I have always been a short-cut taker, and not just with activities, projects or work. I like emotional shortcuts, too. When I have unpleasant emotions, my mind automatically seeks the quickest possible escape route. I am not particularly fond of being alone in my head, with so many thoughts pinging around all disorganized and unresolved. My brain is like a hyperactive, hungry, immature squirrel - always flitting about, digging things up, making snarly little nests here and there and then scooting off to the next thing.
My idea of relaxing involves listening to the radio, playing on the computer and talking on the phone at the same time. The only time I seem to have any kind of focus is when I'm reading a book - and even then I often have to re-read sentences or entire paragraphs because my mental squirrel has gone running off somewhere without my permission.
My first experience with meditation was last year. I participated in a women's discussion group, and before every group meeting we would meditate. Sometimes with the aid of a guided meditation CD, but often with nothing at all - just silence. We would set a timer for ten minutes, sit in a circle, dim the lights, settle comfortably in our chairs, and meditate. Or, perhaps more accurately, the rest of them would meditate. My mind would go into overdrive, and I would spend the entire ten minutes chasing the squirrel around my brain. My internal dialogue would usually go something like this:
Okay, am I comfortable? No - my feet feel wrong. How are they supposed to be? Flat on the floor, right. Now they're on the floor. But I never sit like this. Shouldn't it be important to feel like myself if I'm meditating? Am I allowed to cross my ankles? I'm just going to peek - really quickly - see if everyone else has their feet on the floor.... damn. They do. Okay, feet on the floor. What's next... oh yes! Breathing. I can totally do this. Deep breath In...... and exhale. In...... and exhale. Wow, that's going well! In... and exhale. Oh shit I have to cough. Must. Suppress. Cough. Damn! Too late. Now everyone's probably looking at me. Where was I? Oh - breathing .... in..... exhale. In..... exhale. Crap, I don't think I'm supposed to be thinking "in" and "exhale" in my head when I do this.. I don't think I'm supposed to be thinking anything. How do you not think at all? Do I just think "ohm?" Okay... ohhhhhhmmmmmm. Ohhhhhhmmmmmm. Ohhhhhmmmm. Ohm. Ohm-diddly-ohm. OHM. That sounds like "oh, I'm". As in "oh I'm so bored". Ohimsobored. Ohimsobored. Ooohhhhiimmmmsooooobooooorrrrredddd.
It goes on this way until the little 'ding' of the timer. Everyone else appears to surface from some inner pool of mental calmness. By the time it's over I'm close to panic that I haven't quieted my brain - not for one second - so I study their faces and try to imitate their look of zen-like satisfaction.
I keep practicing, though, because every now and then there are a few moments of - well, of silence. And peace. And they're nice.
What I need, really, is a Zen Squirrel Trap. Like a Have-A-Heart Trap for the mind. I don't want to kill the squirrel, not really. Just contain him for a while. Quietly.