Seven Days of Squirrel Patrol
After the first six weeks of the Science of Well-being course, the focus shifts to an extended implementation of tools. As I indicated in my last article I have chosen to implement a meditation practice. This was not the easy route. I could have picked “implement good sleep habits” and called it a day (or night)! I figured I would take the path of most resistance, knowing I am obliged to report my progress to the world. OK so maybe not the world, but the tiny subset of souls who stumble across this blog after already maxing out on cute cat videos.
The only suggestion from Professor Laurie Santos for this week was to make a concrete (and of course specific) plan. Fair enough, I made a plan to meditate every day after breakfast for at least 10 minutes. I had to work the new ritual around my most sacred ritual – uninterrupted coffee and homemade sourdough toast and jam, over a heartfelt chat with my lovely wife, in the company of our crumb-catching dog.
So how is it going, you ask? It is a mixed bag. I’d say a mixed bag of nuts but the mental health connotations aren’t so positive. Some days are tough. It seems that the brain heads right into “squirrel patrol” as the meditation starts and chooses not to be very cooperative. No matter. As one guided meditation says, treat the process with “kindness and diligence”. I think that is a good summary. Be prepared to return your focus to the breath, and resume the meditation. How many times should you do this? Only as many times as required until the meditation is over!
In the course, several sample meditations are provided – including a “metta” (loving kindness) meditation and body scan. There are many free meditations out there if you search online. I subscribe to Spotify, and there are a number of guided meditation playlists to give you exposure to different styles and lengths of meditation sessions. I have been trying some at random to see what works.
The type of meditation that yields the most “centred” session really varies for me. Sometimes I get tired of hearing someone else’s voice and switch to stripped down, ambient instrumental music. This is especially true if I end up with a meditation coach with a voice that throws me. There was an Aussie coach who I am sure was about to say “I’m going to toss another shrimp on the bar-B, you keep breathing in and out, and when you hear the gong we’ll have a Foster’s lager”. I mean the resemblance to Paul Hogan (of “Crocodile Dundee” fame) was disconcerting, not a knock on our Aussie friends in general. Or this morning, the voice was fine and the topic was engaging. I was wrapping my heart in healing light when a noisy sitar player came in and threw some shade on the scene.
I don’t feel at the stage where I can simply sit in silence, it just feels like too much free space. I will experiment with adding some silent meditations as the weeks go on.
For the most part I am trying not to filter too much. If the meditation calls for learning about the sacral chakra, or radiating peaceful light toward the Middle East, or sending love out to the people you feel like flipping the bird to in real life, I try to buckle in and open my mind. There is something to be said for that. I once bought a colleague a plaque that said “Old age is where broad minds and narrow waists trade places”. This of course is not inevitable, just challenging to avoid. Challenge accepted!