The 28-Day Meditation Challenge: Learning To Realize When Things Just Aren’t That Big A Deal

For the month of February, Kate is taking part in Sharon Salzberg’s 28-Day Meditation Challenge. Last week, Kate shared her feelings on starting the program. Here’s week two.

On Sunday, before the Super Bowl, I found myself in the grocery store, waiting on an epic line to buy a carton of eggs I’d forgotten to get when I was there earlier in the day. I opened my wallet and, of course, it was empty—not a single dollar in there. I took out my credit card. “Fifteen dollar minimum,” the cashier said.

As I parsed what to do, I heard the guy behind me start to huff. “Can I pay with a debit card?” I asked. The cashier nodded. But as I swiped my card through the machine, the words “invalid card” came up. My card expired in January 2011. In other words, last week. I walked out of the store eggless (wait, does that make me sound like a chicken?) and pissed. The Super Bowl dinner I’d envisioned making wasn’t going to happen as planned.

As I walked home, I felt myself getting more and more annoyed. And then I decided to try something—focusing on my breathing, just like I’d done in my meditation sessions for the past week. I focused on the in and out, in and out. I told myself to let it go—just like the challenge told us to do when thoughts popped into our mind during sessions. It took a few repetitions, but soon I felt calm again. No eggs? Just not that big a deal.

For the past week, almost every day, I’ve sat down on a pillow on my living room floor for 20 minutes of meditation. During that time, I’ve focused on my breath, letting other thoughts drop away. In an alternate meditation, because my apartment is crazy noisy, I’ve focused on sounds, paying attention to each one and, again, letting them go. At first I heard the obvious sounds—my neighbor’s radio, the heater’s viscous hiss. But soon I felt like Superman training my super hearing. I’d hear a bird chirp in the distance, the wind blow outside the window or the soft hum of the refrigerator. When I opened my eyes, I felt calm and relaxed.

What’s been most interesting to me in meditating for my first week is how I’m bringing the ability to let things go to my everyday life. A train taking forever to arrive? I’m learning not to keep checking my watch and getting more annoyed with each passing minute, but to enjoy reading my book. Infinite amounts of snow piling up outside? I’m learning to stop dwelling on the little things—that snow boots are annoying, that getting anywhere will take longer—and just accept that it’s happening and move on. I’m finding that when you let frustrating things just go, you quickly forget that you were even frustrated to begin with. And that’s pretty cool.