here I was thinking no one was comments. Ha!

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