When I was really little, I had crippling insomnia. I stayed awake waiting for vampires and when I finally fell asleep, I dreamt of all the vampires I was likely missing with my eyes closed. One day, my dad brought home what I thought of as a “hypnosis tape” – hilarious to me then and hilarious to me to this day. It was a version of the yoga nidra method of meditation, where you systematically relax your body parts until you are so relaxed, vampires can’t kill you. It’s true, read a book.
Years after my father’s failed attempts at being Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I began to think of meditation as my silver bullet for mental health problems and stress. Before bed, I’d lie down with my body as relaxed as possible and methodically focus on letting the tension out of my feet, my calves, my stomach, and so on. Shades of worries and stress would melt away as I slid into dreams.
Something changed in me over the last five years. As I listened to the soothing tones of my yoga nidra track, my body remained tense. My mind wandered relentlessly, hanging out in pits of anxiety, chilling with bad memories from long days. Maybe this was the difference between the “stresses” of English papers and that of holding down a job. I started taking sleep medication to combat night terrors and insomnia, putting my all-natural silver bullet to sleep in its weapons vault.
Determined to take care of my darn self a little bit better, and to rely less on medication to get me through long nights, I downloaded an app called Buddhify. It has little five-minute meditations for every situation – illness, walks, work breaks, etc.
This has been my re-entry into meditation, mostly when I’m getting ready for bed, but also throughout the day when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’ve done desk meditation, car meditation, and bed meditation, and it has worked about as well as sternly telling my brain to shush, which is sometimes enough but sometimes… very ineffective. One night, while browsing google for new meditation apps with robust brain-quieting abilities, I grew bored and turned on the Great British Bake Off. Watching Mary Berry quietly, politely cluck over puddings, I thought less about work trips and rent checks, more about the sounds of voices and the consistencies of bakes. Slowly but surely, I was letting the show wash in and out of my consciousness, focusing on nothing in particular, as the soft clip of British people being nice to each other put me to sleep.
So, how effective is meditation? I can only say that, in my adult life, the Silver Fox himself, Paul Hollywood, has shown a much stronger ability to ease my restless mind.