Now seems like a good time to meditate. It’s quiet. I’m neither starving nor stuffed. My clothes feel comfortable enough. Now seems like a fine time to meditate.
I cross into my living room. That’s appropriate; the room looks lived in. I sit in the middle of my knock-off Persian rug. That’s appropriate; it feels better with boots on. I reach for a soft cushion. Not appropriate; it’s lumpy in all the wrong places. But that’s no excuse not to meditate.
It’s early. Haze stains my bright white blinds, turning them the musky yellow of a smoker’s den. Dust particles dance to the rise and fall of my breath. But to me their rhythm only signifies death. Dust is dead skin. It’s peeled and flaked, and now it circulates. I’ll still mediate.
I’m not alone, but my company is. My television sleeps, the only one in the house who gets less than me. Wooden frames filled with fledgling grins gaze through my head. I hear the echoes of elders not living not dead; the clearest of all, “Don’t regret.”
My Grandfather stands and smiles, tanned and strong. A time before dementia or I knew him well. A time before wheelchairs and wasted legs and his every possession beside his hospital bed.
What a brave soul… the stories I’ve been told. I wish I were more like him. I wish there were more I’d appreciate. Now seems like a good time to meditate.
I awaken my phone from hibernation. I need a guide for this meditation. Twenty minutes is enough, I’d say. I find the track and press play.
“So once you’re sitting comfortably…” I’m anything but, this cushion is lumpy. “Just take a moment or two just to allow the body and the mind to settle.” I try to cross my legs, but I’m not flexible.
“You’re beginning the exercise with the eyes open. A nice soft focus, just aware of the space around you.” How do I soften my focus without going crosseyed? I try not to direct my stare but notice a green bottle under a chair. Why is that there? Oh yeah, my dad cleaned the—
“And when you’re ready… take some nice deep breaths. Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.” I thought meditators breathe out through their nose? “And with the next out breath, just allowing the eyes to close.” Finally. I close my eyes, expecting black but landing red. I wish my eyelids were thicker, perhaps then I could stay in bed.
“And in closing the eyes, immediately becoming more aware of the other physical senses. In particular, the sensation of touch. That feeling of contact between the body and the chair.” I’m not on a chair; I’m on the floor. Should I change my seat or just ignore?
“Start to notice the sounds around you now. Both those very close and those a bit further away.” I grope around the silence with my ears and find two clocks flirting. I go through the wall and into next door. I can just make out the mumble of daytime TV. Now the tumble of my washing machine. And birds, twittering. I wonder if I have a new tweet…
“Starting at the top of the head… just gently scanning down towards the feet. Noticing what parts of the body feel comfortable, and what parts of the body feel a little tense.” Where should I begin? I know the right side of my face has a perpetual grin. I hated my left teeth as a kid; now my facial muscles are lopsided. I guess that’s self-hate, I should stop judging and concentrate.
“Just starting to become a little bit more aware of the breath and the body. That rising and falling sensation.” I feel pregnant with anxiety. The feeling leaves me the more I breathe easy.
And just to help you maintain that focus on the breath… just silently starting to count the breaths as they pass. As you feel the rising sensation counting one. Falling sensation two, then three then four. Just up to a count of ten. When you get to ten, you can stop, and start again.”
I zero in on the sensations of my breath. One. I breathe in and follow the cold air to the pit of my despair. Two. I breathe out and feel the tingle of my nostril hair. Three. I breathe deeper down. Four. I bet this is the sound of my snore. Five. I’m getting high off this oxygen; I want more. Six. Meditation is so easy. My attention is awe— damn.
“And remember, allowing thoughts to come and go. But the moment you realize the mind has wandered off, you’ve been distracted… Just gently bringing the attention back again.” Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.
Three. I hear my breath.
Four. It no longer signifies death.
Five. I feel alive.
Seven. I hear laughter outside.
I’m glad I don’t have the blinds open, with all those people walking past, staring in.
I know they’ll ask, “The fuck is he doin’?” How would I handle that… ignore or react?
Each has a drawback.
At first, I think I’d–– I think, I’m thinking. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking.
Six. Meditation will improve your equanimity.
Seven. You’ll see.
Eight. The Dalai Lama isn’t afraid of death.
Nine. I am.
One. I don’t know if Robert is.
“When I went for a scan for my stomach cancer. They told me I have a brain tumor too,” he said.
Meaningful words but devoid of all meaning.
I heard the shells of his heart-piercing rounds jingle on the floor, but I feel no pang of care.
I shall give you my ear, friend, but not my embrace. In eleven years, this is the second time you’ve spoken to my face.
Is that unkind? Are these thoughts unwholesome? Should I feel more compassion?
“And now, just for a moment… letting go of that focus on the breath. In fact, letting go of any focus at all. Just letting the mind do whatever it wants to do. So if it wants to think… let it think. No sense of effort or control. Just giving the mind complete freedom, let it stroll.”
Ah, that what it’s all about. That was awe— damn.
“Now bringing the attention back to the body and into the space around you, and when you’re ready, gently opening the eyes.”
This post was inspired by Andy Puddicombe’s book Get Some Headspace. It’s the best book on meditation I’ve read.
Jon Brooks is a Stoicism teacher and, crucially, practitioner. His Stoic meditations have accumulated thousands of listens, and he has created his own Stoic training program for modern-day Stoics.