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By Tim Curfman
It’s a warm peaceful Saturday afternoon, and I’ve decided to spend a little time in meditation. It’s a chance to escape from the turbulent world around me. There’s plenty of churn at work, drama with friends and family, and I can’t watch CNN for more than five minutes without reaching my target heart rate. Look away! Look away!
So I turn to meditation. I lean back, adjust a couple of pillows, and close my eyes.
I focus on the breath. I observe the sensations of my body, noting each one as it floats into my consciousness. I feel warmth. I feel the beating of my own heart. I allow myself to sink into the comfort of…
Isn’t there cake in the fridge? I think there is. It’s chocolate, and it’s probably drying out.
I open my eyes and start to stand up.
I stop myself. Aha! The first of my naughty little kittens has emerged. It’s Snackers von Münchie, out looking for a treat. “Didn’t I just feed you?” I ask.
Every animal is compelled to nourish itself, but Snackers will literally eat himself to death. The problem with Snackers is that nothing in his evolutionary past has prepared him for the modern world. We have an unending supply of high-carbohydrate food that’s lying around, completely defenseless. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked down at my lap and found an empty bag of potato chips there, with no memory of how that came to be.
No, Snackers, no more snacks today! I must continue to make conscious decisions about how much junk food Snackers is allowed to eat, because Snackers is clearly out of control.
I close my eyes, and begrudgingly allow the visions of cake to fade away. I allow my mind to become empty. I note the tingling I feel in my feet. I note the rise and fall of my chest. I note the experience of…
I wonder what that smoking-hot waiter guy is doing? You know, the one that waited on me and my husband last week? I think he was flirting with us. That was at Barnaby’s restaurant, right? But which Barnaby’s? There’s so many of them now. Dear God, I’ve lost hot waiter guy!
Oh, hello, Frisky Paw-Paw. I see you’ve decided to come rubbing against my leg again. This luxurious minx loves the company of men, but I have observed that she will favor a good-looking male over ones that have superior personalities and intelligence. I blame Frisky for the times when I found myself dating guys that I was wildly attracted to, but otherwise didn’t particularly like. More than once I have stopped myself from saying, “You’re cuter with your mouth closed.”
I wave a stern finger at Frisky, “I’m turning 50 this year. I’ve been happily married for 21 years, and I don’t need you to point out hot waiter guys who are aren’t going to be interested in me anyway.”
Frisky licks her chops and says, “Wrawr!”
I allow the vision of hot waiter guy to fade away, and start once again to attend to the breath, to note the sounds around me, the tingling of my skin, the sensation of…
That incident at the auto repair shop yesterday really torqued me off. They were clearly taking advantage of me and my desperate need for working brakes. How can I get my revenge???
Looks like Pushy Boots has come to visit. This surly little kitten spends its time looking for a fight, and I can feel its claws digging into my flesh at the memory of yesterday’s expensive injustice.
I value the fact that Pushy Boots is trying to protect me. Any animal, when sufficiently provoked, will turn into a vicious snarling beast. Later we say, “My goodness gracious! I didn’t know I had that in me!” while we are picking pieces of someone else’s flesh out of our teeth.
I find that Pushy Boots can be too territorial, too irrational, and often wants to declare nuclear war on issues that don’t actually matter. I’m just glad that we have a governmental system that guarantees that Pushy-Boots will never end up running the country. Did I just say that? Why are my fingers clawed into the couch?
I allow yesterday’s auto repair rip-off to play out, while I observe it as dispassionately as I can. I focus on the breath. I focus on…
I wonder how many people liked my latest Facebook post? I could check that real quick.
No. I will not be derailed. I focus on the breath again. I note the slow moving of my chest up and down. I watch the parade of thoughts pass before me: unrequited love from junior high, “Will I ever stop thinking about Wayne Adams? Maybe it’s time to move on…,” smoldering addictions, random worries, and more thoughts about cake.
I acknowledge each one of them and return back to the breath. I can feel my brain getting calmer. I can feel…
Is something crawling on me?
So, here’s the thing about meditation that isn’t obvious. The interruptions are actually the most important part. One of the major therapeutic benefits of meditation is to train your brain how to respond to unwanted primal urges. With practice, you can learn to automatically guide yourself back to a place of conscious choice.
Our primal drives protect us and keep us alive. They have our best intentions at heart, but they are not in tune with our modern world. They can lead us into stress, addiction, over-eating, and misguided action. They need to be shepherded by conscious intention, so that we can save ourselves from ourselves.
Try it out. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breath. Soon your kittens will start calling. Acknowledge them. Affirm them for their positive intentions. Guide your mind back to the breath, as your naughty little kittens purr in your lap.