Confused About Mindfulness? Start Here.

Carley Centen
10 min readAug 21, 2019

My left foot is asleep. I felt it go dead with a vague numbness punctuated by pricking pain. Not quite the pins and needles of a sleeping limb — that will come when I try to move.

I’ve learned what to expect over the past couple of weeks of 6.30AM meditation classes. For now, I stay as still as I can. I try not to think about it. Naturally, it’s all I can think about.

I don’t always meditate on the beach, but when I do, I get sandy. #picsoritdidnthappen Photo: Carley Centen

I shift an imperceptible amount in my cross-legged position to see if I can release any pressure on my ankle. I realise I am thinking about my foot and try to stop thinking about my foot. A clock ticks faintly. I focus on every ‘thock, thock, thock,’ counting the seconds to a minute. Another minute closer to the full half-hour.

My foot is going to hurt when I can move again. I start to panic in anticipation of the coming discomfort. The longer my foot is asleep, the more it is going to hurt. I focus on the feel of the breeze on my face. I find myself clenching my jaw with every exhale as I breathe through the ache. I try to relax.

The instructor’s voice interrupts my inner battle, calling us back from wherever we’d gone. I’m already here. I don’t think I ever left. I open my eyes, stretch out my legs and wince at the spray of sparks in my foot as my circulation returns to its normal freedom.

I feel like a fraud and like I’m doing this all wrong. My brain isn’t the kind of brain that goes quiet. Maybe this meditation thing isn’t for me.

Mindfulness in one form or another is a practice going back through the ages, crossing many cultures and religious traditions, but it’s fair to say it’s having a modern moment. Apps abound and there’s no shortage of dubious marketing claims that it’s the cure for whatever ails you. High profile celebrities, entrepreneurs, and politicians talk about meditating in a way that makes it seem like part of the secret sauce that keeps them performing at the level they do. (UK peeps… Nigel Farage does yoga. Which tells us… Well, it tells us you can do a mindful practice and still be a horrible human being. But probably a less stressed, more focused one.)

I struggled with meditation for a long time. I still do, after several years practicing. I imagine I always will. But over the years as I stopped and started and…

Carley Centen

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