A couple Sundays ago I wandered into my first meditation class. I used the word ‘wander’ because that’s kind of what it felt like; like I was just walking around aimlessly and suddenly landed in a 9 a.m. mindfulness meditation sitting group.
Let me ask you something: Have you ever tried to sit still for 30 minutes…with your eyes closed…with absolutely no previous meditation experience?
Well, your legs fall asleep. And then you freak out about your legs falling asleep and mindfully start karate chopping them (with your eyes still closed of course), and hope that they aren’t paralyzed forever. Then you just kind of feel like a complete failure at meditation and wonder what you’re doing with your life and how everyone else can sit quietly without becoming a ninja and why their legs aren’t asleep, because you suddenly become a mind reader and know that everyone else can definitely still feel their legs. Obviously.
I learned about about the meditation class while browsing Meetup.com one afternoon. The description read:
Join us on Sunday mornings or Monday nights for 30 minutes of lightly-guided Vipassana meditation, followed by a dharma talk and Q&A.
I repeated the words a few times in my head before clicking ‘Yes’ to RSVP. I had just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love and was feeling a little inspired. (Yes, I said I just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love. Yes, I know I’m about eight years late.)
Let me reiterate that the most meditation experience I had before attending this class was lying in savasana for two minutes with a lavender-scented towel over my face at the end of yoga class. I also had no idea what ‘Vipassana’ or ‘Dharma talk’ meant. But for some reason, as I sat at my desk staring at the screen, I knew I needed to sign up.
As I waked into the studio that Sunday morning I felt confident I’d made the right decision. I pictured myself sitting in lotus pose and drifting into a beautiful, stress-free bubble that would stay with me after I left and transfer to all other aspects of my life. I’m a big fan of instant gratification and I felt certain that I would achieve this calm immediately, after just one class. (All of you seasoned meditators can laugh at my naivety now.)
The instructor introduced herself as soon as I walked in the door and we were only chatting for about 10 seconds when I noticed a humongous centipede on the floor.
In that instant all of my aforementioned confidence disappeared. How could I possibly meditate with that thing in the room? I mean, I was obviously in its house and I just knew that there were 800 more of them, all ready to converge upon me as soon as I closed my eyes. NOPE, I decided, meditation was NOT for me, and I marched right out the door, never to return.
Just kidding. I decided to stay and to use my discomfort as a teaching tool. Because that’s the point of mindfulness meditation, isn’t it? Recognizing your thoughts and fears and just
letting centipedes crawl all over you while you meditate letting them be?
As the class got settled, the instructor explained that, to my dismay, meditation does not work overnight and that it can actually take many years to feel comfortable in your practice.
And then we were off.
We closed our eyes, she set a timer, and I wondered how the hell I was going to sit there with my eyes closed for 30 minutes.
I think I was about ten minutes in when I realized I couldn’t feel my legs.
Just breathe, I thought. This is probably normal.
But what if it isn’t? that other voice in my head asked.
Shut up, the first voiced scolded. I’m TRYING to meditate!
How can you possibly meditate at a time like this?, the second voice accused. Your legs are going to fall off and there are centipedes crawling into your pants.
I remembered the instructor saying that it was possible to ‘mindfully shift’ if you got uncomfortable, so I mindfully shifted my hands down to my ankles and started mindfully smacking them.
Stop it, the first voice yelled. You’re fine! This is not what you’re supposed to be doing!
The two voices in my head argued back and forth for a while while I
frantically mindfully tried to wake my feet up and then, GONG, the alarm on the instructor’s iPhone when off.
And that was that. My first real meditation session was over. I immediately moved my legs into a different position and felt that awful/awesome feeling as they slowly came back to life.
As I got up to leave I noticed that my mind did actually feel a little more at ease. I kind of like this meditation thing, I thought. Centipedes and all.