I’m a terrible meditator. Though I need it (I guess), I resist it. Whenever I settle down into a routine of meditation, which usually lasts four days, I feel like a phony. Which is why I suspect a couple of friends recommended the book 10% Happier by Dan Harris. He describes feeling phony when he started meditating. While the book wasn’t as helpful as I hoped, it was worth reading for one meditation nugget that very possibly provides the only chance I have of success. He suggested making meditative moments a game. Basically, make meditation self-competition. Sold. Basically, this is the game:

  • Inhale & Exhale
  • Pay attention and notice the sensation somewhere in your body (nose, stomach, chest, etc.)
  • Think the word “in” when you inhale and “out” when you exhale.

Now, here is the real challenge.

  • Keep count. With each breath count, one, two, until you get to ten and then reset.

The first week I tried, I couldn’t complete two breaths without getting distracted. Seriously. I’m apparently that much of a spaz. Thinking of the monotony of meditation like a game really helped me. Because now I could set a goal that wasn’t just to fill a minute. If you’ve ever wanted to stop time try meditating for a minute.   I’ve been trying this tactic inconsistently. But sometimes I get to twenty—the number where I throw in the towel and presume I have complete control over my thoughts. Yet, sometimes I still can’t get passed two. My average is probably six. Not stupendous.

When my mind wanders, I don’t get frustrated, I just laugh at myself, recognizing how unfocussed I am.

But here is why I still can’t commit to it. I expected more.

I don’t see any consistency. I was using this method most often when I woke up at night. I’m not a great sleeper. I’ll usually wake up between 1am and 3am and lie awake for anywhere from five minutes to two hours. I thought if I could keep my mind from wandering then I’d fall right back to sleep. Sometimes it works. Sometimes six breaths in and I’m out cold. In fact the first time I tried it that’s what happened and I thought it was magic. But like anything else, there isn’t a magic pill. Some nights I lie awake counting with good focus because I get to twenty with ease. That’s when I give up. If I can’t sleep it doesn’t matter if my mind is wandering or if I’m counting and breathing. So I let my mind wander.

I’m not discounting it. And I still find the game fun. Yes, I used fun and meditation in the same sentence. I’m still trying when I wake in the night or in almost any scenario that involves waiting. When it seems to work, it does make me feel better, calmer. The game method makes it doable.

I’d love to hear comments or thoughts about why the method only sometimes helps at night. Any tips on mediations that are along this line?