Meditation always seems like a good thing to do, except when you’re actually doing it. Then it can seem like a boring, uncomfortable, complete waste of time when there are clearly more important things to do, buy, watch, eat and read.
While “meditating” today, I put together a list of time-tested ways to avoid actually meditating.
You’re sitting on a chair or cushion, a bit bored, and suddenly you find yourself reaching into the fridge for last night’s take-out carton of saag paneer. You eat a few forkfuls, consider returning to the cushion, but instead finish the leftover mango chutney, brush your teeth, then return to the cushion. There’s a whopping 34 seconds left on the timer. Gong. Well, at least you got back to it.
It’s late, you’re tired, but you don’t want to break the streak you’ve established, so you decide to meditate while lying in bed. The Buddha, after all, encouraged his followers to meditate in the four postures: sitting, standing, walking and lying down.
First, you change into your pajamas and brush your teeth. The bedroom is chilly, so you set the timer, slip under the covers, and lie on your back with your head on the pillow. You almost convince yourself that with a straight posture, you won’t doze off instantly.
You begin to follow your breath, then let your head loll to one side so your cheek rests comfortably on the pillow. The timer, who knows how many minutes later, wakes you up. You curl up on your side and resume meditating.
Best to try on a busy day, when you’ve worked late, have early dinner plans, and didn’t sleep much the night before. Your bus is stuck in rush hour gridlock, worsened by a downpour and the ball game traffic. Rather than stress out, you try to accept things as they are yada yada and meditate on the crowded bus. You were lucky enough to get a seat, so this may even be possible.
You set the timer on your phone, close your eyes, and begin to follow your breath, which, let’s face it, is nearly impossible with the ambulance noises, your seatmate climbing over you to get off at her stop, a wet umbrella dripping on your thigh, and the crazy guy who, despite the crowdedness, people are edging away from. Honestly, you’d rather just watch funny videos on your phone because here and now is nothing but suffering, and wasn’t that what we were hoping to escape from in the first place?
Imagining Your Next Retreat
For a meta-distraction (not to be confused with daydreaming during metta practice), nothing beats imagining how concentrated you’ll be on your next retreat as you sit with zero concentration on your current retreat. The future holds so many pleasant possibilities, especially when the present moment hurts.
The Vipassana Crush
Retreat centers are the ideal place to avoid meditation. Without the distractions of job, friends, family, cell phones, or any type of media, you have to get creative. For your first multi-day retreat, I recommend the Vipassana Crush.
If you’re on a silent retreat, you’ll eat and meditate with the same group of people all day, but without the opportunity to share stories or information. Trust me, nothing fuels romance like ignorance. You’ll likely become attracted to someone in the group, never mind if you’re married, or a monk, or recovering from heart surgery. As they say, attraction happens.
Once you’ve identified your Crush, spend as many meditation periods as possible imaging your new life together after the retreat. Surely the sex will be extraordinary and anything that’s ever been lacking in your current and past relationships will come to be with this one simpatico being, who you’ve never actually met.
Your crush will be all-consuming. You’ll be giddy as the closing bell nears. When you actually speak, your beloved will be nothing like what you imagined. You’ll feel oddly deceived.
Vipassana Crushes are recommended for first retreats. After you’ve crushed a couple of times, you’ll start to see a pattern of projecting the satisfaction of your own desires onto someone else. Wisdom ruins everything.