Alice Gets Mindful (2)

Lesson 2: Meditating is just like running

Meditating does not come easy to me. That’s the conclusion I came to in the second week of my course. After the first lesson, we were sent home with an assignment: Do the body scan every day. A body scan exercise is a 45-minute-long meditation you do whilst lying down. Firstly: I didn’t manage to do it every day. I mean, honestly—where on earth am I going to get a spare 45 minutes? What with my work, cooking dinners, doing the laundry and helping the kids with their homework. Oh, and of course, doing some sport to keep myself fit. So yes, it’s only logical that the body scan was neglected. But only some of the time. There were days when I would ‘clock off’ from the family and go upstairs to do the body scan in my bedroom. One evening, my daughter even came in and lay down beside me, saying , “Mom, I’ll do it with you.” Which was nice until she proclaimed “Ieuwww! That woman has such a scary voice!” and got silently waved out of the room. Other times, my impatience got the better of me and I secretly kept peeping over to see how much longer the meditation would last. And of course, there were times when I would doze off; usually before we arrived at my left knee. After a tip from my Flow colleague Jolanda, I decided to try the body scan in the morning one day, which indeed worked better because, seeing as I had just woken up, I didn’t fall asleep straight away during the exercise. What’s more, I could concentrate better in a quiet house. And I felt, during the morning, the effects of that quiet time to myself for slightly longer. But I did still have one problem with the meditation exercise. That it felt like homework. What exactly was the point of it? And for what purpose was I actually doing it?

Luckily, it turned out that I wasn’t the only one wondering this. During the second meeting, it came to light that more people (well, almost everyone) had struggled with the body scan. And that was perfectly logical, our teacher told us. Because meditation is not necessarily fun. Just as going running is not fun. Learning to play a musical instrument is also no piece of cake at first. Nothing goes well straight away, she told us. Anything that is new to you has to be learned. And that means, you have to practice a lot. Just as you cannot go and simply run ten kilometers as a novice, you cannot simply do a whole meditation with your full attention. For you really do need to train your brain’s attention ‘muscles’. Just like you train your physical muscles during exercise.

So meditating is like running. Hmm, I can work with that. Sometimes running comes automatically; other times it is a mental battle, where you’re only focused on the end point. But those times when you manage to enjoy being on the road, the rhythm of your feet against the path, the leaves that flutter down around you—those times are priceless. Therefore, I now understand that I need to continue with meditation. I have to make time for it. So that I can believe there will be a day when I’ll be able to experience a meditation session with my undivided attention

Alice is the Managing Editor of Flow International and the Flow Specials.