Remember how I said I was going to meditate every day in December? I did it! Ok, I did it every day but one. The dilio was, I felt like I was going a little crazy, so I told Dan I thought this was a post-partum-y kind of deal and maybe I ought to schedule an appointment with a therapist. He suggested I stop talking about meditating and actually do it for a month, and if I still felt the same level of nuts, by all means, schedule with a professional.
So, I committed to meditating daily for a month. Most days, I meditated for ten minutes, although occasionally it was for as little as five minutes. Here’s how I did it:
I found that it was easiest to do it in the same place at the same time every single day. This way, I didn’t have to think too hard about it and just do it. My preferred time was first thing in the morning, after brushing my teeth and having a drink of water. My preferred place was in the den, sitting on the loveseat. On days that I got up super early to work out, I did it before my workout. On days when it was Dan’s turn to work out early, I somehow made myself get out of bed just a little bit before I absolutely had to, and instead of feeling guilty for not sitting down with my family for breakfast, I walked right by them and headed to the den for my routine.
There, I would sit and listen to a free, guided meditation from a free meditation app called Insight Timer and do my best to do whatever it said to do. This never included thinking about my to do list, what I might wear that day, all of the cleaning and laundry that needed to happen in my house, reminders to myself about bills that I needed to pay, although those thoughts frequently entered my brain, unbidden. Whenever I noticed my mind wandering, I re-focused my awareness on my breath. Whenever I noticed the guided meditation was more annoying than I could tolerate, I turned it off, and just breathed on my own until my Insight Timer chimed at the ten minute mark. This is the price you pay for using a free app.
During my meditation, if I heard the kids screaming or crying, I ignored it. This is not actually too different from my daily life, so that was easy. If I heard Dan doing any childcare or household related task in a way that was different from my way of doing it, I kept my mouth shut, even if I was unable to bring my focus back to my breath. This was very different from my daily life, so it was quite a challenge. (Note: Mom’s meditation practice has benefits for Dad, too!)
On days that I really had no time to meditate first thing in the morning, (read: I pressed snooze too many times), I did it at night, sitting up in bed, with the bedside lamp on, to ensure I wouldn’t accidentally fall asleep.
After I meditated (nearly) daily for a month, I noticed that I felt more centered. What I mean by that is, I felt calmer and more focused throughout the whole day when I meditated first thing in the morning. My mind wasn’t racing as much. While I also feel this way when I exercise first thing, meditation doesn’t require nearly as much time. When the month was over, I no longer felt I needed professional help. My state of being wasn’t perfect, but where I felt like I was at a 7 on the 0-10 crazy scale at the beginning of the month, by the end of the month, I was at a 5.
While the benefits of my practice were not immediately apparent, I stayed motivated to do it every day because of a deal I negotiated with myself (and Dan). Please let the record show, I feel like a poser using the term “my practice.”
I decided that if I meditated every single day for a month, I would allow myself to sign up for a meditation retreat at an ashram. My best friend from college lives and works there, which is how I found out about it. She told me she thought I should try it. I told her I thought she was nuts. My doing this would be like a person who has never run before deciding to run a marathon. But then she described it, and I was sold.
The retreat is in the mountains. You check in at 3pm and you check out at 1pm the following day. You meditate and do yoga in the evening and again in the morning. You have an opportunity to wear a badge that indicates you’re being silent so please, nobody talk to you. I’ve never been silent for more than an hour or two (unless I was asleep) but silence sounds very appeals to me right now.
It’s been 26 days since my almost daily December practice. I still have not signed up for the retreat. I have Dan’s full support. I have Lady Bug (finally) sleeping nine consecutive hours at night, most of the time.
I also have guilt.
Some part of me feels I don’t deserve to leave my family for a night. Even if I could convince myself that I totally deserve it, I would have trouble letting myself fully enjoy sitting by myself in a cabin in the mountains where all I needed to do was breathe. It feels almost too luxurious to imagine eating three meals in a row that aren’t punctuated by requests for more milk, or hurried through in an attempt to get the baby to sleep before she completely melts down.
Meditation has helped me cultivate the peace I am so desperate for, but I have yet to come up with something to hold my guilt at bay.