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Notes on Meditating in My Bedroom

by Carlo Alcos Dec 9, 2010
I had a choice: television or meditation. I chose the harder one.

IT’S SILENT IN MY ROOM and pitch black outside, even though it’s only 4:30 PM. Lying on my bed, the sole sound is from the chafing of my restless, socked feet rubbing against each other. I’ve already played some guitar. I don’t feel like reading. I’m trying to take a break from the computer. My first instinct is to get up, walk over to the living room, and flick on the television. I think of all the other times I’ve done just that. And I think of other people doing just that.

Then I think how easy that is. How easy a distraction it is. Distraction from what? Distraction from myself, my brain answers me. I’m having a moment.

It’s getting uncomfortable, like if-I-were-wearing-a-collared-shirt-I’d-be-tugging-at-the-collar uncomfortable. If I stay with my current train of thought I could slip into somewhere I don’t really want to go. I decide now would be a good time to meditate.

I turn the lights off and close the lid on my laptop. I light a candle and sit in a chair, facing the small flame. I try to ground myself, make my foundation heavy. I lengthen my upper body and try to lighten it as much as I can. With hands in lap, I focus on the flame and start paying attention to my breathing. It goes in and out of my nostrils (as one might expect it to do). I have a song on repeat that is playing in my head. It doesn’t seem to want to turn off. I take note.

My feet are cold. My thoughts race to the laptop; ironically they are thoughts about what I am writing right now. I wonder if I will remember what I’m thinking at the end of my meditation session; I really want to get this stuff down. I catch myself thinking all this, then I re-focus on my breath. The song is gone, but it’s been replaced by another. I guess the jukebox just changed records. I always have a song in my head.

The candle flame starts to dance violently. It’s flickering like a strobe light, casting crazy shadows on the wall behind. I briefly wonder if I could have an epileptic seizure from it. I’m not epileptic, but I close my eyes anyway, just in case. I’m now inside myself. I notice I’ve begun to hunch a little, my lower back rounding. I take a deep breath in and rise my torso skyward. Back to the breath.

After what seems like an eternity, with seemingly nothing accomplished, it feels like I’m starting to settle in. I can always tell when I’m “entering the zone” because everything feels really heavy, yet light at the same time. As fast as I think this, it’s gone. It’s like that quote about happiness:

Ask yourself whether you are happy and you cease to be so. ~ John Stuart Mill

Ask yourself whether you are meditating, and you cease to be meditating. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but in any case it’s got me thinking again. The thoughts race in and out of my head. I remember what I’ve been told many times: simply acknowledge the thought, then let it go; imagine the thoughts as bubbles in water, floating up; don’t judge, just be present. Bring yourself back to the breath. Always back to the breath.

I’m back in the zone when the timer on my cell phone goes off. I don’t know if it’s a good idea to time my sessions or not, but I figure if I don’t I will probably give up too early. This way I know I will have to sit in all my uncomfortableness for at least 20 minutes. I should probably start expanding that to 30 minutes and daily but the commitment, I think, freaks me out.

This is why it’s called meditation practice.

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