Mindfulness

I can’t meditate for shit. Most times I’ve been hospitalized, they start the day in group with a meditation. The first thing they say is to concentrate on your breathing. That’s when my anxiety starts. Am I breathing too fast? Am I breathing too slow? Why am I holding my breath? Am I going to suffocate? I know you can’t hold your breath until you die, that is just one of my irrational fears. That is the point where I have to get up and leave the room.

The only time I had success with one of these meditations was a long time ago. It was different. The nurse leading did a guided mental imagery meditation. She didn’t mention breathing. She just told us to close our eyes and imagine the scenes as she described them. I tried but couldn’t follow, so I opened my eyes and that was when it started. The room looked like a giant fish tank. The other members of the group were still there but there were large, colorful fish swimming through the air, even though she was saying nothing about fish. I had an incredible sense of calm and peacefulness. After it was over I found the nurse to describe what happened. She said she was glad it helped but she didn’t seem to want to listen. She just thought I was another crazy person in the ward. I was.

I never tried again for years until my therapist gave me a link to the M.I.T. website. On there I found a guided body scan meditation I tried it because it was the shortest one. About 20 minutes. In it, a woman tells you to focus on your foot and then guides you through different parts of your body. I can’t concentrate so I would keep losing it and coming back to it 5 minutes later, realizing I had skipped whole sections of my body. That worked to calm me down a little but nothing like the experience of being in an aquarium.

You can search for “guided meditation” or “guided body scan” on YouTube and find tons of them. I tried out a lot and eventually got to where I could sit still and listen for about an hour. Still didn’t compare to my one good time but it did help a little with anxiety. I have never tried the apps for your phone but I can’t imagine they are much better. I recommend searching online where there are millions of them for free.

I did have one strange experience for about a week. I was interested in finding out what Tai Chi was all about. Again I searched YouTube and found a video that looked interesting. I had trouble following the motions but I really liked the calming music that went along with it. I’m not sure how I came up with the idea but I started doing my own version of Tai Chi. Whenever I was alone in my apartment, I would put on the music and move very slowly and deliberately every time I got up from my chair. Everything I did was like a Tai Chi pose. Walking to the kitchen to fill my water bottle, retrieving something from my bedroom, even a trip to the bathroom. Everything I did was done slowly with purpose. After a week my body was sore like I had overdone it at the gym but it did help to calm my mind. But after a week I couldn’t do it again. I’ve tried several times but I guess I don’t have the same discipline.

That is my experience with meditation. All the times it worked, at least. Most times I have to give up after the first few minutes because of the intense anxiety. If anyone has any suggestions I am open. With one caveat. I am not into anything new age or spiritual or having to do with chakras. I’ve also tried white noises like bubbling brooks or rain falling but those kinds of noises cause me to hear voices and it’s not very pleasant.

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