I was just trying to meditate... extreme emphasis on the word trying. As usual, I struggled to turn off all the chatter in my mind.
My goal in meditation is to make myself calmer and more open to my children; to clear my emotions and access a bit of Divine wisdom.
I started meditating regularly just over a year ago, as a means to reduce my stored stress. As I tried to explain to my family at the time, my “stress bucket” was full.
After years of fighting corporate politics while juggling the responsibilities of a single parent and still trying to figure out my purpose in life, I was overflowing with the stuff.
Peri-menopause wasn’t exactly helping, either, but it was my digestive system that finally shouted “help” loud enough to get my attention. I had reached the point where I couldn’t eat anything comfortably, and my entire body was clenched up in knots.
While eliminating a series of potential issues with my doctor, I simultaneously started searching for help on the Internet.
I found a book, Recapture Your Health, by Walt Stoll and Jan DeCourtney. It describes a deceptively simple approach to creating a foundation for wellness, with just enough detail to actually implement it in your life:
1. Eat a whole foods diet
2. Exercise regularly
3. Meditate daily.
To be more precise, they recommend meditating (or employing some other version of “skilled relaxation”) twice a day. The goal is to gradually release the stress that we store in our bodies over the span of a lifetime.
Anyhoo, in my particular case, I am trying to release forty-seven or so years of stored stress and not accumulate too much more as I go. Sounds easy, right?
Guided meditations work well for me (and presumably others,) because they replace all my mindless chatter with someone else’s soothing voice and purposeful words.
Still, some days I want to fully empty my mind, and find real silence.
Oops, there I go, thinking again.
Not surprisingly (for me, at least), I recently learned something valuable from my children: The soothing, dare I say mind-numbing benefits of “Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”
We were about half-way through a four-hour drive to my parents’ house in Upstate New York. The boys had just finished watching a video in the back seat while I was beginning to feel a little bit weary up front.
Just as I was thinking that I needed to pull over for an unscheduled potty break, my eldest belted out, “Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer, you take one down and pass it around, ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall.”
Score one point for the annoying eleven-year-old.
This was just what I needed: A dose of silly, repetitive, off-tune inanity that required concentration.
I was suddenly alert again. (When you are forty-seven and female, counting backwards is all it really takes to get the mental juices flowing.)
As we sang along, I marveled at the sheer genius of the song. You couldn’t let your attention wander, or you lost count. You didn’t zone out (I was driving, after all), so much as hone your concentration to a razor sharp focus.
By the time we reached “Sixty-five bottles of beer on the wall, sixty-five bottles of beer,” my younger son was begging us to be done.
He had already pulled a blanket over his head, so his words were a bit muffled, but I’m pretty sure he said, “Please God, make them stop.”
Okay, fine, but the damage had been done: I’d discovered a new (and fun... sort of) way to empty my mind of all conscious thought.
Surely there were more applications for this wonderful new knowledge?? Such as:
When unable to meditate due to an excess of mind chatter, chant “Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer, you take one down and pass it around, ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall.”
Continue repeating said verse, reducing number of beers by one, until you reach zero.
If your attention wanders, simply return to ninety-nine and start the song over. By the time you get to zero – or maybe a lot sooner – you will be ready for meditation, guaranteed.
When unable to fall asleep at night due to an excess of mind chatter, see instructions above. This time, when your attention wanders, just let it go... Sweet dreams.