30-Day Brain Cleanse: Updates and Insights

Thanks to a deadline at work last week I’ve gotten way behind on my posts.  The good news, I suppose, is that I’ve accumulated a few weeks’ worth of  recipe ideas that I’m planning to work on, and hopefully post this weekend.  On the meditation front, I’ve lost track of what week of the cleanse, but that’s actually a positive development.  The reason I stopped paying attention was that I found I was actually craving longer sessions, and as a result I’ve been doing 15 or 20ish minutes for the last several weeks, mostly as dictated by my mood.  Don’t get me wrong—I’m still quite bad at it, at least by the standards of “good” meditation that I envisioned.  (Honestly, I think my version of a successful meditation session involve a trance-like state in which I am not aware of time passing.  I’m not even sure if that’s what’s supposed to happen, insofar as anything is supposed to happen, but there you go.)  I do think I’ve achieved some insight into how my brain works, however, and that’s definitely worth something. 

 Last week I was lying there, waiting for the enlightment to descend and becoming increasingly frustrated with my body for not being able to calm down sufficiently.  As one might imagine, frustration does not help that process, and so I was by that point engaged in a vicious cycle of increasing annoyance and arousal.  In the midst of this frustration I suddenly had a picture in my mind of a scared rabbit hiding under a bush, and me with my hand extended, trying to coax it out.  I realized that the relaxation I’m seeking is, both metaphorically and physically, like a scared rabbit that needs to learn to trust me.  As I wrote last week, after a few minutes of starting to relax my brain usually starts producing a barrage of worries.  It seems that my reptile brain (or scared mammal brain, in this case) can only tolerate so much relaxation before it starts to freak out that no one’s on guard duty.  That would be useful if there really were tigers prowling around outside the Modernist Cave, but as it’s usually only car alarms that wake me during the night, the hyper-arousal is rather a detriment.  Like the rabbit, I need to trust that I am in a safe place where it’s okay to relax.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to treat that part of my brain like an animal, and to accept that it will probably take a while to develop that trust.  Once that happens, the physical response should follow more easily.  In the meantime, I just have to sit still and try not to scare it off.      



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