The last few nights, I’ve been having trouble falling asleep, then waking up in the morning feeling exhausted. My heart is pounding too fast, my chest feels full and heavy, my stomach aches ever so slightly. I’d say this was caused by overeating or binging, but I haven’t actually been indulging in those lovely activities in the past couple of days, so that’s not it.
What it is, I’ve recognized, is the oppressive stress I’m feeling because of this impending move (only 5 days away!), the lack of organization in our home preceding it, work pressures, and having to keep up with daily routines because of two little fur-babies who don’t have the faintest idea that their lives are about to change radically and irrevocably in less than a week. (“What? Change radically? What are you talking about, Mum? Are you going to change our food? Are you going to buy us new toys? Are we finding a new trail to walk in–??? WHAT???”)
Now, when this sort of thing has occurred in the past, I’d either ignore it (if all else were going well, or I found myself otherwise distracted), or rush to make a doctor’s appointment and check out all vitals (if anxiety were rearing its ugly persona once again). In this case, however, I’m trying to be more self-aware as part of my overall plan, so I stopped to take a closer look at what it is and how it’s affecting me.
Years ago, when I suffered regularly from panic attacks, I saw a wonderful therapist who practised cognitive therapy and recommended a program based on the philosophy of Jon Kabat-Zin, called Mindfulness Meditation. I attended the sessions for eight Saturday mornings (culminating in an entire day of silent meditation–bliss!), and learned how to use a form of meditation based on progressive relaxation. Then, during my halcyon year at CSNN, I resurrected the practise as a daily routine before going off to school. I have to admit that I felt fantastic.
So, this very morning, I awoke at 6:53 AM, mere minutes after the alarm blared beside my ear, and determined that I’d begin to meditate again. Yes, I had promised myself (again) that I’d walk on the treadmill this morning, but this seemed more pressing. So, after being greeted by one exuberant puppy pressing her cold, wet nose into my cheek (C. and I sleep on a futon bed, resting on a pedestal frame–which means our faces are perfectly aligned with dog-face level), I dragged myself upright and padded into the TV room.
I had done this before, only a couple of years ago, so there should be no problem, right? I clearly remembered the routine, the progression from general relaxation to focusing individually on each body part and relaxing it in turn, along with breathing in while focusing on the part (and any sensations, pain, etc. there), then breathing out while letting the part go limp, consciously relaxing the muscle, freeing my mind of any thoughts (and gently returning it to the business at hand should it wander in any way). I can do this, I thought. It’s like riding a bike.
And so I began. Bare feet flat on floor. I sit on a chair with a special back pillow behind me for support (bad back), so I’m actually upright and sitting fairly tall. Face forward, eyes closed, tip of tongue on roof of mouth, breathe in–deep–breathe out, a heavy sigh, relaxing all of the body. I’d deliberately left the light out (there’s just barely enough to limn the various pieces of furniture and assorted packing boxes in the room , these grey autumn mornings) so that I could close my eyes and really focus.
I’d gotten as far as focusing on the soles of my feet when I felt it again–the cold wetness, this time on my big toe. Then used said big toe to push Chaser out of the way, Nylabone still in her mouth. Back to the soles. Breathe in, breathe out. Relax. Focus.
Not ten seconds later (I was at the ankle by now), she’d returned to chewing her bone, this time using the top of my foot as a brace so she could prop the bone between her paws and get a better chewing angle. And I thought meditation was supposed to be RELAXING. At this point, I was more tense than when I’d awoken. I gave up with a sigh and headed toward the shower.
I think I will need to close the door next time I meditate.
(“But I found it very relaxing, Mum! You should try chewing a Nylabone once in a while. Great for the tension in your teeth.”)