Do you ever pay attention to detail? Do you ever look up and notice the pipes that line the ceiling? Do you ever look down and notice the stitches on your shoes? When your eyes are tired, when your body aches and your mind is filled with static, do you ever just pause and feel what it’s like to be alive?
The first time I ever meditated, I fell asleep. I was ten years old and at a performing arts sleepaway camp. One of my counselors didn’t like me. I was an annoying, repetitive child. Brilliant but brazen.
She guided the campers in meditation every morning.
“Look at the clouds,” she’d coo. “What do you see?”
Blobs, I’d think.
“What do you wish you’d see,” she’d ask.
I took a deep breath. I let my chest expand and let the light peer through my half-closed eyelids. With arms crossed, I grabbed hold of my waist and squeezed rolls of skin until I felt something: the dull pinch of my own grip, materialized, hanging on. I thought about everything— what it was like to be breathing, what it would have been like to not– and soon enough my counselor’s droning voice faded, and I felt completely centered.
I woke up to the sound of my own snoring. The other campers quietly giggled as morning meditation had been over for ten minutes.
Since then, I’ve learned to meditate with my eyes open.
Whenever I get anxious, I look at what’s in front of me, closely. Sometimes it’s a person, sometimes it’s just a bare white wall. I study it. I breathe and feel what it’s like to be in one moment in time, in one place on this earth. I stop thinking and just feel– feel what it’s like to be alive, to have ended up wherever I am.
Where I am doesn’t always matter; what counts is that I’m alive to see it, to be here, to end up in this moment, in this place. Even though clouds are blobs, and walls are white, I’m here. Being alive gives me hope.