Meditation as Medication

Meditation, from the day I started practicing, has been the single best thing for my well-being this year. It’s my charging station, my power cord. E., my best friend, said I was like a mobile phone with a crappy battery that needed to be charged all the time. That is exactly it: I’m okay… I’m okay… I’m fading… I’m gone. For months, my meditations were responses to the “gone” stage ~ when I crashed, they were necessary to recharge me. Now, they are built-in to each day ~ they are necessities to stop me from getting to the point that I’m gone. I meditate twice, if not three times, a day. This means going to my little meditation room (originally created to be my yoga room, which I hope to be able to do again one day), lying on my mat (a small folding futon), putting on my eye shades and listening to a CD, YouTube or podcast. I can do my own meditation silently in my head, but I much prefer to listen to someone guiding me. I find it so calming ~ that is, if I can find the right voice. There are some WACKOS on YouTube.

The downside of this is, of course, the cost. The best meditations I have found were on Amazon and, most of the time, they seem to be about $20 for an hour of talking. Meditation Oasis podcasts are free, but they’re all similar and quite short. There is no shortage of 5 to 20 minute meditations out there. Ideally, I’d like to find hour-long, good quality meditations ~ guided imagery or body scans or breath work or hypnosis practices. Lots of the time, I’m hoping to fall asleep. I’ll listen for half an hour and then doze off, but I always wake up when the meditation ends, so longer is better for me. The other downside is repetition ~ I have listened to my five CDs hundreds of times. When you know a meditation by heart, you tend not to pay attention as closely as you once did.

Interestingly, though, each time I do guided imagery, something new always bubbles up in my brain. And it’s always from my past. My therapist says I am a future thinker: the what if thoughts. What if my husband gets sick? What if I can never work again? What if something happens to a loved one abroad and I need to get on a plane? What if I have an allergic reaction to Lyrica? What if I lose health insurance? What if there’s an earthquake? What if I get the flu? What if I can’t get disability? What if we can’t pay our mortgage? What if I’m like this forever? But, I don’t think about/ talk about/ dwell on my past. However, that doesn’t stop it from playing out like little movies in my meditations and I sometimes find myself lying peacefully with tears running from behind my eye shade into my ears.

There is one guided imagery phone app that I listen to which has me walk down ten steps to a landing with two doors. When I open one of the doors, there is always something new behind it. Last week, I opened the door onto a field in Tiglin, Ireland where I went with E. when we were kids. How old were we? 14? 15? I can smell the air and see the trees and remember the feeling of freedom and excitement. It was before health problems and before the real insecurities of teenage years. We were out of the city, alone, responsible. We were giddy, we were growing up.
Another day, I opened the door into a cabin where I stayed with my two brothers. It was a skiing trip, I was a little older. We drank some beers and blared Janis Joplin and sang along to every song. My brother, who is seven years older, said, “I didn’t know you knew Janis” and I felt jubilant ~ as if I was finally an accepted member of the cool kids instead of the annoying, bratty baby sister. I think they laughed at one of my jokes; I remember pure joy.
Another day, the door opened on a stream. I ran down a path and jumped from rock to rock and, when I saw Dash, I realised I was at the creek next to my Dad’s old house. Dash was our dog from when I was five to the age of twenty. We ran along that creek all the time. Dash didn’t have to be on a leash, he would follow me up and down the rocks and, when I sat down in the sun, he would, too. My constant companion, my protector. A few weeks ago, Dash would have turned 238 ~ in dog years.

Whenever those meditations tell me to imagine a time when I felt happy or go to a room where I feel safe and secure, surrounded by those I love, there are always dogs. My imagined room has all the dogs from my whole life, protecting me, playing with me, making me laugh, making me forget all else. My gratitude today goes to Dash, Floppy, Toby, Joxer, Bowie, and Riley. And to mindfulness and meditation, which keep my battery charged and keep me (mostly) in the here and now.