Sunday, March 21, 2021

Mlog 3/21 @ 7:45-8:20am (estimated): first meditation in a year or more

This is the first post in what I hope will be a regular and major part of this blog: a log of reflections and thoughts I have in response to the regular meditations I practice.

This morning was the first time I tried to meditate in a long time. I don't know if it's been a year or two years? But it's been a while. I decided to try and get back into it because these past few weeks have been challenging in a specific way that I recognize is one of my dysfunctional ADHD patterns: I will go through periods where I neglect the "work" of managing my brain and doing my regular brain-maintenance practices. I've stopped using my bullet journal, stopped being intentional with my time (read: I've been binge-playing videogames), I've stopped being mindful and "honest" with myself, and as a result noticed that on my days off from work, I am just too tired to do any of the important adulting activities. It's a set of symptoms and experiences that I know really well. And the answer to this pattern is always the same: get quiet with myself, get honest, notice and acknowledge what my brain is doing and try to reconnect with what I really want (whether that's what I want in my life, or who I really want to be, or whatever).

Sometimes that has meant journaling and reflecting in words. Sometimes it has meant going for a walk. Sometimes it has meant listening to music. Sometimes it's meant talking about it with my therapist (who then reminds me that my best tools are usually writing, journaling, and mindful physical movement.)

This time it's led me back to meditation. And, also, this blog. 

And this morning's meditation was hard. Because I'm out of practice and oh, right, I have ADHD. But I did it anyway, and feel good about how it went. 

So here's how my ADHD meditation went this morning:

The first thing I did was I took my medication. My brain was very noisy this morning and I knew today was not a good day to "accidentally" skip my meds. Besides, I thought, hopefully it would help me focus and be present as I sat down to meditate.

I sat down and I tried to get comfortable. I experience chronic pain due to an old back injury that affects the nerves in my legs and hips, so this was a little difficult. I was distracted by the physical sensations, the discomfort, and also my cat coming into the room to poke and nudge at me, confused about what the heck I was doing sitting on the floor...

I started to get irritated. I started to get discouraged. This wasn't going to work. This was a dumb idea. There were too many distractions. I started to get mad at my cat, mad at my ankles, mad at the sound of a truck outside, mad at the sense that I was running out of time before my partner woke up and came downstairs.  There was no way I would be able to find the quiet and centered place where my brain is all moving in one direction.

The thing I was trying to focus on was the sensation of my breathing. Physical feeling of breath going in and out of my body, through my nose, or my mouth, into my lungs, the feeling of my chest expanding and contracting. I wanted to use that to give me a way into finding the quiet place in my brain... but... the distractions kept coming. 

So... then I decided to try and stop fighting the distractions and see if I could use them all, simultaneously, as the focus of my meditation. Instead of trying to push all that stuff aside, I started to take note of each one I was experiencing and I started counting them. I didn't dwell on them. It was more like I noted them, acknowledged that they were happening, and then set them on a shelf in front of me. I didn't dismiss them or try to make them go away. I let them stay as long as they wanted. I just tried to tally them up and quietly just let them each exist.

So in addition to still noticing my breath and the physical sensations there, I counted and acknowledged six distractions:

  1. The physical discomfort in my hips and ankles. Okay. I noticed the sensation, categorized what it felt like (kind of burning, and a kind of pulling sensation today)
  2. The song stuck in my head ("Here comes a thought" from Steven Universe. One hundred percent relevant to what I was doing.)
  3. The presence of my cat, nudging my hand and rubbing himself on the floor. (Hi buddy, thanks for joining me.)
  4. The sounds from inside the apartment... the heater turning on, the fridge's hum, the creak from... somewhere. This is the environment I'm in. It's okay for it to make sounds.
  5. The sounds from outside, the cars, the opening and closing of a neighbor's door, footsteps, a chirp/squawk that might have been a bird. It's okay for that to exist too.
  6.  Thoughts about what kind of meditation I wanted to do once I "succeeded", and thoughts about telling other people about the kinds of meditations I liked to do and that helped my ADHD (these were the seeds that led to this blog).
These seemed to be the full set of distractions I was experiencing in that moment. Sure I was having other experiences, but none of them were "grabbing" me or making me pull away from what I wanted to be doing. This was the set. And I kind of marveled at how few there were. There were only six. I wondered how many I might have tomorrow. More? Fewer? How many might other ADHDers find if they tallied them up?

And then I noticed that my brain was quieter. I wasn't fully centered or fully meditating... but my brain was calmer, quieter, much more content and happy to sit with the distractions sitting on the shelf in front of me.

I spent some time focusing on the sensation of my breathing. And every time a thought or a distraction happened, I noticed it, acknowledged it, and figured out which of the six categories on the shelf it belonged with and gently nudged it to join its friends.

Then I started to experiment with some of my favorite visualizations that I like to use when I meditate. None of them stuck with me for very long. My brain stayed with one for maybe the first minute or so, and then drifted into trying the next one. But that was okay. I was content with the fact that I felt "settled". It was okay if my meditation today was haphazard.

Here's a summary of some of the visualizations I played with as I settled my brain further:

Little people with clean, soft cloths, wiping down the inner surface of my body starting from the top and working their way down. 

This is one of my favorites. Something about the idea that I am made out of some kind of hard, shiny material that gets dingy and dusty, along with a visualization of that dust and dirt getting cleanly wiped away by tiny, thorough workers.... it appeals to me. It feels satisfying. In the past, I would continue this visualization all the way until the little workers had cleaned all surfaces from the top of my head to the tips of my toes and then I'd imagine something like a flushing rinse to flush away all the dust that had collected at the bottom. But today I only got to about the top of my chin before my brain got distracted by a different one.

An egg cracking on the top of my head, gently coating my body from the top down with warmth.

This one is weird. I don't like raw eggs. I don't like the idea of egg-guts running down my body. But I can borrow the metaphor to visualize something that does feel good and that works for my brain (at least for a little while). Something like syrup, or just "warm goo" like those slime toys we'd have as kids. Anyway, I felt the "egg" on the top of my skull, and I straightened my posture so that it would run evenly down me. I felt it crack, and the warmth slowly made its way through my hair, and down.  But this one didn't last long either. I noticed that the idea of the egg on my skull had made me straighten up, so I started to wonder about altering the metaphor to something like balancing a bean-bag or a water balloon on my head, and feeling sand (gross) or water (too fast) flowing down.  It was interesting and didn't take away from my meditation, but it meant the egg-visualization didn't go far.

Detangling hair, starting with the tips.

This is one of the rare ones that go from the bottom up instead of the top down. I usually prefer ones that start at my skull and work down. focusing on my brain first seems to work the best for me. However this is one that's in my toolbox and sometimes it's the right visualization to work with. I imagined long, wavy hair, tangled, and ratty, and mentally held a handful of it in my left hand, and gently, carefully, combed through it starting at the very bottom, working slowly to detangle it until it was smooth and flowing. Again, I didn't get very far before I drifted to another meditation, but also again, that's okay for today.

Water flowing down my head, filling up a reservoir of water, my thoughts become bubbles floating:

This is one that combines top-down and bottom-up and also includes a tool I have used in the past to acknowledge thoughts and distractions. I felt the warm water flow down my head, like a gentle, steady, warm waterfall. The water collected on the floor and the level of the water rose around me, slowly, gently. When it reaches above my head, I settle into the sensation of being safe and warm, and every time I have a thought or a distraction, I notice them, and visualize them as large, iridescent bubbles. I watch each bubble slowly make its way from the floor and float up to the surface, breaking and releasing the thought into the air above.  

And then, distractions that led to this blog:

And then I became distracted by thoughts of how other people might experience these visualizations and began contemplating ways to explain or teach these practices to others.... again these were some of the seeds of this blog. Someone who was afraid of drowning would not get much out of the water/bubble visualization. In fact that might be awful. Someone who hated eggs, and couldn't reframe the metaphor wouldn't get anything from the egg one... and the "little people with cloths wiping down the inner surface of me" just sounds weird and difficult to explain.

I realized that all of these things are visualizations I invented for myself. And I'd invented a ton of them because over time, I'd get bored or distracted by them. I actually can't remember if I ever did one of these meditations multiple times in a row, or if I kept rotating through different ones, inventing new ones, each time.

I started to wonder if that's an important component of successfully meditating with ADHD.... at least for me. Each time it can be new. Novel. Fresh. As soon as it becomes a routine or feels familiar/repetitive, my brain just can't do it. Not until a bunch of time has passed and it decides it wants to return to it. 

Is that a key to meditating with ADHD? Always do something new?

Then I started to imagine recording a podcast... creating guided meditations out of each of the different ones I've invented over the years... and then I started contemplating starting a blog... "ADHD Meditations" came to me as the name right away.... 

And then, I noticed that I'd become distracted away from my body. And that was okay. I took a moment and thanked my brain for getting excited about this topic, and promised myself that I would see if "" was available as a domain when I was done meditating (spoiler: it was!). 

My medication kicks in and the slow rise back to the surface.

After that, I just let myself drift. I tried to just be with the experience of having thoughts, gently following their shapes, and putting them on the shelf in those six categories.  

I noticed my breathing had changed. My brain was feeling light, calm, present. Focused. I wondered if my medication had kicked in, and I welcomed the sensation of calm and quiet. I sat with it. I didn't "try" for anything. Just felt my body and tried to notice when my brain and body decided I wanted to be done.

I don't know how much time passed. And that's perfect. When I get to that experience, where it feels like twenty minutes or twenty seconds are the same thing, it's great. It feels fuzzy in my body and my brain, and my breathing feels more "open" somehow.

Eventually though, like a gentle light-switch, my brain decided it wanted to be done. It felt "satisfied" by the meditation. So I opened my eyes. I gently moved my hands. I stretched my arms, moving them in small circles. I extended my legs, rotated my ankles, and brought feeling and awareness back into my body. 

The last thing I did was a session of physical therapy for my back. I was already on the floor, and after the meditation, I felt motivated to do other things that I know are good for my body.  So that felt good. Body and brain, both centered and more solid. 

Even if I didn't get into anything like a "deep" state of meditation, I felt really good about this first session. I felt optimistic that I could do this more often, especially if I started a blog and started journaling online about my experiences. 

So that's what I did next: I followed through on my promise to my brain... I checked if this domain name was available, bought it, and set up the blog. Nice to follow through on a promise to myself, and I hope that this is the beginning of more blogging about ADHD and meditation and the way I practice it.

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