Confessions of a meditation convert
This week, my new housemate is going to teach me how to meditate. It’s taken a considerable amount of dialogue to arrive at the point where I can admit that this is something I need. Using traditional thinking, relaxation exercises are only required for people who are overworked, continually on edge or perennially stressed out. I like to condense all of these concepts into a bad stock image of a guy in business attire with his eyes closed, aggressively rubbing the space around the bridge of his nose with his forefingers. After that, it’s easy to disqualify myself from the category of people who need to study the art of relaxation for the simple fact that I can’t remember the last time I wore a dress shirt to work.
Turning off your mind is an incredibly difficult thing to do, especially when there are so many new and shiny things competing for our constant attention. These include the less obvious influences that weren’t created by Steve Jobs – like socialising, working across multiple projects and balancing personal and professional relationships and expectations. Something I’ve definitely noticed recently is that my ability to concentrate on one task for an extended period of time has gone down the toilet.
For every paragraph of this piece that is written, I’ll check three social networks, text my brother, talk to my desk buddy and fire off an email to the guy who’s meant to be fixing the front door to my apartment. The job will still get done, as it has for the other twenty-five of these columns and umpteen other tasks that I’ve completed in a similar fashion, which could easily be titled ‘How Useless Gen Ys Choose To Work’ if it were a self-aggrandising column written by a Boomer in tomorrow’s paper. But something is missing, as it is from a lot of the aspects of my life lately, as well as those of my friends. The issue is, the art of self-reflection is requires focused, undisturbed time.
Most of us know what we want from next week, next month, and, if you’re far better put together than yours truly, next year, as well as how we’re going to get it. But because the achievement of our goals gets so enmeshed in the daily processes of trying to tick off other boxes, interrupted by momentary flashes of instant gratification and entertainment, we don’t get much time to consider the weight of what we’ve actually achieved. There’s just so much stuff happening; friends and phones and computers and bosses and magazines and radio shock jocks and baristas and commuters and politicians and pop stars all crowding into our craniums like it’s a 5:30pm bus home and there’s no chance of another one for years.
And so, while I and possibly you may not outwardly appear to be showing signs of stress or fatigue, it’s there. It’s an agitation that stops you from having a decent night’s sleep, from not being able to acknowledge that something great has happened in your life because the next story is already hurtling around the corner and an inability to sit down, by yourself and just do nothing. Facebook or television or drinking are not really ways to decompress that swelling balloon inside our heads; they’re just a distraction from the somewhat unsexy necessity of being alone with our thoughts every once in a while.
And so while I do envy Bon Iver and his cabin nestled deep in the woods, or Hunter S. and his Colorado compound, I also realise that this internal kvetching will follow me to Antarctica unless I figure out a way to deal with it in the context of my every day environment. It’s a big call, because conventionally speaking, men aren’t supposed to do much serious thinking outside of the board room or office. So bring on the incense and let’s do this shit.
And no, I won’t live-tweet it. Promise.
Lead image via Shutterstock.