Bicep curls for the brain

Once again, I’m trying to get back into the habit of meditating. Or maybe just into the habit, since I’ve never quite made it firmly stick.

Two things are helping this time, though. One is telling myself that it’s okay to just go for ten minutes: I don’t need to push to increase that to fifteen or twenty or thirty. Maybe once I’m really and truly in the habit of ten minutes every day, but not until then; it’s a lot easier to declare “for crying out loud, it’s only ten minutes” and then just sit down than it is to mark out a longer block of time.

The other is akin to the epiphany I had some years ago about balance. I stopped thinking of it as a state (I am balanced) and started thinking of it as a process (I am balancing) — which had the effect of making me better at balancing, because I no longer thought of any deviation from the center as failure. It’s just part of the process of balancing, and the rest of the process is bringing yourself back to center.

Same thing here. Meditating isn’t the state of having my mind clear and focused on my breathing. It’s the process of noticing when my thoughts have wandered, and bringing them gently back to my breathing. At least in mindfulness meditation — I don’t have much experience with other kinds. I’ve started thinking of it as bicep curls for my brain, strengthening my mindfulness every time I return my attention to my breathing. Except that bicep curls are an effort, and this isn’t supposed to feel like heavy lifting; the metaphor breaks down after a while. Even so.

Process, not state. Understanding that wobbles happen. Not giving up, but trying again, and accepting that “trying again” is how it goes. As the most recent newsletter from 10% Happier said, it isn’t about not having thoughts, but about not getting caught up in them. Letting them pass by. I keep telling myself, “I can think about that later.”

Less than ten minutes later. Maybe someday I’ll get back to longer stretches, but for now, ten minutes is a good workout.

One Response to “Bicep curls for the brain”

  1. Jazzlet

    It’s also worth trying to do things you do several times a day mindfully, it works as practice for ‘proper’ mindfulness meditation. I find mindfully making a coffee, then later mindfully losing the coffee, both work for me, because they are short, frequent, and happen every day without fail. Even if I don’t do all the coffee making and losing in a day, a few give my brain some respite, which helps stop it resembling a whirling dervish crossed with a bee visiting flowers.

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