A couple posts ago, I mentioned a Ted Talk that had a big influence on my desire to change my life: Shawn Achor’s “The Happiness Advantage.” Not only is Achor hilarious and adorable, but he makes a compelling point that happiness is not a matter of luck or resources but that you can control it to an extent–conjure it, if you will–by engaging in various behaviors. One behavior Achor mentions is meditation.
If you’re like me, the idea of meditation evokes the smell of patchouli, the sound of small gongs, and the image of people twisted in impossible cross-legged poses saying “ohm.” And if you’re like me–a person who scoffs at anything that makes her emotionally uncomfortable–then you’ve likely dismissed meditation as something that might be fine for “those” people but that would never have an impact on you.
But as I mentioned in that earlier post, I no longer feel I have the luxury to scoff. My stress level is through the roof, I’m routinely anxious and depressed, and something’s gotta give. So, I am giving this meditation thing a try. I’m not here to pronounce any earth-shattering changes. I simply wanted to tell you about how I’m doing it and what I do see as positive potential.
Going to bed has always been difficult for me. Surely, there’s one more thing I could do. Some nights, I read, highlighter in hand, until I fall asleep (dangerous: more than once I’ve woken up to fluorescent pink stains on my pillow and face). Other nights, when I can’t bear to read another word, I’ll watch some crappy television show on my laptop, usually true crime (which explains all the nightmares).
Purposely setting out to sleep seems too self-indulgent. How messed up is that? And it’s self-defeating, too. I tell myself I can’t go to sleep because I didn’t get enough done, and then I sleep poorly, which means I’m groggy/cranky in the morning and can’t get going until mid-day. Kind of defeats the purpose of trying to be more productive.
In the past week, I’ve tried to change this habit. At night, I listen to guided meditation geared to help you sleep. There are TONS of these videos available for free on YouTube. I’ve been using this one only because the person who posted it wants to improve her “audio skills” and is looking for feedback. You can tell, too, as you listen, that she’s still working at it and that makes the process feel more authentic. It’s like we’re kindred spirits.
For my personality, guided meditation is perfect. Were I told to listen to the sounds of the rainforest or the roar of the ocean and just let myself drift off to sleep, I would no doubt use the time to construct lesson plans or draft introductions to essays in my head. But having someone tell me to relax is perfect for someone like me who has been trained by years of schooling to be a good little student. I listen to direction and do as I’m told. I aim to please. So, when someone tells me to relax each individual toe, I will try like hell to do it.
A little sad, maybe: it’s like there’s some small middle-schooler in me still striving for that “A” or a wee softball player hoping the coach will tell me “good job.” Yeah, I wish it weren’t so, but for now I’m going to work with who I am. I strive to please–okay. Let me use that personality trait to produce something good for myself.
So far, it’s working. Next step: five- or ten-minute daytime sessions first thing in the morning.