Wednesday, March 7, 2012

First month of meditation

I don't expect my meditation notes to be of interest to anyone, but I like to keep track on my blog because my desire to stop binge eating is the thing that led me to try meditation in earnest.

At one month in, I've had some interesting, positive experiences and personal observations. I've also had really rough patches. Often I don't want to meditate, even though I have already witnessed how beneficial it can be. This underscores a general tendency of mine: I tend to undervalue experiential learning and overvalue reading and abstract thinking, and the way I spend my time reflects that. Also, I have a tendency to get too far ahead of myself and that tripped me up at the very end of February and beginning of March. I read too much, grappled with aspects of Buddhist philosophy that I don't need to worry about at this stage, and temporarily lost sight of the fact that I set out to stop binging, not to become a Buddhist. I absolutely, 100% knew this would happen because religion is such a loaded thing for me. I got so freaked out and frustrated that I came close to chucking the whole practice. Luckily, I had anticipated this possible reaction when signing up for the meditation course I'm currently taking, and had decided in advance that I would think critically, as ever, and discard anything I disagreed with--that it needn't be all or nothing.

Meditation is hard work. Engaging with ancient philosophies and practices in a thoughtful way is hard work, especially when those philosophies and practices are foreign to you. But I think this is really important work for me to do.

February 2012 Practices

Feb 3rd: evening breathing meditation session. Purged 14 unnecessary items from house.

Feb 4th: no meditation.

Feb 5th: did my readings, but no practice. Today's events and my reaction to them drove home the fact that I DO need to strengthen my brain with meditation, and for more reasons than just my impulsive eating.

Feb 6th: I understand the importance of developing my practice, yet feel resistance to sitting down and observing my breathing for 20 or more minutes!

Feb 7th: evening breathing meditation

Feb 8th: readings

Feb 9th: morning breathing meditation; readings

Feb 10th: short morning breathing meditation

Feb 11th: metta (lovingkindness) meditation; readings

Feb 12th: short metta

Feb 13th: morning metta; readings

Feb 14th: morning breathing; readings

Feb 15th: readings; evening metta

Feb 16th: readings; evening metta (and watched a great documentary about the Buddha!)

Feb 17th: readings

Feb 18th: morning breathing; readings

Feb 19th: evening metta

Feb 20th: readings

Feb 21st: readings; morning metta; evening metta, evening breathing

Feb 22nd: readings; evening breathing (I think!)

Feb 23rd: nothing

Feb 24th: readings. Seems I've hit a rough patch with the actual meditation. Frustration and boredom is common and I've got to work through that.

Feb 25th: readings

Feb 26th: actual proper seated metta meditation in the morning! I was so pleased! Plus daily readings.

Feb 27th: readings

Feb 28th: readings and evening breathing

Feb 29th: half a morning metta (was interrupted); afternoon body awareness (just something I sort of made up on the spot; I'm sure there is a formal practice I can get into later); purged 15 unnecessary items from the house.


  1. I'm glad you shared your meditation notes on your blog. I just finished reading Siddartha and as I know zero about Buddhism I feel that I at least now know a tiny bit.

    May I ask about the practice of purging unneccessary items from the house? How does that work/help?

    1. I might check that book out!

      I purge stuff (donate or throw away) regularly because too much clutter makes me feel mentally cluttered. Also, there are some true packrats in my family and I've seen what mindless accumulation can do over the years.

      I see it as going hand-in-hand with meditation. Learning to let go of things is a big part of various meditation practices, and so is accepting the impermanence of things. Things change. People change. Let go.

      Last but not least, some of my stuff has not-so-great memories attached to it and I see no reason to hang on to those things. Other items are more aspirational than grounded in reality--for example, my office bookshelves have Spanish and Arabic language books on them I haven't touched since college and probably will not touch anytime soon. Yet they sit there because I can't let go of the fantasy that I will resume my studies and become trilingual.

      Material objects are funny. I think they say a whole lot about the owner's ideas, values, anxieties, and hopes. At least they do in my case!

    2. I have come back to meditation, this time unencumbered by religious trappings (I used to do Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist chanting; nothing against it, but the religious part did not work well for me).

      You're right. I too find it very tough to sit and concentrate on just my breathing for 20 minutes. I've been doing this 6-7 days a week since mid-November and found that the positive results (mainly lower BP) have worn off and I'm getting as antsy and worried as before.

      I have enrolled in an 8-week mindfulness course that starts at the end of March and am really looking forward to going. I deeply believe in the power of meditation--I'm just not particularly good at letting it sink in to my mind and allowing it to do me some good.

      Just curious about your thyroid. Are you hyper or hypo? I'm hyper and going through my third round of treatment in 18 years. I was in remission for about 15 years after my first bout with Graves disease, relapsed three years ago and relapsed again in November. I know that this relapse is due to a combination of starting peri-menopause coupled with extreme stress. That's why I think that the only real, useful action I can take (beside taking my medication, of course!) is to learn to calm my anxieties through meditation.

  2. Hi NewMe! I hope your upcoming mindfulness course helps with the hyperthyroidism, high stress levels, and challenges presented by peri-menopause. I'm just starting out and don't know that much, so I'm eager to learn more--what kind of mindfulness instruction will you be undertaking?

    I am taking an online course but the thing I really wanted--Vipassana instruction--isn't coming until the very end and in the meantime I'm getting a little frustrated. All the breath awareness, lovingkindness, compassion, and appreciate joy meditations that the class presents first are supposed to prepare the student for the practice of Vipassana. But every day I practice these other things or read a discourse on the Noble Eightfold Path or the Four Noble Truths or the 107 Ways to Drive Yourself Insane, I feel a little more out of touch with my original goal/motivation: learn meditation to help me distance myself from my urges to binge.

    Religion, philosophy, Buddhism, atheism,'s a big, messy issue in my life (as I alluded earlier) and I'd like to write about it more in the future. It probably deserves a separate blog.

    I'm hypothyroid, but my cousin had Graves and I know how challenging it was for her. Wishing you the best!

  3. I think the group I'm joining is based on Jon Kabat-Zinn's program in Boston. Check out his book, "Full Catastrophe Living". It's quite amazing.

    I'll keep you posted on my adventures in mindfulness!

    1. I've heard so many good things about Kabat-Zinn's program. Definitely going to check it out. I look forward to hearing your updates!