What does it take to get me to really sit still and shut up? Being immobilized by needles and electrodes in a dark room, apparently. No, this was not some wild and wretched sounding 50 Shades of Grey moment, just an attempt to alleviate a very un-sexy inflamed tendon in my hand with a 30-minute acupuncture session.
Being rendered basically useless and left alone with my thoughts made me realize that apart from going to sleep at night, it’s rare that I take time to really simmer down. I think that almost everyone has this problem, but perhaps mothers are most guilty of not taking proper quiet time.
We tell children to do it all the time, but most of us can’t get the hang of it. We often read to relax, or watch television to try and zone out, but we are actually filling our heads with more information; and exercise or yoga, as wonderful as they are, are all about bodies in motion. I am talking about the full-on Zen of total stillness and silence.
On my first appointment, the doctor set me up, turned on the timer, and turned off the lights. What would my crazy mind do for a half an hour? I have often tried to meditate, but never felt as though I’d been very successful at it. But there, trapped in the darkness, I figured this was a good time to give it another shot. I listened to my breathing and tried to picture my most peaceful places. Then an assignment I had to write popped into my mind and I got distracted. I tried again. When my mind started to wander, I took some time for gratitude and some prayers, for good measure. When I was done being thankful, I remembered an appointment that I had to make for my daughter and a bill I had forgotten to pay. Eventually, I went back to concentrating on my breathing, and I think I might have even drifted off for a few minutes, which is a lot for someone who hates naps. But still, pathetically, I was organizing my quite time, like a to-do list! Despite it all, I was totally relaxed when I walked out.
Then slowly, ever so slowly, it happened. After a few more sessions, I felt less and less like I had to guide my mind through those 30 minutes; I realized that I did not have to “make use” of that time, just unplug. I’m getting better at it and actually look forward to my appointments — they are like a mini-vacation. Maybe one day I will be able to pull off the whole zone-out trick without the needles and in the privacy of my own home. Maybe.
This piece originally appeared on LivingWithRust.com.