In that post, I made a plan to take five minutes before picking up my daughter from school to do some guided meditations. I've been doing a pretty good job of keeping up the habit with varied degrees of success in the actual "clearing my mind and meditating" part, but hey, I'm making an effort.
I've just been randomly picking five-minute meditation videos on YouTube to see what sticks. Some I've liked. Some I haven't, but then I got to this one:
It starts out fine. I'm supposed to imagine myself lying in soft green grass being warmed by the sun. There are even the sounds of birds chirping to help me imagine this peaceful outdoor haven. And I was on board.
It continues, and everything is fine.
feel how good the air is for you . . . you'll notice that every breath is really refreshing for your body
Yes. Yes it is. Those breaths feel great!
staring at the blue sky and the drifting clouds. . .
there is nothing you have to do.
Whoa. Wait a minute. With that line, I felt that "refreshing" breath catch in my throat. I started to feel a little restricted. I was being instructed to wash out the "old, stressful energy," but all I could think about what how much I would hate a world where there was nothing I had to do. I truly felt panicked at the implication.
There was some more great instruction and peaceful music, and I was trying to get myself back on track. There's a lull in the verbal instructions, and I got lost in the singing birds. Okay. Calm again. This is okay.
But I remember something odd. I remember hearing the voice tell me that no one is waiting on me and that I don't have any responsibilities, and I remember feeling intense panic about that thought. The thought of having no responsibilities and no one waiting on me didn't make me feel at peace. It made me feel alone, disconnected. Suddenly I envisioned that grassy hillside not as a peaceful escape but as a prison of openness, a wasteland void of the connections that make me feel whole. I couldn't get myself back to a place of calm.
I just listened to the whole thing again to write this post, and guess what? He doesn't say those things! He says that there is nothing I have to do. That's it. My mind filled in all the rest. And I truly, honestly remember them being there. I was that freaked out at the thought of having nothing I had to do and nowhere I had to be.
What does this mean? Do I just need a vacation? Do I need to do some soul searching on whether I'm too dependent on the things I do to keep me busy? Is this just a side effect of having spent the last two years writing a dissertation and feeling constant pressure to be working? And, if so, how long does that last? Am I just that bad at meditation? AM I BROKEN?
At the suggestion of a friend, I tried to spend my five minutes without a guided meditation today. I found a video that was just peaceful music and did breathing exercises instead. It went really well, but since I didn't have the video to time me, it was only about three minutes instead of five. Still, I didn't leave having a panic attack, so I think I'll keep trying that for the next few weeks. Maybe eventually I can ease into listening to other people's directions without having auditory hallucinations of them taunting me with freedom.