Kale chips, my cell phone battery, and what will I do without Jon Stewart?

For the past few years, I’ve been trying really hard to sustain a meditation practice, but nothing I’ve tried has stuck. I don’t do well with stillness, which is what meditation is all about – accessing the stillness within. At my best, I’m able to sit quietly and listen to a guided meditation, but even with the help of a reassuring voice, I struggle. My mind wanders and I have to reel it back in, focus on my breathing – the inhale, the exhale, the pause in between.

It works for a few seconds and then, I don’t know how it happens, but I find myself entertaining such weighty thoughts as “I wonder why kale chips are so damn expensive,” and “How come my phone battery keeps draining so quickly?” and “Gah! How will I face the news without Jon Stewart?”

“Shit!” I think, reeling my brain back in again. Inhale, exhale, pause. Inhale, exhale, pause.

In no time at all, my brain wanders off again and I reel it back. It wanders; I reel. It wanders; I reel. By the end of my meditation I’m often exhausted and frustrated, and I have to wonder about the wisdom of trying to beat gently coax my busy, skittering mind into submission.

I know everyone who meditates deals with this very same problem, but I have to say, it’s just plain discouraging to try for all this time and never feel like I get any better at it. Not to mention that when I feel worse about myself after meditating than I did before, I’m petty sure something’s gone terribly wrong with the process.

Then, a few months ago, on the phone with my friend, I said, “Maybe I wouldn’t find it so stressful if I just doodled through my meditation.”

She said she thought that was a great idea. “There isn’t only one right way to meditate,” she said. Which, of course, I knew. And yet, I felt such a relief to hear her say it, such a sense of validation.

Maybe even permission.

I started immediately. First thing the next morning, I sat down at my art table, put my ear buds in, set the Pandora timer for thirty minutes, and started doodling.

Meditation doodle 1

 

It was amazing. Focusing visually was much easier than tuning into my breath, and much less stressful. I felt like every stroke of my pen was creating the shape of my my meditation, which is weird, I know, but also cool and fun. I achieved such flow in that first 30-minute session; I was hooked.

Meditation doodle 2

 

When I was finished, I had something to show for the time, which for an A-type like me is a good thing.

Meditation doodle 3

Each day I posted my meditation doodle-in-progess on Instagram, and people encouraged me. They were curious about the process, and that was helpful too. I felt very supported. No one said, “Hey, that’s not how you meditate!” I got comments from doodlers and yogis alike.

Meditation doodle 4

 

Very different from all my other attempts at meditation, I found the hardest part of each session was stopping when the timer went off.

meditation doodle

IMG_20150126_075504 IMG_20150127_074517

 

I wanted to share that story for two reasons. First, even though we all know how good it is for us, maintaining a meditation practice is hard. Just showing up is a challenge in much the same way that sticking to a healthy diet or exercising every day is. And even when you do manage to carve out twenty minutes a day for meditation, it’s just plain tricky trying to slow down an active, thought-filled, creative mind.

If you’ve struggled too, try doodling. If you don’t feel quite up to doodling, try coloring someone else’s doodle. There are lots of adult coloring sheets available for download. I found a Pinterest board full of them, and I’m sure you can find other sources. (I’m setting up a freebies page for my own site, and I’ll have some downloadable color pages for you right here sometime in March).

Update: Free, downloadable coloring sheets are right here!

And the second reason I wanted to share my doodle meditation story with you is this. For some reason, I kept thinking there was only one way to meditate: sit still, breathe, let your thoughts go. I suck at that, but I kept trying even though it made me feel more defeated than Zen. When I brought up the idea of doodling to my friend, her positive response made me realize how much I was hoping she’d agree with me.

I love my friend big time, and she’s very wise, but I shouldn’t have needed permission to try meditation my way. We are all such very different people, how can one-size-fits-all meditation be appropriate? Or one-size-fits-all yoga, or love, or art, or faith. In our efforts to live happier, healthier lives, the best thing we can do, I think, is be true to ourselves.

OwnyourWeird-Penguin

Do you meditate? I’d love to hear about your practice. And if you don’t, then I’d love, love, love to hear about your weird. ; )

xo

p.s. If you want to see my meditation doodles so far, there’s a Pinterest board for that! And if you want to watch them get created, I still post my progress daily on Instagram.

, , , , , , ,

30 Responses to Kale chips, my cell phone battery, and what will I do without Jon Stewart?

  1. Naomi Wittlin February 27, 2015 at 6:45 am #

    Wait, Jon Stewart is leaving his show??? What happened? I hope it isn’t this crazy political ridiculousness of late…

    • j February 27, 2015 at 6:48 am #

      He is. He says he’s just been doing it a long time and he’s ready to do something else. Last I heard no final date was set, but he’ll leave later this year.

      I know. That is hard news to digest. I’m sorry to be the one who broke it to you. *hug*

  2. Della Monk February 27, 2015 at 7:15 am #

    Thank-you so much for sharing your struggles with meditation. It really helps to know that I’m not the only one. When I first tried to meditate, I sat on the floor on a cushion and set the timer for twenty minutes. After the first three minutes, I was thinking about what to make for supper. After the first seven, I was opening one eye to look at the timer. And after ten minutes, my legs fell asleep! Funny now, I know, but at the time, I felt like a failure. But it made me think about why I wanted to meditate in the first place, and also led me to believe that what I was trying to do was way more trouble than it was worth. Fortunately, like you, I’ve given myself permission to give up the struggle with right and wrong, and to focus on what works for me. As a result, I’m far less anxious, still critical, but getting better, and am learning how to be happy with things as they are today. Life itself is a meditation, once we get out of the way. Thanks for everything. : )

    • j February 27, 2015 at 7:28 am #

      Me too, me too! My legs didn’t fall asleep, but the rest was my first (and second, and 100th) experience too. I love “life itself is a meditation.” Since I’ve been doodling, I’ve been realizing there are a lot of times when I get sort of quiet and my mind smooths out a little. Hiking can do it, and walking Lexi sometimes.Sometimes arting does it, if I’m having a good art day.

      I once went to a meditation center in Berkeley. The grounds were beautiful and the room where we all sat on our pillows was just this open, all-wood space, austere and perfect. I sat on my pillow as still as I could and secretly competed with the people on either side of me to see which of us would move (or sniff or clear our throat) first. I also imagined that someone in the room had committed a crime and then ducked into our meditation knowing no one would suspect that as a getaway strategy.

      Clearly, I was doing something entirely different than the rest of the group! (Or maybe not…) ; )

      Thank you back, Della.

  3. Jonathan Bernstein February 27, 2015 at 7:36 am #

    There are many paths to the top of the mountain, grasshopper!

    • j February 27, 2015 at 8:20 am #

      Damn straight there is! (Phew!)

  4. Pam February 27, 2015 at 8:24 am #

    I was really good at meditation when I was a teenager. (How’s that for weird?) :p I haven’t managed to recapture that.

    I love that doodle-meditation is working for you! (Also, the results on the page are wonderful.) <3

    • j February 27, 2015 at 8:29 am #

      Thank you Pam. And yes, that is weird… er, surprising. I suspect you get the same benefits that come from meditation when you walk/hike, doodle, collage, etc.

  5. Cynthia J. Patton February 27, 2015 at 8:45 am #

    I too am devastated at the news about Jon Stewart. Sad days ahead.

    I also struggled with meditation. Then a friend suggested that I picture a still body of water in my mind. When a thought enters, treat it as a pebble being thrown into the water. It creates a ripple, but then the water smooths out again. For some reason meditation is so much easier when I picture the water! The whole visual helps me relax, and maybe that’s the point: I’m not fighting or resenting it. For all those non-doodlers out there, this might help.

    • j February 27, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

      Yes on Jon Stewart. I can’t tell you how many times he’s the only thing that made the news bearable. Sigh…

      I like the pebble on water idea. My one and only meditation teacher said that the thoughts were like clouds. I should notice them and then let them move on, but that never worked for me. I think your visual is much better.

      • Cynthia J. Patton February 28, 2015 at 11:41 am #

        It’s the only thing that makes meditation possible for me. I tried the cloud thing and my mind just kept going with that….

  6. alriske February 27, 2015 at 11:01 am #

    I’m with you, J. Sketching is a great way to enter a meditative state. It provides a focus where words are not needed.

    • j February 27, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

      Yes, exactly. Well said. It’s like you’re a writer or something. ; )

  7. Tammy February 27, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    Yes, yes, yes. Of course, you already knew I would say that. :)

    Your meditation doodles are so incredibly beautiful. Win, win.

    • j February 27, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

      Thank you, wise friend. <3

  8. lunajune February 27, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

    here’s a cool story..that is true
    back in 1978 or 79 Maharishi Mahesh Yogi came to Toronto to teach TM
    and I got to go to a 3 hours introduction talk with him at our local library
    I could not afford the lessons but my friend his mom and siblings all did
    and he would pass on what he learned in each session to me in the dark of High Park
    I have tried my whole life to meditate like he taught
    but over the years what I did learn was that whatever makes my soul shine
    that allows me to let go, to stand still in the moment and truly breath and feel
    really present… that’s meditation
    I’ve got there
    doing dishes
    walking the dog
    floating in the tub…that’s a good spot ;~)
    doing laundry
    dance and singing at the top of my lungs
    swinging like a looney every time I pass a park with a swing and I have even just 2 minutes
    jumping in puddles after it’s rained
    wet grasses between my toes
    and puppies… of my god puppies can cure almost anything

    your doodles they rock…so excited watching where they are taking you :~)
    I’m painting again.. and as I walk past it as I’m waiting for layers to dry I giggle with joy
    sometimes that feeling alone is better than any meditation.

    I do have a new meditation before getting out of bed daily now
    simple thoughts
    -peace
    -light
    -gratitude
    -forgiveness
    -how I might enjoy the day
    -how I might enjoy the future
    -remembering how connected to it all I am
    -and thanks

    it’s mere moments
    a truly centering focus
    before the unfolding of the chaos of life
    another good description of mediation

    • j February 28, 2015 at 7:40 am #

      “whatever makes my soul shine that allows me to let go, to stand still in the moment and truly breath and feel really present… that’s meditation…”

      Now that’s a definition I can get behind. (And yes. Puppies. They are magical.)

  9. Pierced Wonderings February 27, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

    I’ve struggled with meditation too, but for some reason the Headspace app clicked for me. I lay on the floor because sitting doesn’t do it for me. And when I start to wander, I picture throwing out a fishing line and literally reeling myself back in. Odd, but it works for me.

    • j February 28, 2015 at 7:42 am #

      Haha! Your literal reeling begs for a doodle, doesn’t it? I tried Headspace and it worked the first couple of times, but not over the long haul. I love hearing what works for everyone else, because it proves the larger point. Meditation is whatever each one of us says it is.

  10. Clare Flourish February 28, 2015 at 1:45 am #

    I thought about why I want Not to meditate. I found I feared it: I would feel my true feelings then. So I started doing it earlier in the evening when less tired.

    I do different things in my ritual space. I open my chakras with Qi- who cares if I use terms imprecisely, they mean something to me- or affirm, or even pray. Or count breaths, and meet the silence.

    • j February 28, 2015 at 7:43 am #

      I love the phrase “meet the silence,” even though I seem to only be able to do it with a pen or a pencil in my hand.

  11. Lyn Girdler February 28, 2015 at 4:24 am #

    so good. I sat in on a lecture with Sharon Salzberg – influential U.S. meditation teacher. She talked about this very same topic. The mind racing, thinking about other things etc. and then feeling bad about ourselves for it. She made a statement that always sticks with me. The moment you’re in mediation and you realize you AREN’T meditating, is the moment of revelation – or awareness. That’s not the moment you berate yourself because ‘you’re not good enough’ it’s when you have discovered where you really are! And, from there, you have a choice. I am so happy you found drawing as your meditation – it is really much more beautiful and convenient for all of us! Love it.

    • j February 28, 2015 at 7:47 am #

      Aw, thank you Lyn. And also, what a great way to look at it. When I frame my meditations Sharon Salzberg’s way, I actually did really well because I noticed myself wandering SO MANY TIMES. I still do, even when I’m drawing, but I’m just not bothered by it. Now I’ll not be bothered *and* think of Salzberg’s teachings. Thank you!

  12. Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer) March 2, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    What a cool thing. I love that you found a type of meditation that works for you. Everyone struggles with the mind wandering, I’m pretty sure. My meditation teacher told us she thinks of each random thought as a leaf floating by on a river, and she just sort of mentally tips her hat at it and lets it pass. That helped me a lot; I don’t think of my own thoughts as intrusive or as mistakes in my meditation, but just as little natural spots floating through. I acknowledge and dismiss them, which is also great practice at being kind to myself. I have to say, I’m impressed that you can meditate while doodling! I would totally forget about the meditation part and get all caught up in drawing and coloring, which would be fun but not the point. Just another case in point that you’re right; there’s no one way. I’m glad you found your way!

    • j March 2, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

      This is the first time I’ve thought about it, but maybe it depends on what you’re trying to get out of your meditation. For me, meditation isn’t about spirituality or enlightenment. It’s about quieting my mind – no fretting over the past, or worrying about the future, just getting quiet and present. So doodling is perfect. When it flows, it’s just me and the music and the lines on the page. I think it’s telling that I often don’t really know what the whole looks like until I finish and take that day’s picture. Until that moment, I am lost in the minute detail of my pen on the page, but not in a judgmental way. Just in a “this is the moment I’m in” way.

      I think it might work like a koan, which stills the mind because of its unanswerability. (I don’t think that’s an actual word!) The point is not necessarily to empty the mind, but simply to quiet it.

  13. Nina Badzin March 3, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

    This is awesome because of that important message– there is not just one way to do most things!

    • j March 3, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

      So true! Thank you, Nina!

  14. Louise March 4, 2015 at 12:52 am #

    This is wonderful! I tried meditation many years ago. Although my legs hurt, it worked for a while and I felt I had a new perspective each time afterwards. Then, like you, I couldn’t hold that focus very long anymore.

    In the past few years there have been a few deaths in my family (both of my parents and one of my sisters). It’s been hard. A “grief counselor” suggested something, especially in the case of my mother who died very unexpectedly, which really threw me. The grief counselor told me to go to a crafts store and buy stuff to make a box. She told me to decorate that box thinking of my mother. At first, I grumbled confusedly because I’d never done anything like it before and didn’t understand what I was doing. But I went to Michaels and picked out some things, randomly, to make a box for my mother. She could race a sail boat, so first I made small sail boat using toothpicks and colored paper, and white cloth for the sails, to put on the bottom of the box –as if the boat were carrying her and her box. She loved the color blue, so naturally I got all kinds of blue colored paper and prints to line both sides of the box. She loved roses, so I found rose-flowered stickers to put on the box. You get the idea… Then inside the box I put little messages, things I desperately wanted to tell her. Plus hugs and kisses. I would run across things, for example I recalled she really liked Pete Sampras, so I found a pic and put it in the box (sorry Dad). While making the box, I listened to music I knew she liked. Another time I listened to an audiobook of a book she loved while working on it. Sorry this is taking long to explain, but the point I just wanted to make is that focusing on doing an activity really can help quiet the mind. Whereas my mind had been such a jumble of shock and pain, I was now constructing something to steady me. Your doodling might be doing something like that, too. xo

    • j March 4, 2015 at 8:15 am #

      Oh, Louise, I love your box experience. What a cool thing, and I know I would have reacted to the suggestion the same way you did. I’m in a strange time with my parents. They need more and more of my help, and I feel that I am coming face to face with their mortality. It’s hard. I’m comforted by your story. Thank you for sharing that.

      And I agree that focusing on an activity does quiet the mind. There’s science behind the idea that doodling actually improves concentration and memory. My theory is that, for 30 minutes a day, I’m taxing my mind just enough to stop it’s wildest wanderings. Which makes the wanderings later more productive.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Weekly Wanderings – Pierced Wonderings - February 28, 2015

    […] Kale Chips, My Cell Phone Battery, and What Will I Do Without Jon Stewart – Judy Clement Wall. I too have struggled with meditation. But I’ve found what works for me. Doodling isn’t my thing, but Judy is creating some great things. […]

Share your thoughts...

Few things make me happier than being quoted, but please remember to link with love.