Meditation sucks.

The thing about meditating is that not only does it sound hokey, it’s really hard. When you’re just starting out, meditation pretty much sucks.

Perhaps I should start again: I am not Elizabeth Gilbert. In fact I’m just about the opposite of Elizabeth Gilbert with a few exceptions. We are similar in that we have both plunged deep into the realm of self-reflection upon the ending of a significant relationship. We both have the experience of realizing that our lives don’t fit us anymore, much like the clothes that become too big during this process. We are both writers and newly praying to our own gods.

But that’s about where the similarities end. I don’t have three published books on my shelf. There’s no fancy New York publisher offering me an advance on the book I will write about traveling the world and collecting pieces of my life like souvenirs for the folks back home. When Gilbert says, in Book II of Eat, Pray, Love, that she wants nothing more than to be That Quiet Girl at the Back of the Temple, she means me. I have always been the Quiet Girl, and now I want nothing more than to be That Boisterous Girl Who Can Befriend Anyone.

None of this is meant to in any way criticize Gilbert’s book. I love that book, even though it’s probably really not cool of me to admit it. I am reading it for a second time because I’ve found myself wanting to do the very things she’s done, which leaves me to wonder: are we so predictable? Do break-ups affect people in the same ways, varying only based on certain characteristics? Like, if you’re the technical or engineer-type, maybe you retreat to your home town and reconnect with old friends, and that’s just what you do when you’re recovering from a divorce or whatever. And if you’re the writer-type, you turn inward. You become convinced that if you can plumb your own depths thoroughly enough, and from the perspective of some other hemisphere, you’ll be able to finally make sense of it all and find a way through it.

The first time I read EPL, I was inspired by Gilbert’s courage – not her courage to travel the globe without planning, or her ability to leave her city, or even the fact that she took herself to an ashram in India. I was inspired by her courage to leave her relationship. To admit to herself, her partner, her family, and ultimately the world, that it wasn’t working.

It takes some people years, decades even, to pull that off. And some people never do. They just keep at it, or they give up and then redefine marriage or love as sacrifice and struggle. You might even call this anti-meditation. Instead of observing their minds and striving to create openness, these poor souls live only through their minds, striving to fill in every crevice, put a cap on every emotion, lest things get out of control and how they really feel about their lives is allowed to surface.

This second time through the book what strikes me, or should I say what terrifies me, is how long it seems to take Gilbert to slog her way through the emotional quagmire of it all. I think it was something like two or three years before she reassembled herself into a whole person – and that’s in book time, so it may have taken even longer.

Already I have reached my limit at six months -- I don’t have two or three years. Unless something changes dramatically. Unless this meditating thing works out, then I might have a chance.

Today’s meditation was for 15 minutes. My goal was simply to hold the posture, practice paying attention to my breath, and notice my thoughts as they came up. The time went faster than I anticipated, but I also had even more thoughts than I anticipated, and I know I have a lot of thoughts. In fact, I noticed that sometimes I could focus on my breath AND have thoughts – I don’t think that’s supposed to happen.

What leads me to meditation is the need to find a way to take a break from myself, if that makes any sense. To find a way to turn off the constant, nagging voice that will not cease to plan, analyze, criticize, worry about or praise every last little thing during all waking moments.

For the next week, I intend to meditate for 15 minutes each day and to observe the way things change from one day to the next. I will also plan my trip to Costa Rica, where I will blend mind and body in the form of surfing, meditation, deliciously uncomplicated Tica cuisine, perhaps a little dancing, a daily cerveza, and writing. I will strive for pleasure, spirit, and balance in this small Central American country where the language is spoken like it’s an art form, each syllable fully enunciated and explored. I will fall in love with the universe one more time. I will find balance, even if it takes a year, and when I find it perhaps I will return to my life, ready for whatever is next.

I hope to come back as That Confident Girl Who Knows What She Wants, because, let’s face it, boisterous is probably a stretch.


  1. I am having a similar issue with meditation which I have just taken up for a different reason. Just when I feel that a journey is about to begin, my have to be in control personality takes over and brings me back.

    I did find some shamanic drumming on you tube. Here is an example:

    I have a 25 minute mp3 file, loaded onto my cell phone and using it with headphones this blocks out all external distractions. Something to think about! Good luck!


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