The First 30 Minutes Of Meditation

The snow globe behind my eyes

I put a cushion under my butt, fold my feet next to each other and try and put as much weight on my knees as I can. I fold my hands on top of each other, rest them gently on my lap. Then I close my eyes.

It’s like shaking a snow globe and setting it down. For the first five minutes it’s just nonsense, flotsam and jetsam of the mind. Thoughts, ideas, images. Words, blog posts, outrages, desires. They’re so fleeting that I can’t remember them now, but some of them feel so important that I follow them, that I find myself thinking, before I remind myself to go back to my breath.

But breath is a hard thread to follow. It goes in and out, that much is obvious. I can feel that movement across my nostrils and it’s real enough. But then what?

When I breathe in it’s diffuse and I have to imagine where it’s going, it feels up, but is it down? And where does the wave break and come back? Those are all times for other thoughts to creep in.

When I breathe out the start is clear, but then where does it go, out of my body, till the system sputters and I inhale again.

I’m lucky if I can focus for one complete breath, ever.

I can also still, even with my eyes closed, see. Not like Henry Sugar, Roald Dahl’s character that could see through cards, but I can see blobs and bloobs. If there’s enough light it’s orange and warm. Today they’re purple and cool.

That’s all what I’m supposed to be doing.

What’s actually happening is the constant, whirling snow globe of thoughts. We’re always told to be doing something, so it’s very hard to not do that. I’m constantly trying to optimize my life through shopping, so I think about the glasses I was looking at, should the be acetate, should they be transitions, and I have to draw myself back. We’re always told to worry, so it’s very hard to avoid. I think about the UK elections, I think about a conversation with Tory friends, and I have to gently remind myself to let it pass.

As much as the thoughts come in, they do go out. If I picture myself inside the snow globe it’s like there are long strips of paper floating by. I can pick them up and read them, but I can just as easily let them go. After about 20 minutes of this, the air gets less thick with cognition. The globe starts to settle. My thoughts pool at my feet.

This is the second phase, which feels like control but is really hubris. At this point, the body jitters — which I don’t have — would have gone. You are comfortable at least sitting still, and your mind feels accustomed to the idea of stillness, at least. The air is still full of words and thoughts but less. You can see the empty spaces in between. This feels good, like you’ve accomplished something.

And yet I still can’t complete a breath with total focus. I still think about other things, or lose the thread and think about losing the thread. I still get lost in the metaphor of where my breath is and thus lose where my breath is. The globe is still full of snow.

Like an old TV, showing the background radiation of the universe, my mind is still full of background noise. I can’t turn the thing off, let alone tune it to a channel.

And at this point, my alarm goes off. I’ll try 45 minutes next time.