Uncollecting Your Brain

I went to meditate this morning and Insight Timer wouldn’t work. I quickly determined that because I have a 6th generation iPod touch, the app won’t work because my iPod doesn’t have iOS 13 or newer. So after briefly cursing Apple for their bullshit* and then making a mental note to just download the app to my phone later**, I decided to just close my eyes and meditate in silence.

I think it’s the first time I have done that. I tend to prefer guided meditations with some sort of new agey music mainly because the voice and the music are something to focus on; plus, I haven’t been very confident in my ability to actually do it by myself. I mean, it’s not that hard to meditate, but the idea of being guided by someone with way more experience feels comfortable because at least I know I’m doing it right.

The first thing I noticed when I started my self-guided silent meditation was how cluttered my headspace is, even at 6:15 in the morning. You know, I do my best to focus on my breath and then work on the “making yourself relax”/”ease the tension” bit, but as I do that, my brain has a ton of things firing seemingly at once. And this is on a day when I didn’t have any thing stressful going on or anything to be anxious about.

In one of the meditations I regularly do, Lisa Jakub says the brain is “like an overactive puppy” and part of what we’re doing when we’re medidating is training it to settle down, or as she says, “bringing that puppy back.” I’m sure that my puppy drank a few cups coffee this morning, because as I was sitting there, random things began ping-ponging around: remembering to pay the power bill, remembering the dream I had last night where the power bill was $300 (it wasn’t), feeling annoyed that Insight Timer wasn’t working on my iPod, Marvin Gaye singing the opening verse of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” It can be hard to find your center amidst all of that.

And how exactly do you do that? I know how to declutter a room and a house. I can certainly pare down a comic book collection. But these are random thoughts that come voluntarily, and while I don’t necessarily want them to be suppressed in an unhealthy way, I can’t say that I am happy about them being so intrusive.

My anxiety (or whatever else is going on here) is accompanied by constant distraction. Sometimes, I can work that to my advantage because if I harness it the right way, I can multitask like nobody’s business. Most of the time, though, I’m just unable to focus on one thing for an extended period of time without feeling that I’m neglecting something else.*** The ping-ponging of thoughts through my head while trying to meditate at 6:15 a.m. is another aspect of that.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution here here except to say that I keep thinking of Henry David Thoreau and the concept of living deliberately. Granted, I haven’t read Walden since I was in college 25 years ago, so I guess I should go reread it in order to full understand that idea and see if it’s something worth pursuing.

Did I just give myself another thing to do?


* No, seriously … it’s bullshit. You’re telling me that something that’s really not that old can’t support those particular upgrades or are you trying to get me to drop a few hundred dollars on something? I think the latter.

** I don’t need a lecture on how I have an iPod separate from my phone. I realize it’s impractical.

*** I wrote the first draft of this in pen and had to stop to empty the dishwasher, striaghten up the living room, vote in a primary election, and go to work. I typed this up and stopped a couple of times to check my email, text my kid, grade a worksheet, and scan the headlines of the Washington Post.

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