At my tiny liberal arts college in Wisconsin, there was a meditation group that met every Wednesday after lunch in a small, dimly lit room next to the mail center. The instructor was a soft spoken man with kind eyes and a soothing voice — exactly the kind of person you would want to lull you into a sleepy, meditative state.
I went a few times, especially in my sophomore year when I was miserable and anxious, and after getting over the initial weirdness of it all, I found myself really looking forward to that hour after lunch every Wednesday. Each week was pretty much the same; a handful of us would grab a little quilt pillow, find a spot on the floor, and sit cross-legged as the instructor chimed a quiet bell, played a song, and then talked us through the meditation. He first told us to listen to our bodies, to notice tension in our shoulders or the small of our backs, and then he would move on to our minds, and in the final fifteen minutes, he would go silent and the room would enter a wonderfully hushed state. Surprisingly, the hour would fly by, and I would walk out feeling refreshed and open.
I’ve found meditation to be HUGELY helpful, but when I try a session by myself, I can’t seem to go longer than three minutes. I get antsy and bored, and without the guidance of an instructor, I give up quickly and check my phone.
Well, the other night, when I was having trouble sleeping, I decided to try meditating. I closed my eyes and began listening to my mind, which immediately flooded with one million thoughts and concerns and wishes and worries. And then I tried this trick: every thought that entered my mind I imagined as a small bubble on the surface of a stream, drifting along with the current. As it made its way downstream, I kept my eye on that exact bubble, knowing it held that thought, and I would watch it until the bubble burst, and with that tiny POP, I let the thought disappear.
This is why I think it works: with meditation, you are generally told to gently push your thoughts aside as they emerge, but I’ve always struggled with that imagery– where exactly do you gently push them? I would literally imagine them all crammed into the corners of my brain, like a pile of dirty laundry, and there they would remain, nagging me as I meditated. The bubbles-floating-downstream trick sends your thoughts packing, and you get to watch them PHYSICALLY disappear. I’ve done this a few times now, and I’d like to make it a routine, maybe five minutes every morning after breakfast. The stream I envision has become more detailed, too — there’s a giant oak tree nearby, its branches dipping into the water, and a mourning dove (my favorite), singing its melodic tune. I highly recommend giving it a try!
Stream photos by my brother, Micah.