the apps want me prone and vulnerable

I don’t remember who first suggested I try mindfulness, or guided meditation, but I knew I needed to try something to relax. I found a guided yoga nidra track to listen to and found a quiet time to lay down and try it. As I lay there trying to follow the directions of the not-quite-soothing voice, noticing the sensations in my body, the voice suggested I leave my body and walk outside, and began to ask what I saw there.

My chest tightened, my stomach dropped, I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. My mind rebelled. I sat up, shaking, gasping for air, with tears streaming down my face. I haven’t tried yoga nidra since.

I have tried “mindfulness exercises,” and “relaxation techniques,” I have tried to sit and breathe for thirty seconds. I have tried to clear my mind and pay attention to my body starting at my toes and working my way up. I have tried to lay and relax. I have tried to bring my thoughts to “stillness.”

Over the years I have deleted mediation apps, turned off “breathe” notifications, and turned to methods that might be called “non-traditional mindfulness” — where the point is more to be present, and less about sitting still and breathing. I’ve found things like jigsaw puzzles, long walks, and good books quiet my mind more than sitting and trying to focus on my breathing.

I do circle back and try mindfulness apps from time to time, they’re supposed to be helpful says the little voice, taunting me. So from time to time, I try one.

Lay down, close your eyes, relax, breathe, say the apps.

The apps want me prone and vulnerable. I will sit comfortably on the couch, or my bed, or a pouf on the floor. I will keep my eyes open. I will not relax. I might breathe, but only because I have to.

Up until recently, I had never successfully managed any sort of guided mindfulness exercise without it ending with more anxiety, not always a panic attack, but more often than not, a noticeable physical reaction.

I did manage a mindfulness meditation recently, it was three minutes of “noting.” I sat for three minutes and tried to focus on my breathing while little thoughts popped up, and I acknowledged them, labeled them, dismissed them, and returned to focusing on breathing. I don’t know if I did it “right” but I didn’t have a panic attack and I didn’t feel worse for having tried it.

Focus on your breathing says the voice on the app.
This is stupid says the little voice in my head.
Noted. Refocusing on breathing, in and out.
Focus on your breathing the voice on the app continues.
Yes, you’re breathing says the little voice in my head.
Noted. Refocusing on breathing, in and out.
If any thoughts come to you, acknowledge them, label them, and focus back on your breathing continues the app.
This is a waste of time says the little voice in my head.

It isn’t like silent prayer in Church, I have my breathing to circle back to, it is different. There are no ceiling panels to count, no light fixtures to check for cobwebs, no bored husbands to share a conspiratorial glance with, no fellow Sunday School Students to rat out for not keeping their eyes closed during silent prayer. This isn’t like being sent to my room to correct my thought, or pray about a problem either. I’m not trying to align my thoughts with some higher power, I’m just trying to focus on breathing and quieting my thoughts.

The voice on the app suggests I close my eyes while I do this. I refuse. I manage three minutes of breathing, noting the intrusive little thoughts, refocusing my attention. Breathing.

I don’t have a panic attack. Maybe I can do this.

6 thoughts on “the apps want me prone and vulnerable

  1. Ashley P says:

    I doubt that anyone raised in a “Christian Science” mindset could ever truly meditate. I know I can’t and have given up trying. Reminder, everyone — we were raised to believe, that how you talk to yourself in your head LITERALLY has life or death consequences. No wonder I can’t just peacefully sit to experience long periods of “mindfulness”. I’m still scared of my own thoughts — they must be kept busy, with any trifling thing. Anything to avoid being alone with my own thoughts, which are certainly full of “error”. Thanks a lot for that, Mary Baker Eddy.

    • k says:

      I was raised CS and I am Buddhist now, after being agnostic for a long time. I mostly chant rather than doing any kind of “mindful” meditation for this reason.

  2. spindrifterr says:

    Music, silence, and writing one’s thoughts down contribute to countering the boring isolation from the coronavirus mess. It’s so soothing to listen to my audiophile stereo system. I wish more people could have one to listen to and cool down.
    On a Christian Science note: I would think reading the Daily Lesson Sermons at this time in history would be beneficial to the human psyche. A good fit for the Bible Lesson Sermons has missed its chance as people don’t read them anymore. Too many distractions within one day’s time.

  3. k says:

    sounds like that app was trying to get you to disassociate with “walking out of your body” thing. It doesn’t sound helpful from a therapeutic standpoint.

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