Opinion: Worrying about meditation stress


My sister’s lovely condominium in New York has a tiny-windowed room off her kitchen where she meditates every day, and she claims she has achieved some degree of calmness and peace. I’m jealous of Linda — I want what she has. No, not serenity and peace, but a little room like hers where I can down a few beers, vent my anger and frustration with the world and kick over a bookcase. Very relaxing!

My sister thinks I should meditate. This point of view has been echoed by my physician, my wife and several people at church. Linda sent me to a website with detailed instructions for achieving “one with everything,” which, by the way, is exactly how I order a hot dog at a nearby deli. I’m going to try some of these methods, but I’m a skeptic.

They begin the lesson by asking the reader to assume a comfortable position (I decided I wanted to be a restaurant critic for the New York Times). We are also told to “learn” these exercises. Why is that word in quotes? I won’t eat “crab” salad or chopped “meat,” so I’m a little wary of digesting what this program is feeding me.

One section of the directions is labeled “Thinking About Body Parts.” When I hit 75, I tried to stop obsessing about my aging back, limbs and butt. Several of my parts are just not working the way they used to and the last thing I want to do is think about that. The list includes: “Think About Your Throat.” Really, my throat? I’ve never thought much about my throat, but thanks for giving me something else to worry about.

Later in the guidelines, they assign the number 3, which is to be the personal symbol for complete body relaxation, a mantra I will need to repeat continually until I achieve serenity. I think I should be able to pick my own number. First, 3 is way too easy to guess. I don’t want strangers hacking into my meditation session. My mantra should have capital and lowercase letters and at least one symbol. I want my relaxation code to be F3&b@. Yeah, try to guess that! Of course, I’ll never remember it, which will also stress me out.

Finally, there is a section titled “Scheduled Worry.” Here the authors advise you to think about a problem at bedtime that needs to be resolved and then ponder possible solutions. If you can’t come up with an answer, they direct you to not think about it until tomorrow. Well, that worked for Scarlett O’Hara.

My wife, Mary Ellen, asked me to assure her I would give meditation a try. I told her I would, and to consider that a “promise.”