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Hello unsexy, untranscendent, impossible me
Dispatch #15: 1,000 days of meditation
During pandemic, many friends decided to bake complex sourdoughs, binge Tiger King, join Twitch, the list goes on. After a decade of an on-again/off-again meditation practice, I decided to commit to a daily practice. I joined two online sanghas for accountability (and for joy). I took an online class centered on the exploration of death as a spiritual practice, wrote a slew of poems about radical self-acceptance, feeling immensely vast, & the fact that “no matter how many barbecues we throw, we’re going / to die.”
Today marks 1,000 days that I’ve meditated, without fail, every day.
In September, it will be my 3 year meditation anniversary. Now when I say this, I imagine you might see it as a Massive Accomplishment TM. But when I look back, it’s messy. In truth, I only see one thing: consistency. Commitment through the ups & downs & downs & downs. James Baldwin’s words on endurance in writing come to mind (beautifully highlighted by The Marginalian):
“Something that irritates you and won’t let you go. That’s the anguish of it. Do this book, or die. You have to go through that. Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.”
Whether I meditated at 2 AM lying down for 20 minutes with my knees up, or first thing in the morning for 40 minutes in lotus, I showed up. It was hardly ever transcendent. It wasn’t sexy, some Insta photo of a woman reaching a mountain top & climactically hurrah-ing! To be honest, for almost an entire (particularly exhausting) year, I could barely keep my eyes open during my sits. I fell asleep while sitting, or more often, lying down with my knees up. But always, I came back to it. In that very moment, and the next day.
Throughout those 1,000 days, I added chanting for a month, I sometimes listened to guided meditations, & often I focused on simply counting my breaths. Yet, there was a simpler thing I was doing at the root of it all. I articulated it for the first time when Angel asked me (during that particularly exhausting year) very genuinely & compassionately, “How come you keep meditating if you’re falling asleep all the time, or if it’s so hard to find the time before 1 AM?”
We were both surprised by what I said, which was something like, “No matter what is happening in my day, I like that I’m going to carve out 20 minutes to just be with my mind. To prioritize being in silence.” So when I write Today marks 1,000 days that I’ve meditated, without fail, every day, it’s not a shiny sentence, it’s not even a measurable achievement; I’m not “better” or “calmer” (LOL) or “wiser.” What I am is someone who chose to be with myself, over & over, in stillness & silence - & often, when it was deeply inconvenient. As someone managing Bipolar Disorder & a whole lotta’ anxiety, it’s powerful to choose being with my mind in the clean slate of the next moment, & the next moment, & the next. It’s profound. & It’s kind.
Especially considering that when I do sit down to meditate, I more often than not find a mind going absolutely apes & bananas with rumination, catastrophizing, full-blown distractedness, etc. etc. etc. I’m not exaggerating. Night after night, it has been a zoo on wheels between my ears. Hello again, I have learned to say. Hello unsexy, untranscendent, impossible me.
On nights like this, I try to follow my breath, counting 1 through 10 as best as I can for 20 minutes; but when the bell inevitably rings, I find that I have been vividly mapping out field positions for my soccer team’s next game. Failure, that busy mind says as I get up to brush my teeth for bed at 1:30 AM, not knowing why in the heck I am doing still this whole meditation thing if this is what I was going to find. Anxious little me, full of drivel & cacophany. Hello, feelings of failure, I learn to say. Hello, familiar process: just a being trying to be.
• Hanif Abdurraqib’s Twitter thread about “The Church Of Minding One’s Own Business” has been a touchstone. Whew! Brilliance!
• *NSFW* but very safe for dykes of all stripes: this Janelle Monae video that apparently everyone in the world has seen but me?!
• I can’t stop listening to this new Christine & The Queens song
• I loved Emma Straub’s sweet & inspiring plans for the summer. What are yours?
• Angel surprised me with an absolutely jaw-dropping trip to Princeton to see Toni Morrison’s archives. It was life-changing. Her & I have barely begun to unpack it together, because it was too impactful! We mostly have just shaken our heads in disbelief.
• I am reallllly excited to read this. Like, I printed out all 30-something pages of it & it’s sitting on my desk underneath a gold pen & a silver pen, just waiting for a cleared afternoon with a cup of iced hibiscus tea, which leads me to…
• Iced hibiscus tea. To help discern what’s true anxiety & what’s caffeine jitters, I’ve been off of caffeine for the last month. Instead, I’ve been going to my favorite coffee shop & ordering two iced hibiscus teas to go, one for now, one for later. I love getting punched in the mouth by its sour. & It turns out it’s anti-inflammatory, so that’s cute!
• Safia Elhillo has a Substack. Run, don’t walk. I feel like I fell asleep & woke up in her notebook. Such an intimate, smart, & tender space. I’m setting up shop there permanently.
• Takashi Kokubo for when I need soft sounds to remind me that I’m human while I’m answering emails
Be good to yourself, dandelions. The wind will do what it will. Release, fill the sky, enjoy the ride.
With ample maple syrup,
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