This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about one of my most memorable experiences with meditation, which took place in — of all places — Orlando, Florida.
During my fourth year of undergrad, just as I was busy with job applications, final projects, and generally stressing about The Future, my parents decided the time was nigh for a family trip to Universal Studios. They’d realized that they had some extra hotel days to use up, those points had to be used up before the new year, and they had to be used up before the holidays, since we already had holiday plans. (Fortunately for us all, we lived in Georgia, so the drive to Orlando wasn’t that bad. My brother and I did homework in the car, and our parents adorkably dorked out over Harry Potter World on our behalf.)
The trip was great, and it was an overall testament to two things: 1) when you take a break, your brain is happier for having done so, and 2) the busier you are, the better you budget your time. (As an side note: someone posted in the Facebook group that they noticed we say ‘you’ a lot when referring to things that actually refer to ‘I.’ I read that at first thinking ‘hmmm, maybe,’ and just came across my own example of it.)
Harry Potter aside, my dad did sneak something into our trip that’s been coming to mind a lot this week as I try to have a daily practice of my own: a meditation exercise. After a day running through Diagon Alley, we were all ready to go back to our hotel and sleep for hours on end before another busy day of theme parking (and possibly applying for jobs), when my dad did a 180 (literally — he turned us in the other direction) and took us to what appeared to be downtown Orlando. We were all a bit puzzled (was there a restaurant here?) when he turned off a street full of convention centers and into a residential neighborhood.
As it would happen, my dad had found a retreat (temple? monastery? I’m unclear on the word best-suited to describe this place) amidst all the chaos of Orlando, and he wanted to take us here to meditate. It’s not the oddest thing he’s ever done, so we went with it, and found ourselves taking our shoes off and sitting down in a tastefully decorated Orlando home, the windows smothered in overgrown tree branches, and surprisingly distanced from the city — even though we were in the middle of it at that very moment.
I can’t say I’ve done much meditating since that moment — sitting still has never been my strong suit unless I’m doing something (ex: reading, painting, playing music) — but the memory of that peaceful moment in a time where I was feeling very frazzled is still soothing. As I work on my own practice, I’ve been coming back to that memory more often, as a sort of incentive to keep at it, and also as a “hey, I’ve done this once, I can do it again” sort of thing.
The verdict’s still out on how well that’s going; I still myself in the fuzzy-focus state quite often (described more in my first post). But, I’m in the fuzzy-focus state less often than before, so I’m hopeful that things are heading the right way.
(I joined this course a week in, so this first post is a bit late. Things should be on track going forward!)
I’ve been noticing that my ability to focus has been fuzzy of late. Although I usually think of myself as someone who is able to focus (when I’m working on something, not all the time) well, I’ve been feeling distracted by different commitments/directions during times when I’m trying to focus on other commitments/directions — even when I know that I’ve sorted out time to do one thing, then another.
To help find a fuzzy-focus fix, so to speak, I’ve decided to split my practice up in two ways, since the fuzzy-focus issue is manifesting itself in a couple different ways during my practice as well.
What do I mean by that? I’ve noticed that when I do a guided meditation, I tend to get very absorbed by it — to the extent that when the person doing the guiding starts talking once again, I find their presence jarring and disgruntling. I’ve also noticed that when I meditate without the guidance I have a much harder time trying to meditate, or reach a place of stillness; I keep thinking and thinking and thinking, until time’s up.
The first few times I tried meditating with both methods, I realized that this might be something I have to address from two different directions, since I’d like to become much more still and rested when I’m meditating, but also give applying the concept of stillness a shot when it comes to become more focused and aware of what I’m doing in any given moment. To that effect, I’m going about this two ways: in the mornings, I’ll do a five-minute guided meditation using Headspace, and in the evenings (before bed has been working pretty well), I’ll do a 15-minute meditation on my own.
I’m hoping that by approaching this from two directions, I’ll find out what works best for me and become more aware of how I can become most focused while meditating and while not meditating.