I’ve been using a guided meditation app called Headspace lately. Correction: I’ve been trying to use this meditation app. It doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, since all you have to do is sit for ten minutes while you listen to recordings of a dude with a pleasant accent. I am super good at breathing on command — I have those inhales and exhales down — but the part where I’m supposed to unwind and gently become mindful … not so much.

The first thing that usually happens as soon as I close my eyes and “slowly become aware of my body, scanning it from top to bottom” is that I become plagued by a series of ferocious itches which completely devour my attention until I get relief, so basically that part of the process is as relaxing as contracting scabies. Then I have something like Restless Everywhere Syndrome, where I get an overwhelming urge to move a hand or elbow or foot or nostril and if I try to hold still I become increasingly uncomfortable until I finally just thrash around like a dying salmon for a few seconds which I guess brings a certain sense of awareness but it’s less of raised consciousness and more along the lines of WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL IS MY DAMAGE HEATHER.

At that point the voice is usually saying something soothing about being calmly aware of one’s surroundings and so I become hyper-aware of every sound, which is never, say, the chirping of birds or a peacefully burbling spa fountain, but rather a mounting cacophony of irritations that permeate my earbuds.

Cat, giving herself a bath nearby: Mlem mlem mlem.

Dog, snoring: Snnnnnzzzz. Skkkknnnnnfffff. Nnnnnnffffff.

Children, at the other end of the house: YOU TOUCHED MY DOOMINATOR—


Cat: Mlem mlem mlem mlem mlem mlem mlem mlem mlem mlem mlem mlem mlem mlem mlem mlem.


Dog (now dreaming and making little muffled barks): Noop. Woop. MLOOP. MURP! ROOP!

Cat (has hiked a leg in the air and is now focused on her anus): Slep slep slep SLEP. SLLLLEPPP. SHHHHHHHHHHLEP.


Then there’s a whole stretch of time where the noises do actually recede a bit, because my brain is suddenly super busy thinking about:

• Every stupid thing I’ve ever said ever
• Brad and Angelina: what really went down on that plane?
• Trummmmmp
• That time when I was a kid and I barfed outside of a Toys R Us
• Why are yoga pants all tights now when the bootcut style was so much more flattering?
• Abused dogs
• Pizza for dinner?
• How much I completely suck ass at meditating

By the end of the ten minutes I usually do feel a faint sense of relief and accomplishment, if only because I got through the whole thing without hurling my phone out the window. Small victories = still victories.


21 Responses to “Om”

  1. Diane on January 7th, 2017 1:48 pm

    Thank you so much Linda. I so badly needed that. I was feeling very sorry for myself since we are expecting 8-10 inches of snow and I have tickets to see Joy Behar tonight at Foxwoods. BUT I don’ t drive in the snow. Joy may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I feel she is my soul mate in her attitude toward tRump. But your post made me seriously laugh out loud. So now I feel much better!!!

  2. Erin on January 7th, 2017 2:09 pm

    Linda, I’m so sorry you are going through so much and that it seems never ending. I get the sense from reading your posts that you are way too focused on being hard on yourself and are tightly wound because of it. Maybe the sarcasm about every.little.thing. Is what is keeping you so stuck and unable to heal? It feels torturous and I just want to see you be able to relax and enjoy life and feel good about yourself. Hugs mama.

  3. Kim on January 7th, 2017 4:18 pm

    HaHAAAA!! The fact you managed to accurately and viscerally were able to describe the self bathing Cat and snoring Dog is why I’ve been a fan for so long.
    Someone suggested an app like that for me and I downloaded it to my Kindle, where after one use it has sat unused for about a year.

  4. Katherine on January 7th, 2017 6:03 pm

    The itching and twitching! So my experience. Everyone goes through some version of that, I’m told. Add to my experience the internal eye-rolling skeptic in me arguing with the part of me that knows there’s some value after all of the distractions my inner me throws up. Again, I’m told this is all part of the process.

  5. Kelly on January 7th, 2017 8:55 pm

    Bring back the bootleg yoga pants! I still have two old pair I hoarded, but they are starting to fall apart. Been hoping the trend will change back again in time before my ass busts out of the current ones.

  6. Joan on January 7th, 2017 11:17 pm

    Now you are getting back to where you were lol… I am detecting a sense of humor which I dearly missed kiddo.

  7. Alex on January 8th, 2017 5:31 am

    This. This is exactly what I would go through every time I would meditate (minus the kid noises, but those cat-licking anus sounds, just the worst).

    I tried to meditate daily for over a year (trying different apps, Headspace, YouTube videos), and it never got easier. I kept wondering what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I do it? Why couldn’t I focus?

    And then I had this epiphany – dude, I am GREAT at focusing, just not on nothing. The sensation of my butt sinking into the chair is not interesting. Of course my mind would wander, which would lead to this palpable sense of failure each and every single time. Kind of defeats the purpose doesn’t it?

    However, I am good at focusing on my body when I do yoga. I’m good at focusing on music when I play the piano. I’m good at focusing when I read a book, or take a stab at writing a story. I used to notice this when I was a kid – when I would play the piano, it was like I would “disappear.” That obnoxious voice in my head would finally shut the fuck up. And that was half the attraction of playing.

    Realizing this, I gave up meditating, which freed up more time to do stuff that actually makes me feel grounded and focused, AND I enjoy (like yoga, reading, piano, etc.).

    Anyway, I just think this idea, like EVERYONE SHOULD MEDITATE is just another fad, like skinny vs. boot-cut yoga pants. Different styles work on different people, which is why it’s so infuriating when the powers that be decide what’s best for everyone.

    So I say, if meditation isn’t working, find something else. I think we’ve forgotten that any creative activity (dancing, cooking, gardening, painting, writing, etc.) can be just as meditative (if not more) than sitting in a chair trying to think about nothing. Plus, then you also get to enjoy the benefit of your action instead of opening your eyes and realizing you literally just spent 10 minutes of your life doing nothing at all. What a waste of time, if you think about it. (Also, side note, when did the imagination become the enemy? That’s kind of fucked up, right?)

    Sorry for the novel-long comment – I obviously feel passionately about this topic. Fuck meditation. The last time I meditated really “well,” I tried to write afterwards and ALL THE WORDS WERE GONE. I literally couldn’t think of individual words. That can’t be good! So screw it. And I’m not going to feel bad about it either. If it works for some people, awesome, but it doesn’t work for me, and that’s fine. I’ll do my own thing.

  8. Alex on January 8th, 2017 5:40 am

    Also, if anyone’s interested, I thought this New York Times article about the trap of mindfulness was pretty great:

    “Mindfulness is supposed to be a defense against the pressures of modern life, but it’s starting to feel suspiciously like it’s actually adding to them. It’s a special circle of self-improvement hell, striving not just for a Pinterest-worthy home, but a Pinterest-worthy mind.”

  9. Gretchen on January 8th, 2017 6:09 am

    Read 10% Happier by Dan somebody if you can. He works through exactly this. Also – the whole point of meditating is that it is PRACTICE. Practice in noticing all those distractions, letting them go, and returning to the meditation however briefly. It helps train your brain to be able to let go of the little things during your day. You’re doing it right! :-)

  10. Donna Brubach on January 8th, 2017 11:09 am

    This absolutely killed me. Sooooo me

  11. Mary Clare on January 9th, 2017 7:31 am

    Ha ha! I love the descriptions of the dog and cat. Your humor comes through in your writing. Have a great day.

  12. Kristi on January 9th, 2017 8:18 am

    BQ or Plain?

  13. Pete on January 9th, 2017 10:26 am

    When I want to escape my mind I will put on a good set of noise cancelling over the ear head phones and spin up some classical music. I try to choose pieces that are long and complex (many different instruments). I will then concentrate on one instrument (flute, oboe, violin, etc.) and try to just hear that instrument. It’s not easy but just like those 3D posters with the hidden image or those spinney GIF’s where you can change the rotation of the image, it can be done. To do it you really have to clear your mind of everything else. It’s a temporary fix but rewarding.

  14. Jean on January 9th, 2017 1:02 pm

    I had exactly the same experience. The woooorst.

    That said, I just came off of an 8 week mindfulness class (to deal with depression/anxiety) so I feel the need to share information that you can obviously ignore (I am cringing at offering unsolicited advice online, but apparently not enough to stop writing). The deal with mindfulness is that you don’t have to push away thoughts or try to block out noise. Just notice them, pay attention to them, and then let go of them.

    I realize this is the most obnoxious advice on the planet. But it’s actual advice from legit counselors and mindfulness practitioners, so I guess that’s something. Granted I’ve never used Headspace, so perhaps it’s another type of meditation and not so much traditional mindfulness.

    Good luck. Mindfulness hasn’t improved my issues but I know a lot of people who it has helped.

  15. Mary on January 9th, 2017 1:58 pm

    Here’s the thing that helped me meditate: It’s not about being IN the state of blissful floaty thought-free-ness. It’s about the awareness of your thoughts and returning your thoughts to your meditation efforts. I mean:

    “I’m meditating. Here I go, ignoring everything and being present… Ohhhm. Ummm, is that the cat licking her crotch? Damn it, come back, mind, come back!”

    It’s THAT part, the “Damn it!,” that is the key moment because you’re moving from being IN the thought to observing the thought, observing your mind’s behavior as it departs, you notice it’s departure, then you consciously redirect it away from the racing-thought-hamster-wheel and back to now.

    Gauge the “success” of a meditation by this criteria: Did I observe my your thoughts and redirect them to the present over and over and over again? You will gain tiny increments of progress that shift your mind from spending more time on the hamster wheel to the present, and eventually, eventually!, there will be more time in the present than on the wheel. But that is not a concern of a beginner (and I define beginner here, loosely, as anyone who isn’t the Dali Lama.)

  16. sooboo on January 9th, 2017 2:15 pm

    Ditto to what Mary above said. The important part about meditating is falling out and catching yourself. Then during non mediation times, you fall out of mindlfulness and into whatever your doom/ shame spiral is, you can catch yourself better there too. At least that’s what my therapist says. Seems to make sense.

    That being said, I haaaaaate meditating. It’s so boring and itchy and everything you said. But, my day goes smoother when I do it. It often feels like the longest 10 minutes of my life.

    Also, what did happen on that plane! Glad I’m not the only one who wants to know.

  17. Alison on January 9th, 2017 7:09 pm

    The very thought of meditation makes me anxious, so maybe this is something I could stand to work on. I’ll check out the app. I can’t even go to sleep at night without an audiobook – way too many angsty brain holes to fall into when left to my own devices. I would understand if they were all current anxieties. There are certainly plenty to choose from. But why must I start spiraling around things like that stupid thing I did at a wedding once, 15 freaking years ago. Anyway, this is to say, I feel you.

  18. Katie on January 9th, 2017 8:08 pm

    Sooo, I love your writing and your humor and your raw honesty. Thank you for coming back to the internets. I have been plugging away at this meditation thing too. I like a guided meditation, which I think Headspace is too. The brain wanders less than if I were trying to do it on my own. The app I like is called Stop, Breathe, and Think. Maybe see if you like it better? (It’s free so commitment is low.) I mainly like the lady’s voice, which I find soothing and not annoying. There’s a walking meditation (bonus! It’s exercise too!) and several for falling asleep. I agree with Alex that you don’t have to feel forced to meditate. But if it’s something you want to do, then i think you’re on the right path. I feel like I suck at it, but I also feel calmer afterwards.

  19. nonsoccermom on January 9th, 2017 10:47 pm

    This very accurately sums up my experience with meditating! Plus I’m very low on patience…though I guess if I’d stick with the meditating that might improve. Ah, well.

  20. Grace on January 10th, 2017 8:09 am

    YESSSS! I hope you take this as the massive compliment I mean it as, but the whole time I was reading, I was conjuring up Allie Brosh Hyperbole and a Half-style drawings of how your meditating goes down. I adore you both!

  21. Melanie on January 16th, 2017 7:07 pm

    I think that everyone does that when they meditate, at least at first. Maybe try something more “active”? I like guided meditations because screw the sounds around me or my breath or silence, I want to focus on something else. Or there are walking meditations so you can focus on putting your feet to the ground. But mostly the point is you do it and ego dates if it’s hard and you feel like you’re not doing it right. You’re doing it and doing your best so Whoohoo!

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