The 28-Day Meditation Challenge: Falling Off The Wagon

For the month of February, Kate is taking part in Sharon Salzberg’s 28-Day Meditation Challenge. Kate already shared her feelings on week one and week two of the program. Here’s her thoughts going into week three.

An annoying thing happened this week with my meditation. There’s no good way to put it: I simply didn’t do it. I don’t have a good excuse—it’s not like I was insanely busy or had some big, traumatic thing happen. Just for some reason, every day when 6 p.m.—my anointed after work mediation time—rolled by, I needed to be somewhere. “I’ll meditate tomorrow,” I’d think. Wash, rinse, repeat. In total, I meditated only once last week. But still, it wasn’t a total wash.

Week two of Sharon Salzberg’s 28-Day Meditation Challenge is all about “Mindfulness of the Body and Letting Go of Burdens.” I read the week’s chapter excitedly, as lately I’ve been experiencing a lot of tightness in my back and shoulders (possibly because of a cheap mattress) and hoped meditating might help. There were two meditations laid out in the week’s plan—a body scan and a walking mediation. For the body scan, you are supposed to lie down, close your eyes, and focus your attention on what each and every body part is feeling, in a specific pattern. This sounded great as I read it, but unfortunately there wasn’t an audio accompaniment. Because the written instructions were complicated, when I tried to recall the pattern from memory, I quickly got frustrated. I went back to the simple meditating of week one, focusing on the in and out of my breath. For the walking meditation, you are supposed to step slowly for 20 minutes, zoning out while you focus on the movements of your feet, legs, and hips. But since my apartment is tiny and loaded with furniture, it hardly seemed like the place to try and walk. And forget about meditating while walking down a New York sidewalk.

Rather than jumping over these hurdles , I gave up. Which I very much recognize is not what I want to do. So today, I’m going to simply let the failure of this week’s meditating go and start again fresh. Even if it adds a week to the challenge, I’m going to conquer the body scan and walking meditation. I’m also going to try shifting my meditation time to the morning to see if that helps at all.

While I didn’t do meditation sessions, per se, this week, I still have been bringing the lessons from the challenge into my real life. Every day, I find myself being a little better at letting life’s little annoyances go. When I find myself getting antsy waiting for a train, or when the woman at Subway takes forever to make my sandwich, or when writing just isn’t coming easily for the day, I breathe in and out and just release the frustration.

Similarly, I am being more mindful of my body. Whenever I have the thought, “My back hurts,” I try to break that down and focus on, “What am I actually feeling?” I noticed that the pain isn’t a steady thing—it comes in and out. By focusing on the tightness, I can make it dissolve. Similarly, I’m trying to check in more with my body when it feels great. Last night, while out on a date with a very cute guy, I felt giddy. And as we talked, I took a minute to note what my body was feeling—the feeling on my smile, the sensation in my stomach as I laughed.

I even used Sharon’s principles when I had to go to the dentist last week—something I fear. As I sat in the chair, mouth open and shiny metal tools picking at my teeth and making all sorts of horrible noises, I decided to shift my focus and check in with my body. I noticed that my back felt very relaxed, and that the leather of the chair felt very cool against it. I felt the subtle breeze through an open window. I felt the subtle tingling of my legs being straight out in the chair. By focusing on that, rather the unpleasantness, before I knew it, the appointment was over.