"Mindfulness" for People Like Me Who Hate Meditating
I kept hearing that I should prioritize it. But it was so damn painful.
This won’t be a post about how you should meditate if you don’t want to. I won’t be extra “woo” and I definitely won’t be condescending if you hate meditating or even the idea of sitting still. And if you’re reading this and you already meditate (maybe you’re meditating right now?), I hope you won’t judge me, either.
Now that we’re on the same page …
I was recently chatting with my friend Myq Kaplan, who is a very funny comedian with robust facial hair, and was the very first subscriber to my newsletter (hi, Myq). Just after we finished talking about what advice I have for people who want to go vegan but are afraid of the permanence of the word (my advice in short: don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good), he asked me if I meditate and I said, “No way. It’s too hard and I’m really bad at it.”
And Myq had the audacity to call me on my hypocrisy, pointing out that I advocate for folks to make veganism work for them (which might mean making more vegan choices on the way to full-throttle veganism), yet I don’t apply those same rules to myself when I talk about practicing mindfulness (I’m not good at it; I’d like to do it but it’s too hard; I don’t have the time; I’m afraid of failing … sound familiar?).
If you know me, know I am basically never, ever speechless.
If I want to, I could have a comeback or a “gotcha!” for basically everything (as you can see, I’m super fun to be around). But when Myq called me out (or called me “in,” as the academics would say), I could think of literally nothing to say.
I am a person who struggles with anxiety, which makes me entirely ordinary. I have a bottle of Xanax on my desk that I never use anymore because when I did, my good friend Chandra (an esteemed ER nurse) told me how evil it is and how there can be psychological ramifications to getting off of it—so now it’s basically decor, right beside my chicken bookends (Henrietta and Hepzibah, if you were curious).
One of the problems with having the type of anxiety I have is that it seems to be directly linked to me being extremely productive; I let it drive me.
It’s also probable (so said two separate shrinks) that I have ADHD, so … oh, look at that banana …
[Three hours later …]
My point is that I have long been aware that some kind of meditation would be very, very good for me, but I’ve repeatedly been put off by the (insert-vomit-emoji) “spiritual bypass” that has frequently accompanied so many of my adjacent circles when meditation was on the menu.
I once worked for a place where every Zoom call began with an imposed-upon few moments of meditation, and when I gently expressed being uncomfortable with that, I was told I “I didn’t fit the culture of the company.” (That’s a really, really bad thing to say to the only LGBTQ person, Jewish person, and atheist in the group.)
And yet, the very obvious benefits of meditation have not been lost on me.
Most of my favorite people have a mindfulness practice, but I always figured it was just “something they did,” and there was no place for someone like me in something like that.
But when Myq basically gave me permission to be imperfect at it …
to try on whatever form of meditation worked for me and tell the other forms to go to hell (those weren’t exactly his words) …
to start by even just closing my eyes and taking a breath while focusing on that breath and nothing else, even if I just return to the rat race not a moment later …
I felt like I could finally practice mindfulness my way.
I am by no means going to tell you that I’ve now turned a corner and am a practicing Buddha (I’m not). I won’t tell you that I’ve really figured out how to turn off the noise and stop my to-do lists from flooding my sacred, mindful space (I haven’t … which reminds me that I’m out of bananas).
But I will tell you that, along with the help of my virtual reality googles (I have the Oculous Quest 2 and it is definitely the best $300 I’ve ever spent) and my membership to the Supernatural workout app, I am sitting every morning for a good 10 minutes and focusing only on my breath (and occasionally on my dog Birdie who generally thinks this is the perfect time to settle in my lap).
You might roll your eyes at the VR toy I currently require to help me with my “practice” (I can’t believe I just said “practice”). After all, mindfulness is something that we should be able to reach just by closing our eyes and being a bit more intentional (“intentional” is my wife’s least favorite word) about the energy we are taking in and giving out. It should not require a virtual trip to Iceland, or Scotland, or Romania (the land of my people … Buna ziua! I Googled that).
But I’ve decided that I don’t care how I get there, as long as I do.
It doesn’t matter if I use a toy or don’t us a toy; use my Calm app or just find inner-calm; do it with a soothing, guided voice or just zone out on my own; or do it perfectly or really, really imperfectly.
Just like with veganism, we each have to start somewhere. And just like with veganism, some of us will require a bit more electronic interventions and some of us will just organically know how to navigate the produce section and the health food aisles (I happen to be an expert at immediately finding the non-dairy Ben & Jerry ice cream selections no matter what grocery store I am in, but I digress).
For me, my 10 minutes each morning—along with a short cardio workout in which I hit floating bubbles with cute fake bats while rocking to loud songs that I’ve mostly never heard of—is doing a damn good job at setting me up for a calmer, more productive day in which I am taking more control of my reactions and my silly, silly schedule.
And the reason I was able to get to this really-imperfect-BUT-STILL place is because I did it my way. And I will keep doing it my way. (Queue Frank Sinatra. Always queue Frank Sinatra.)
P.S. Look at my new jacket on my IG handle! It’s made by Rekindle by Lisa and I might never take it off.
One Thing I’m Jazzed About
Supernatural. You need a virtual reality headset to get started (again, I recommend the Oculous Quest 2), and you should check out some YouTube videos that better explain what the app does. But basically, it’s an interactive workout app that caters to all levels of fitness. In this alternative world, you stand in a gorgeous environment and hit little floaty balls with your magical-looking bats. The top-shelf coaches are hilarious and talented, the Facebook group for Supernatural users is mostly very supportive (adding a nice community element to the whole thing), and my workouts make me sweat … a lot (this always surprises me, becuase it’s way more fun than workout-y). More recently, I’ve started to really enjoy doing a 10-minute meditation, which the app also provides, following my workout. Some are guided, some are not, but they are all set amidst the stunning backdrops of ethereal locations including somewhere in the mountains, somewhere near the ocean, or somewhere ridiculously peaceful in between.
A Random Thing I’d Like to Share
When my friend Stephen asked if I’d like to write something about veganism for Kathy Ireland Magazine, I said yes faster than I could grab for my Kathy Ireland Collection cardigan that I got second-hand from ThredUp. The article, which is available for free, has finally been published and focuses on “10 Ways to Eat More Vegan Food.” I hope you check it out (more on some exciting articles I have on deck coming soon).