I am siting in the middle of my guest room closet, my legs crossed Indian style with my eyes closed. For the next thirty minutes, my house is my own and the closet becomes my cave of choice. After reading and contemplating meditation, I’ve decided that this new way of practicing will be the one that sticks. I want to succeed at being in the present moment, so I do not put too much pressure on myself. Three minutes. That is all. I can meditate for three minutes, right? My mind wanders to the meaningless minutiae that compose my days. Questions, random thoughts, and noise clutter my head and instead of attaining a quiet calm, I feel more restless. I practice this closet cave meditation for five days and give up. This process only fuels more anxiety because I am not able to calm my mind.
Meditation often feels like a maze in which I cannot ever exit. I enter, fumble around, but the restlessness persists. That “Zen” feeling is like a ghost in my life. It appears as an apparition and then disappears before I can really fathom what it means. My attention span is finite. I realize my failure at meditation is not in the practice, but the attention I often direct toward results. Over and over again, the same mantra keeps chanting in surround-sound. “You have to appreciate the process.”
Pondering those words, I decided to alter my approach in cultivating meditation. Part of my need rested on attaining those quiet moments for myself and also an increased tilt toward offering my daughter a way to wrestle with her own worries. This year she turned eight. Her chatter focuses on the happy, like how she had an orange Popsicle for a treat at school or she enjoyed reading a chapter from the latest book she picked up at the library. However, there are flickers of worry that erupt. Presenting a book report or navigating a conflict among her peers, creates these words, “Momma, I am worried.” As much as I try to calm her fears, my hope is to help her cultivate a quiet place where she can retreat despite any real or perceived tumult that she perceives.
Thinking of options, I consider our local place of worship.
We drive to the Hindu temple. In the car, I tell my daughter we are making a date to pray and meditate. I glance at my rearview mirror and notice as she nods her head and says, “Ok, Momma.” Thirty minutes later, we pull up to a white structure that is grand, but comforting. The curves and edges are similar to the temples that I encountered as a kid in India. Grabbing my daughter’s hand, we walk on the grey cement walkway and remove our shoes. It is overcast in the desert so as soon as our soles hit the marble floor of the temple, we both comment on how the cold feels on the bottom of our feet. I instruct my daughter to be very quiet as we move from one deity to the next. We bow our heads, pray and move to the next sacred place. At the end of our prayers, we grab two yoga type mats and place them on the floor in front of Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Hinduism. We are planning to meditate for five minutes in the temple in front of Krishna. Sitting side by side, with our legs crossed, we close our eyes and begin our meditation. For those next few minutes, despite the coming and goings of other worshippers, there is stillness. My daughter, who moves around like there are permanent ants in her pants, does not ask a question or shuffle her position.
I sense a quiet that I could not achieve in my personal cave at home. The meditation feels more natural. As we unfold our legs, my daughter says, “That was peaceful, Momma.” I couldn’t agree with her more. We’ve made it a ritual to visit the temple every week and engage in meditation for five minutes while we are there.
Small steps. But I am appreciating the process.
This post originally appeared on First Day.