Sunday, February 20, 2011

Meditation “Challenge”—They’re Not Kidding

I’m watching a DVR’d episode of Dr. Oz (I’ve become addicted—subject for another post!) and Deepak Chopra is his guest.  Chopra leads Oz and the audience in studio and at home in a short meditation to demonstrate the stilling and relaxing power of the practice.  Now, I’ve tried meditation over the years (Radical Acceptance with Tara Brach, Insight Meditation with Sharon Salzberg, private lessons with a guy who was trying to impress me in college) and it’s never “taken.”  I’ve definitely felt the meditative quality of things like my water yoga, and simply stopping and remembering to breathe in the middle of my day, in the middle of a stressful event.  Yet neither group meditation practice nor meditation CDs have done it for me.  But for these 5 minutes on a TV show of all things, I listen and I breathe and I go to a deeper place.

Then just a couple of weeks later I read a friend’s blog talking about how wonderful she felt after completing the Chopra Center 21 Day Meditation Challenge.  Obviously the universe is sending me a message.  Time to start a meditation practice! I go to the Chopra Center website and sign up for emails that will soon start coming to my inbox, with daily guided meditations. 

Day 1—the challenge starts without me as I am on a much-deserved, all too brief vacation and have disconnected from the Internet.

Day 2-7 I can’t start, I realize, because the speakers on my desktop computer haven’t worked since one of last year’s Snowmaggedon power outages. 

Day 8—after trying everything for a DIY fix to my speakers, I call Fuji (manufacturer of the monitor they’re built into).  Am told if speakers aren’t working it’s not worth trying to repair them—I should go buy some external speakers.  Now they tell me!

Day 9—my Day 1.  No time to go shopping for speakers.  I do the challenge after work, on my laptop downstairs.  Feel very virtuous.

Their Day 10, my Day 2. Topic: “The Centering Power of the Breath.”  I fall asleep during the meditation in my recliner.

Their Day 11, my Day 3.  I go get speakers at Target.  Cheap—why did I wait so long to take care of this problem?

My Day 5.  I am not connecting with the different person guiding today’s meditation, even though I’m told he’s called “the Boston Buddha,” which normally would warm me to him.

Two days in a row my days were so busy that I didn’t get to do the meditations till after work, but before going downstairs to crash for the evening.  It’s dark out.  I’m burned out. I am hungry.  I am a disgrace to the program.  I am so antsy I fast forward through the guided meditation.  Pretty sure this is not what they had in mind.

Think I might do better on my own just sitting in my chair doing a five-minute meditation, and build up the time as best I can, rather than be a slave to the computer, to my inbox and the messages from Chopra Center telling me what meditation is and isn’t.  I appreciate that some people need this.  For me I think it’s an obstacle.  I’ve never been a groupie for meditation.  It’s like the biggest, very popular meditation community in our area, meeting weekly in a local church.  For me that would involve driving at least 20 minutes (on a good day, if rush hour is over), then taking 20 minutes to find remote parking and trek from it to the church, and by then in a horrible mood go join 300 other people and all the stuff they bring to sit together.  I just never got it.

The Day 21 message comes into my email urging participants to celebrate.  I scroll back to Day 8, which is where I am.  I want to get this over with.  Not a good attitude, I know.  But tonight I wait a little longer, because it’s close to 6 p.m., and, wait for it, there’s the glorious sunset behind the trees across the lake, wide swatches of pink and blue defining the bare branches where the tree line thins.  This is what I really need to meditate to, with eyes wide open. 

The pink is heading south and the blue is fading to gray then black and now I feel the letdown that comes as the day fades into night.  There’s so little daylight this winter I hate to close my eyes for 10-15 minutes of it.  But if I wait till night time in the dark to meditate, it makes me sleepy or just feels too late.  Ironically, the title of today’s Challenge for me is “Create a Morning Meditation Ritual.”  This depressing winter, just getting up is enough of a morning ritual challenge!    

Today’s meditation starts off indeed with a challenge—telling us that the reason most people stop meditating is that they “don’t have enough time.”  Er, guilty!  Then the guide mentions that we might be thinking of taxes and damn, now I’m thinking of my taxes, papers for which are strewn across my dining room table!   Why? Why remind me of taxes when I’m trying to settle into a quiet, spiritual place?  I have my own inner voices, I don’t need them planting noise there just as I’m trying to get rid of it.

Now that the challenge has formally ended (for everyone else--though I still have 13 more days to go), emails continue to pour into my inbox from the Chopra Center.  A new radio program I can listen to, a meditation CD I can buy, a retreat I can attend.  Support, or commercialism? Probably equal parts of each.

Still, I’ll probably try, in my lackadaisical way, to finish all 21 days.  After all, they promise to help me variously find out who I am, see what I want, discover my purpose, open my chakras, and achieve effortless flow.  Who can possibly resist that?


  1. This confirms why I will never be good at meditation -- I'm giggling over your experience. I think I prefer to find my peace in laughter, although I would also be delighted to find my purpose. Maybe the answer is in a joke...

  2. What a fun, honest post, Karen! And so true of the obstacles of learning meditation! You are living the problem--all while not quite recognizing that you ARE doing what you need to be doing, which is find a way to make meditation work for YOU. Tune into the sunsets, tune into the meditative flow of your water yoga, adapt what you learn from the Chopra bits that ARE meaningful. There isn't a "right" or "wrong" way. There's no such thing as not being "good" at meditation, as Pat says. It's finding a way to make some quiet, mindful time for yourself--however you do that for you.