Mindfulness is highly recommended and I really suck at it. There was a time when I objected to that expression but honestly now I think it is useful sometimes in it's pithiness. I have studied, in an academic way, the philosophy and the how-to guides for Yoga and Buddhism extensively. I used to be a dedicated practitioner of basic Hatha Yoga but have done very little of it in the past several years. I have attempted to meditate and I know how it is supposed to be done and all the tricks and what does not constitute meditation according to the experts. I know that it is not really about making a blank mind, which is a common misconception among beginners. It is about watching thoughts arise and fall away and not chasing them.
I am a thought chaser and the cruelest thing about meditation is that when I sit still and breathe and attempt to relax my mind that is when the best thoughts come. And as a writer I am not inclined to want to let them go. I experience the same thing lying in bed at night just prior to falling asleep. As the mind relaxes, thoughts bubble to the surface, connections are made, beautiful sentences form themselves and often paragraphs and the rough beginnings of an essay. The less able I am to write these down pronto, the more I am certain they are the most profound and brilliant thoughts I've ever had. More than once, just prior to falling asleep I have said to myself, "This idea is much too good for me to forget. I will definitely remember this in the morning." I never do.
Another Buddhist principle which I find very compelling in theory and can practice in many ways but not when it comes to my thoughts is the concept of non-attachment or letting go. Let go of my thoughts? I really do not want to and no amount of telling me it is good for me will convince me that I should. I am quite able to be less attached to material things than many are, despite the fact that I possess many. Living in a building with other people makes me all the more aware that a fire could break out and I could lose everything I have. I like everything that I have; that is the very point of having it. While my home and my possessions do not define me they do describe me. I love my books. I love the growth and learning represented in my paintings. Since I live by the principle love it or don't keep it, I would be sad to loose pretty much any and all of the contents in my home and yet I am prepared to lose them. Both people on the ground floor are smokers. I practically expect a fire, though I really do not want to have to go out the bedroom window on my collapsible escape ladder and wonder how well the cat would like being stuffed into a backpack if I do have to evacuate that way. I am prepared to lose everything that I own but I am not prepared to lose my thoughts. I suspect I believe that I am my thoughts.
So meditation practice is a special kind of torture and I don't really like it and I am not very good at it. When I do attempt it I aim to not have any deep thoughts but then once I begin trying to manipulate my thoughts I am not properly meditating. Besides I hate being told what to do. Walking on my own is a more successful form of meditation for me though purists will say it's not the same as sitting still. Although I'd probably argue with them just because I like to argue I know that it isn't. The sitting still part is supposed to be a challenge also and of course for me it is. I do not sit still very well unless very deeply engrossed in something. If I try to meditate I can immediately think of many things to do and will want to pop up and do them. I can actually have this problem sometimes when trying to read a book. I sit down and remember the plants need watering, or think that it might be a good idea to pop some laundry into the machine or I suddenly notice that my bare feet are cold and I would like some socks.
I don't seem to succeed at anything in the way it is intended. Sitting usually leads to restlessness but lying down produces my best thinking. Lying down is also the best way to read. Walking is the best way to meditate, letting my mind observe thoughts, observe my surroundings but not dwell on any thoughts for long. The only way to get my thoughts down to a simmer is to engage in sensory activities but I must be so immersed I cannot easily get out. This is what painting and walking do for me and what gardening used to do. Sensory experiences can also greatly impeded my ability to relax. Often I get into bed, intending to read for awhile, which for me usually means two hours, only to bounce out again quickly because I've discovered a toenail is too sharp and needs trimming or I've developed hives and need to apply ointment, or it has suddenly occurred to me that I should cut off three inches of my hair. I might be obsessed with the feel of the edges of my fingernails. They might need filing to improve an uneven shape or they may be too long. I cannot stand my fingernails past my fingertips and keep my nails very short.
If anybody needs meditation, I can hear the experts say, it is me. I would agree but as I'm not inclined to respect authority, bend to experts or do what I am told, my meditation cushion gets used as a seat for when I blow-dry my hair in the morning. My cat loves nothing more than when I am down on the floor so we sit in front of the full length mirror together, I using the meditation cushion, she in front of me making eye contact with me in the mirror as the hairdryer drones. I've told myself I will get back to more regular yoga practice. Maybe I will. I think that is something I need to get more attached to.