Adventures in Hyperactive Meditation
|"Focused awareness is both calm
and clear. Just as calmness is prevented by restlessness and distraction, so
clarity is undermined by boredom and lethargy. Drifting between these two poles, we
spend much of our time either slightly hyper or slightly depressed" - Stephen
Batchelor, "Buddhism Without Beliefs."
Many of the ADD books talk
about how great meditation is for ADD. Oh sure, just sit there and think of ....
nothing? For someone with ADHD, this sounds vaguely like some sort of sinister
torture. A plot by those normal people to try and get us all to sit still for a
while. Well I'm not going to fall for it!
Well, actually I did. Perhaps it was the way the it
was put to me by an expert on ADD over at Yale. "Meditation is extremely
difficult for people with ADHD," I was told. "But for those who stick it
out, it can be very helpful." It sounded like a challenge and my interest grew.
Meditation is well know for decreasing stress and strengthing the ability to
|Meditation "may not be as
straightforward as it seems. No matter how strong your resolve to be present and
concentrated, it is difficult to keep the mind from wandering off into memories, plans, or
fantasies. Several minutes may pass before you even notice that you have
we are unaware of the extent to which we are distracted, for the simple reason that
distraction is a state of unawareness. This kind of exercise can force us to
recognize that for much of the time we fail to register what is happening here and
now. We are reliving an edited version of the past, planning an uncertain future, or
indulging in being elsewhere. Or running on automatic pilot, without being
conscious at all" - Stephen Batchelor, from "Buddhism Without Beliefs."
By chance, I happened to run across a story
on meditation and the roots of Buddhism that I found interesting. Einstein said that
Buddhism was the most scientifically compatible "religion" on the planet,
although Buddhism in it's purest form is not a religion at all. It's actually a
spiritual/life philosophy or "tool" compatible with most religions, and ideal
for many agnostics and aetheists. I found that using basic Buddhist philosophy as part of
meditation made the whole ordeal more interesting and meaningful for me. So I'll
include information on a form of Buddhism here, but I am definitely not pushing
Buddhism. Meditation can only work if you find a way to do it that works for you.
There is no one "correct" way to do it. Some meditation is spiritual and
some is not. It can be Christian, Buddhist, and Atheist; serious or fanciful.
I've been told that beginners usually do better with
meditation tapes, but they're not required. Nor do you need to join a class.
It is important, however, to find someplace where you won't be disturbed.
One common way to start is by focusing on your breathing
and driving out all those thoughts racing through your mind. You can also start by
closing your eyes and listening to the sounds around you, or by staring at a candle.
It's very hard to keep thoughts out. I tend to use all of these methods in one
sitting to keep from getting bored. If you're successful, your racing mind and
breathing will slow down and you'll feel very relaxed. At that point you then get to
think about something (whew!) or "comtemplate." Under Buddhism, for
example, you might contemplate how everything is temporary:
Imagine your life will end tomorrow (everything is
temporary). How have you lived your life? Are you the person you want to
be? Are things in order? If not (and here's the important part) what should
From an ADD standpoint, this exercise has a couple of
advantages. First, you've slowed down your thoughts and learned to focus on the here
and now. This brings about a sense of peace. Second, we ADDers have a hard
time with planning. Meditation of this type forces us to spend time thinking about
the future and what it is we are going to do to improve what kind of person we are.
I find myself contemplating that "I need to spend more time with my son." Then,
I do it.
I've also found that it helps me sleep. I meditate in
the evening around 9:00 p.m. and it really helps to stop that "I could stay up all
night" feeling (usually followed by that "I could sleep all day"
feeling). One problem I do run into is drifting off while I'm meditating. But
this can be good at times. I've learned that if I wake up at 2:00 am and have a
Deep Purple song screaming through my brain and all kinds of thoughts starting up, I
can lay in bed and start meditating. Very often I fall right to sleep.
I should probably add that I like to break rules. I
don't sit on a pillow, I sit in a nice warm bath with some music playing and a single
candle. Whatever works. The music I use is New Age, which I used to
despise. But I find it's perfect for meditation. Also, I don't follow rules
about how long one should meditate. I did at first, but found it impossible. I
kept falling asleep at the beginning "breathing" stage. Now I go with the
Another Buddist contemplation has to do with
compassion, especially towards those people you don't like:
Think of three people you know: someone you love, someone
you are ambivilant about, and someone you really dislike. Imagine the person you
love as they are born and throughout their childhool as they grow up; school, birthdays,
etc. Repeat this for the person you are ambivilant about, and then for the person
you dislike. As the saying goes, each person is more than the worst thing they ever
did. The goal of this meditation is to "feel" that this is true.
I have found that a brief break for some meditating while
on a hike or strolling along the shore inhances the rest of my outing. But I don't
contemplate anything. Instead I simply open my eyes and focus on something
nearby. When that gets stale I focus on something else nearby. Treebark, the
sound of a songbird, running water, a leaf. When I'm done, I seem more relaxed and
actually aware of where I am instead of thinking about other things. As I continue
my hike I tend to slow down and notice the scenery.
A very brief background in
The Buddha was a real person born in a palace. When he grew
up, he became discontent (a possible Explorer here) and left home, searching for truth and
meaning. He saw that people all around him were suffering; life was full of sickness
and death. He went to seminary schools and learned all the religious teachings of
the day, but did not find what he was looking for. Finally, legend has it that he
sat down under a tree for a very long time meditating and discovered a way to find
peace. After that he spent his life teaching others all that he had figured
out. He did not see his teachings as religious in nature. Rather, they consisted of
practices and ways of thinking that people could learn in order to lead a more content and
peaceful life here on earth.
One basic idea that the Buddha came up with is this:
Anguish arises from a craving for life to be other than it is and is therefore largely
self imposed. We constantly crave something. If we get it, we are only
temporarily satisfied. Right away we begin to want something else. The Buddha
believed that people must learn to overcome this cycle of endless cravings. In the
words of the Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you want." When people
fixate on being prettier, thinner, smarter, or richer, believing that they will be happy
when they finally get what they want, they are making themselves unhappy. And when
they finally get what they want, are they happy? Often not. Lottery winners,
on average, are less happy than before they won the lottery!
|"Do not be satisfied with hearsay
or with tradition or with legendary lore or with what has come down in scriptures or with
conjecture or with logical inference or with weighing evidence or with liking for a view
after pondering over it or with someone else's ability or with the thought 'The monk is
our teacher.' When you know in yourselves: 'These things are wholesome,
blameless, commended by the wise, and being adopted and put into effect they lead to
welfare and happiness,' then you should practice and abide in them..." -
For anyone interested in starting to
meditate with a Buddhist slant, I highly recommend the very down-to-earth book called
"Buddhism Without Beliefs" by Stephen Batchelor. You
can be of any religion, because Buddhism is not about the Afterworld, it's a philosophy
about the here-and-now, although the book is definitely tilted towards the agnostic
side. People who consider themselves highly spiritual but not particularly religious
might find this book and form of Buddism especially useful.
Resources: "Buddhism Without Beliefs, A Contemporary
Guide to Awakening" by Stephen Batchelor, Riverhead Books, 1997