The Bipolar Chronicles: Meditation

The Bipolar Chronicles are my series of personal posts about being recently diagnosed as having bipolar disorder (which I thought was a nasty case of post partum depression) and now being on three psychotropic drugs, and figuring out what I need to manage that, and be a mother to the miraculous awesome Hannah Zen, and still try to reach my goals and maintain my life somehow.

In thinking about the things I need to find my breath and chill out while trying to find a routine in the midst of the chaos of work and motherhood, the most obvious first step is meditation.

According to the Depak Chopra center (admittedly not an unbiased source) meditation helps us calm and quiet the constant soundtrack playing in our heads.  If you think you don’t have a running commentary, it’s that voice that just said, “what commentary?  I don’t have a running commentary.”  Yeah, that voice that engages you in lots of unproductive conversation during the day.

Also, this:

Regular meditation dissipates accumulated stress and cultivates a state of restful alertness. There are many compelling studies showing the power of meditation to relieve stress and promote inner calm. For example, a 2011 study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal found that full-time workers who spent a few hours each week practicing mindfulness meditation reported a significant decrease in job stress, anxiety, and depressed mood.

So I need to meditate.  That’s a pretty clear step in finding my breath, especially since much of meditation is all about the breath.

I’ve read a crap load of books on how to meditate (which reminds me of the saying that if you have to ask what Jazz is, you wouldn’t understand it.  If you have to read a book on how to meditate, you don’t get it).

But I was also taught by a wise mother-of-my-best-friend, who started a meditation school in London.

You can read all the mindfulness books you want; nothing wrong with that.  But here’s how Ellen taught me.

– Sit on a chair with your feet on the ground

– Set a timer for 20 minutes

– Sit and be silent.

– Here’s a mantra if you keep losing concentration:  “maranatha” – it’s apparently sanskrit for “Lord Come”, but I don’t know that for sure.

– If the phone rings or anything like that, ignore it.  It’s just another noise.

…and that was it.  Do that twice a day, and you’re on the serious road to mindfulness.

There are lots of variations.  For example, there are tons of guided meditations.  I did some of these when I was pregnant for the second time after my first pregnancy loss.  They seem fine to me, and perhaps I will try some again.

When I was pregnant with Hannah, I liked to imagine both of my angel babies coming in through the top of my head, and wrapping Hannah in healing and protective light, and then floating back out with any negative energy.  I visualized this on each breath.  I did this meditation for 15-20 minutes a day at nighttime.

I also like to use music.  I have a hard time meditating in complete silence.  My ears suddenly turn bionic and I hear everything, and in turn am distracted by everything (though if I were a meditation guru, I wouldn’t be – distracted, that is).  If an ant starts to make a play for a crumb in the kitchen, I can hear it in the bedroom.  I sometimes use alpha brainwave music.

Ok, so this is all great.  I’m hip to meditation.  I was even taught how to do it.  So…why do I not meditate?

Never underestimate how hard it is to sit in silence for 20 minutes.  When there are dishes.  And diapers.  And trash that needs to go out.  And it would be so great if I could pluck my eyebrows.  Just sit.  In silence.  For 20 minutes?

But damn, does it make a difference in my life when I do it.  I think it’s one of those things – like taking a shower.  It’s not necessarily productive time.  But many people say they do their best thinking in the shower.  And I know meditation will help me silence my mind and be still, calm, and mindful.

So the goal for this week is just to meditate daily, even if it’s not for 20 minutes.  Even if it’s only five minutes.  Five is better than zero.  If I can get into the practice of meditating daily I can up the amount later on.  I think I’m going to plan to meditate in the middle of the day, like around 3pm, when things start to drag after lunch and I start to get freaked out at everything that I haven’t accomplished yet.

Eventually I’d like to meditate twice a day, but for now, this is a start.  I’m rewarding starts right now.  Baby steps.