Meditation and the Chinese Finger Trap that Is My Mind

I can think of nothing so cruel as being told to clear my mind. The process generally goes like this:

“Ok. Clear my mind…clear my mind…clear my… Hey wait, I think I just did it… But now I’m thinking about it… Does it count if it only lasted a second, and then I think about it?…  I think it counts…nah, ‘cause niStock_000092111073_Fullow I’m thinking about it way longer than I actually did it… Ok, I am going to try again, but after I scratch my foot… Is it ok if I scratch my foot?… If my mind was clear, I probably wouldn’t need to scratch my foot… Ok, so I won’t scratch, I’ll just clear my mind…clear my… It really itches, I’m gonna scratch it so then I can clear my mind… Much better… I wonder if my yoga teacher saw me scratch it… She probably did and thinks I suck at savasana… No she doesn’t, yoga teachers aren’t like that. They only think nice thoughts… Probably ‘cause they can clear their minds… Which I can’t… What should I have for dinner?”

But I know, because everyone in the world says so, that mindfulness and meditation are key to good health and wellbeing. Just ask the American Heart Association, the New York Times, or Ellen.

So one of the things I’ve been trying to do is figure out how to turn off my mind and be truly present and mindful of my surroundings. My normal approach to developing a new skill is to work really hard at it – but that only seems to make it worse in this case.

For example, I’ve been reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. So far, it’s not helping. Tolle says I’m suppose to witness my mind at work, without judgment. But he also says it’s bad that my mind is always at work because it makes my Being (my real self) a slave to my mind. Presumably, my Being doesn’t want to be a slave to my mind. But how can I watch my mind work without judgment if I know that it’s bad that my mind is working? So then I’m judging myself, and I’m also judging myself for doing the judging, because I’m not suppose to judge. And before I know it, a simple exercise in mindfulness has become a quagmire of self-criticism and I’ve missed my train stop.

Maybe I’ll take a break from meditation and just focus on eating more vegetables. JK, I’m going to be zen goddamnit if it kills me!


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