January, Day 10

Something wonderful happened today. Maybe it happened because I’ve quit watching TV. Maybe it was the product of the very slight amount of exercise I’ve been getting by taking up dancing. Maybe it was just a whimsical change in my mood. But today, I was present. I’d forgotten what it felt like.

I used to meditate. A couple of years ago I took up the habit after coming back from a trip to Malaysia and Thailand. The dominant religion in that part of the world focuses on a kind of self awareness called enlightenment. The temples are a place for meditation instead of prayer. I liked the idea of a religion that focused on the self instead of a god, so when I came back to the states, I decided to learn how to become enlightened.

Armed with just a little bit of knowledge about meditation, I learned that that’s really all you need. The path to enlightenment is one that requires a consistent commitment to a simple concept. Meditate daily, and you may reach Nirvana. Okay, I thought, I can do this. I’d just moved into my first post-college apartment. I was alone in a new town and hadn’t made any friends yet. Meditating daily wasn’t too hard. I settled into a routine where I’d do it after work. It would relax me, take away any stress I’d accumulated during the day. It was my fifteen minute sanctuary from the world. And after meditating for a week straight, I started to notice something strange.

I noticed that I was present.

When a coworker would tell their story about their weekend, I would listen and care. It would be the only thing on my mind. I would ask questions and care about the answers. My memory improved — I could recall conversations I’d had and ask people how things they’d mentioned previously had gone days or weeks later. For some people, that comes naturally. But for me, an introvert with a load of social self-doubt, this was uncharted territory. I used to focus so intently on not making a fool of myself that everything else would be forgotten. Don’t even mention trying to remember new names. But now… now I actually brought something to the table when speaking with others. I could offer insights, comfort, comraderie. I found I enjoyed it.

But like all good habits, I fell out of practice. We all know we should exercise, that it makes us feel good, but most of us don’t. So it was with meditation. I found friends, got busy, and left it behind. I hadn’t given it serious consideration again until now.

Today was such a winner of a day that I want to meditate again. Never mind that today’s present-mindedness had nothing to do with meditation (clearly, since I wasn’t meditating). If I had to guess, being away from the TV and so forcing myself to really direct the use of my time has made me more aware, and that may have triggered my awesome day. That and exercise.

I know that meditation can only improve the mix.

This post belongs to a series of posts about quitting television and movies for the month of January. Read about the challenge here.