“What you do,” he said, “is just lie there with your thoughts. Don’t judge them. Just let them happen. Let yourself feel everything you’re feeling. Think everything you’re thinking. Without distraction.”
He didn’t call it mindfulness then. I wouldn’t learn that word until much later. From someone else.
Instead, my first fraught dance with my own mind wouldn’t have a name. It would just be a simple exercise.
He’d call it meditation, but I’d be skeptical of the label — like I was about everything back then.
“Isn’t meditation about clearing your head completely of thoughts though?” I’d say.
“Not necessarily,” he’d answer.
And then I found myself lying down, alone with my own brain. No TV on to distract me. No book or phone within arm’s reach. Just me and whatever my brain decided to do to me.
For some reason, I’d decided to lie down on the rug instead of somewhere sensible like a couch or a bed.
I felt the texture of the rug against my cheek. Clung to that for a few moments, how that felt.
But before long, my doubts rushed into my own head. My insecurities. The things that I was always trying to turn my back on. To run away from.
It was an onslaught. I was bombarded with everything I feared was true. My brain rushed towards it, internalized it, made it true. And unlike my normal everyday existence, I had nothing to distract me from my fears. There was nowhere to run.
And it was there, lying on the rug, that I started to cry.
And found I couldn’t stop.
I cried for 20 minutes then. It felt unending.
He came to check on me after.
“Well, that was a fucking disaster,” I said.
“How do you figure?” he asked.
“I cried. Pretty much the entire time,” I said. “I’m pretty sure I did it wrong.”
“Not at all,” he replied. “It was the same for me, the first time I meditated.”
“Really?” I said.
“Then why the hell did you keep on doing it?” I asked. “If it hurts so much.”
“Because it doesn’t hurt like that forever,” he said. “And it’s by confronting that hurt instead of always running from it that you get the pain to a place where it’s barely there anymore.”
He was right of course.
He didn’t tell me how long it would take. That it would be years and years before I realized he had been telling me the truth. He didn’t tell me that I’d think he was full of it dozens of times before one day it finally started to work.
But he was right.