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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

You Mind Me Now, Boy

You know it’s the 21st century when your therapist is recommending a smartphone app to you as a logical extension of your work together.

It’s a series of recordings by a specialist in Mindfulness Meditation, meant to serve as a guide for me as I enter the meditative process. Now, before you picture me disrobing to nothing more than my shanti-om, just try to get a hold of yourself. It’s not like that. At least, I don’t think it’s like that. At least, it’s not going to be like that for me.

Mindfulness Meditation essentially just involves one sitting, focusing on one’s breath, and being mindful of noises, feelings, emotions, judgments, ideas, sensations. Not focusing on them, or ruminating on them, but acknowledging their presence, being mindful of them, and moving on.

This process has been suggested for me because of my definite inability to accept or tolerate or acknowledge… pretty much anything I do, or anyone else does, without passing swift and severe judgment. I rarely permit myself to have an opinion or a feeling or a thought without evaluating it. I can barely have a casual conversation with a friend or a coworker without delving into harsh analysis and, typically, body-slamming myself with a fierce critique of how I “performed” or what I said or what I was thinking.

I mentioned this to my therapist last week. He remarked that I seemed “quiet” during that session.

“Well,” I said, “I’m sitting here and I’m getting very frustrated with myself because I am not making the progress that I think I ought to be making (that was session 5, by the way). I feel like I’m not giving you enough of what you need for you to do your job—I feel like I should be having greater insights about my personality or about the way in which my mind works. I feel like what I say is couched in a genteel, overeducated rhetoric that retards my ability to talk about feelings. I feel like I’m not being forthcoming with information with you, like I am not progressing how I ought to be progressing because of some innate inability to truly articulate what I’m thinking or feeling, if I’m feeling anything at all. I feel like I’m not giving you the goods. I feel like I’m sitting here, judging everything I’m saying, evaluating everything I’m not saying, gauging every silence that sits between us and wondering what it means, for my progress, for my status, for my potential. That’s why I’m maybe being quiet today.”

Haha. He thought I was being quiet.

“Wow,” he said, his expertly-manicured eyebrows lilted in surprise, “that… that sounds… torturous.”

“Well,” I mitigated, “it’s frustrating.”

Not really, though. It’s torturous. I have a frightening inability to turn off that part of me, to squelch the white noise constantly emanating from that judging mind. And I suppose that this is where Mindfulness Meditation comes in—its aim, I think, is not to silence that part of my mind that casts judgment to and fro liberally and efficiently, but to make me mindful of what is going on in my mind throughout the day, and to perhaps accept that this is what I do—this is my judging mind, and it’s okay. There are birds chirping incessantly outside my window while I’m trying to mindfully meditate, and, instead of throwing up my hands in disgust and resignation and saying, “Fuck this, I can’t do this!” to acknowledge that the birds are out there, doing their birdie thing, and to allow my mind to wander to them, to not fight that, to let it happen and, when I’m ready, to bring myself back to my breath, back to whatever is to be through of next.

And that this, too, will be okay.

It’s a funny thing, working to change a part of your personality that may very well be a larger part of your personality than you ever believed it was. Part of me isn’t even sure I want to stop judging—the world, and myself—because it’s so ingrained, it’s just… what I do. It’s kind of my thing. Has it benefitted me? No, I don’t suppose it has. Has it detracted from pleasures I may have, at one point or another, experienced in my life up to this point? It’s distinctly possible that it has. And yet, I’m still a little scared to let go. And, as I read this paragraph, I realize that I’m talking like an addict. And I suppose, somehow, some way, we are all pretty addicted to our behaviors and our personalities, because they’re what we know—they’re as much of a friend to us as Captain Morgan or a line of coke. Not necessarily a good friend, but a friend nonetheless. And I hold onto friends pretty tightly, whether it makes sense or not.

I guess, in the end, either I’ll change or I won’t. In the meantime, I’ve got an app to download.

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