My “formal” mindfulness practice tends to be a tiny part of my day: maybe ten minutes of silent breath-watching, maybe a 35-minute body scan guided meditation. I’m growing more inclined to sit in silence; the speaking of guided meditations has come to feel too intrusive most days.

The trouble with silent meditation, even for just a few minutes, is that there is precious little silence. My mind never shuts up; that is likely impossible until death, so I’m willing to tolerate the noise. Like most people who practice meditation, my time sitting is a matter of having a ton of stuff going through my mind endlessly while my intention is to focus on my breath.

Just this breath in.

Just this breath out.

That’s the intention, and the practice is to acknowledge all the other stuff that keeps jumping up for primary attention and, without any judgment about the thought or the fact that I was not doing what I intended to do, return my attention to my breath.

Just this breath in.

Just this breath out.

I practice meditation and meet weekly with a therapist for one major reason: I feel as if I have wasted my life. I have so many things I want to do, and I accomplish almost none of them. If I had to judge myself with a single word – and judging myself is exactly what I am attempting to stop doing – it would be failure.

I want to do, and yet I never do. (Note the judgmental language. That’s my brain most of the time I’m awake.)

I just finished a ten-minute silent meditation (and oh my gosh, talk about judgmental: I almost wrote “short ten-minute” in order to smack myself for doing only ten minutes, as if that were a critical moral failure). As usual, all kinds of stuff was jumping through my head about things I wanted to do today. And then it suddenly dawned on me, and I realized, with a big grin:

All these things I think about doing, and I am doing none of them right now.

So that is likely to make no sense, but the point of the ten minutes of silence was to do one thing: sit and let my attention rest on my breathing.

Just this breath in.

Just this breath out.

And that’s what I was doing. My intention was to do a ten-minute silent meditation, and that’s exactly what I was doing. I was following through on my intention, and all that stuff in my head wasn’t swaying me from it in the least. I have been taught from the beginning that no matter how hard I try to focus on just the breath, it ain’t going to happen. The brain will not be tamed in that way. The thing I am doing isn’t watching the breath; it’s observing everything going through my head and, whatever that stuff is, returning my attention to my breath.

In other words, I was doing this perfectly. I was the complete opposite of a failure. Of course I was grinning.

At no point did the hubbub in my head subside. I spent a good minute or so trying to turn away from the thought of writing about this moment, including another epic bout of meta-thought (thinking about thinking about thinking about writing this piece…) but I never lost track of the fact that whatever my brain did, it wasn’t doing anything wrong.

I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

I didn’t fight the thoughts or try to quell them. I turned my focus to my body instead. I chose to observe my body: my posture, various sensations, the rumbling of my stomach, an itch on my cheek. I wasn’t trying to fight my brain, and I wasn’t having to fight my inherent urge to judge myself.

It felt nice. It felt relaxing.

Then my phone’s timer went off, I jumped in startle, and my brain then thought: “Goodie, I can start writing.” Because, yes: My intention now is to write. Of all the things I “fail” to do, writing is foremost among them. But writing this piece is not a matter of not failing; that’s one of the most effective ways I have to write absolutely nothing. Writing this piece is about living my life perfectly.

I intend to write.

I write.

Just this breath in.

Just this breath out.

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