I keep hearing that I need to meditate, that it would be incredibly beneficial for me. Yoga has been suggested, too. There’s this whole “mindfulness” thing. Everyone’s into it. It’s supposed to be awesome. It’s supposed to be great for people like me.
I have had my partner, two different therapists, and a psychiatrist tell me unequivocally that I would benefit from things like meditation. My current therapist often uses a phrase that amuses me, said in a very California cool kind of way: “Mindfulness, dude.”
Looking at it meditation seems like it would a be perfect way to help me manage symptoms. Meditation lowers stress, increases attention span (racing thoughts… squirrel!), has a positive impact on mood, and improves overall health and fitness, which is important given the euphemistically labelled “non-weight-neutral” side affects of my meds.
There’s just this tiny little hangup.
I can’t meditate.
I want to say that I have tried meditation. In truth it’s more accurate to say that I have tried to try. Or maybe I have just intended to try. Or maybe I tried to intend to try. I wanted to want to try, at the very least.
But I can’t meditate.
My natural disposition is that of a stoic skeptic. I’m usually somewhere between agnostic and antagonistic when it comes to most “spiritual” matters. It’s not that I am not religious. I am a devout Christian who spent a decade and a half in ministry. It’s just that I caught the toxic masculinity bug pretty bad when I was growing up and I don’t do all of this touchy-feely-connected-to-your-inner-self crap. You might think that I think myself above it, but the truth is that I am secretly jealous of people who aren’t closed off like I am. Sure, I think they’re weird. But the best people I know are weird. Someday I hope to be a little weird, myself.
I’m not always closed off like that. When I am hypomanic/manic I can feel a Dirk Gently-esque interconnectedness of all things. I feel for every living thing. I breathe with every living thing. We are all one and all that jazz. If you spend enough time with me while I’m hypomanic/manic you may discover that I am a prophet. I try to keep that under wraps but it always comes out eventually. The point is, uber-religiosity and uber-spirituality are a big part of my experience with hypomania/mania. That may explain more why my baseline disposition is a lot more skeptical.
Right now I am relatively stable. I accept that meditation (and maybe yoga and some other stuff) would be very beneficial for me. But in my stability I am also an unrelentingly skeptical person. It is habit by now. So that puts up a big block between me and meditation.
I have another issue with meditation. Even when I am stable I experience constant racing thoughts. I experience racing thoughts in hypomania/mania, depression, and even when I am stable, or reasonably so. Racing thoughts are a fact of life. My mind will not be quieted. I have tried. Nothing doing. It has been this way for as long as I can remember and it will be, I am sure, for as long as I exist. That’s how my brain works. I have given up trying to judge it. It is what it is.
So what do I do? I know that I would benefit from meditation, but I am, for the reasons I have laid out, both unwilling and unable to meditate. How do I resolve this issue?
Music. That’s how.
If I can’t sit still and I can’t slow my mind down by trying to, I need to find a way to trick my mind into doing it without realizing that is what is going on. Music has been perfect for that. I can’t just sit down and focus on my breathing. I can’t do that mindfulness thing where I can feel every breath in and out and how it affects my nose hair or something. But I can listen to music and immerse myself in it.
I can sit down and feel every thump of the kick drum. I can time my breathing to it. I can listen to the bass line and have that occupy my mind rather than conscious thought. I can use the melody to distract myself from the voices in my head that tell me how worthless I am. I can listen to each part individually, or all parts collectively, and have them whisk me away from the stressors of the day and envelope me in a comfortable sonic cocoon.
I can do all of these things without feeling the least bit self-conscious. Even in my emotionally crippled, toxic masculinity stunted, skeptically stoic mind, getting lost in music is a perfectly “normal” thing to do. I grew up with music. I live with music. I have played music my whole life. Music has held my world together for as long as I have had a world to be held together.
There’s no “touchy-feely” hang up with music. It’s just music. And music is fine. Better than fine, actually. Music is perfect. It calms me down. It comforts me. It whisks me away from my troubles and it reduces my stress. It quiets my mind. It allows me to escape all of my insecurities, self-doubt, self-loathing, and suicidal ideation. Music allows me to escape “me” and then to re-emerge as a better me.
So what if I can’t meditate? Big deal. I can lay down, listen to music, and completely lose myself for awhile.
And if that’s not meditation… well… it is close enough for me.