Of exercise, food habits and meditation, I would say meditation is the habit most in need of reinforcing.
I learned to meditate in my early 20s. At the time I was living in Boston and doing a bunch of Aryuvedic medicine things. One of the recommendations was to learn Transcendental Meditation. It was supposedly going to change a whole bunch of things about my life. I found a place in Cambridge to teach me. The process involved an information session, four pre-lessons, some of which involved watching videotapes of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s lectures. I had a mild worry I was joining a cult. It turned out that once I completed my series, I had no contact with them other than flyers sent to my house (and the next three houses that followed) advertising various Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s things.
In my second-to-last ceremony I was given my special meditation word, chosen just for me. I regarded this word a bit skeptically. I felt like either they gave everyone the same word, or just picked a sanskrit word at random.
Set loose on the world, I was instructed to meditate twice daily for 20 minutes and to come yearly for a checkup. I kept to the twice daily schedule for a while, then slacked off to once daily, then abandoned my practice altogether. I’ve been off-and-on ever since. I’ve never gone in for a tuneup.
Learning TM wasn’t cheap. It cost at much as one of my bi-monthly paychecks, and I had to pay in installments. Still, I think it was money well spent, because when I do meditate, it makes a difference.
I’m pretty wound up. I hadn’t really realized this until a few years ago, when describing my depression symptoms to a counselor, she said, “I see you as having more anxiety than depression.” I briefly sketched my history of the views from my bed out the window in many different houses. I definitely have a history of depression. But on a daily basis, I’m tight and anxious.
Meditation unwinds me. If I do it on a daily basis, I don’t really notice it making a ton of difference until I stop. Then, after a few days I feel claustrophobic in my head and am not breathing as deeply as I should. One line from a song starts to play on a loop and that’s my sign that I’ve been ignoring meditation for too long.
My current goal is 15 minutes, seven days per week. My calendar reminder tells me that my stats for the last three weeks are 4/7, 5/7, 4/7. I don’t know if I’ve made 7/7 days at any point this year.
Sometimes, meditation is easy. I come home from work, feed the cats, and then sit down for 15 minutes before going about my evening. But some nights, I just don’t want to. And so I put it off, and then it doesn’t get done and suddenly it’s bedtime.
I’ve also read the book Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He’s kind of the meditation-is-legit-and-I’m-a-real-doctor guy. His goal is 45 minutes of meditation or yoga per day. When I did this, several people asked me if I’d been on vacation.
I don’t have time for 45 minutes of yoga or meditation per day (I know that I should, but don’t, and I don’t want to make room) so I will continue my goal of 15 minutes per day. Maybe I can tease out the ways I avoid meditation and find some good incentives.