Writing into Meditation

Bernadette Roca Uncategorized July 15, 2021

For many years, I was never able to meditate. Every few months, I’d download another mindfulness app and give it a few tries. But sooner than later, I’d forget about the whole thing, convinced I was one of those people who just couldn’t meditate. I didn’t even know what I was supposed to do.

That all changed last summer. It was the middle of the pandemic. In Spain, we were just starting to emerge from a severe 3-month lockdown. We’d had one of the strictest confinements in the world, unable to go out even for short walks. It began to feel like a police state: every time I left the house, I scanned my surroundings constantly for cops, wondering if they would believe I was out for groceries, knowing they could easily give me a 600 euro fine for loitering even a few minutes outside.

As the world faced unprecedented uncertainty, I sank deeper and deeper into what seemed like an impenetrable feedback loop of anxiety, panic, and indecision. By June, I was willing to try anything to help myself. It was then that I found Pat’s 21-day meditation course on compassion. I didn’t have much hope, but I signed up.

For 21 consecutive nights, I surprised myself by showing up. I still didn’t know what I was doing, and the practice was as difficult as ever, but something about it felt right. After the course was over, I continued meditating on my own. Back then, even five minutes felt like an eternity, to say nothing of 10 or 15 or 20 minutes.

Meditating continued to be a puzzle I couldn’t figure out until I found another way in: writing. I’d spent the last couple years focused on my writing but would never have characterized my writing practice as meditative. If anything, it often felt like the opposite: it felt like a struggle.

But as I started to explore the intersection between meditation and writing, I began to see more similarities, more synergies. Perhaps because I mainly write deeply personal essays, writing became a way into my meditation, almost a meditation practice in itself in its sustained, deliberate contact with discomfort. Writing was also a way for me to process what happened when I meditated and understand meditation concepts, mainly through journaling – about the Lojong slogans, say, or the difficulties that would come up in my sits. In return, meditation helped me in my writing, cultivating my capacity to simply be with my flawed, imperfect self, and expose her through words.

These days, I am deeply interested in exploring further the way writing and meditation can inform each other, and will be experimenting with different ways writing and meditation can be used together effectively in my classes. I hope you’ll join me.