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February 22, 2020

Raisins & Reluctance: Confessions from a Mindfulness Non-Believer.

The first time I heard the word “mindfulness” was at a late afternoon keynote session.

I assumed the topic would address harnessing a mind that was full of too many innovative ideas.

As I walked into the conference room, I noticed a tiny box of Sun-Maid raisins on the chair I planned to slump into.

Raisins have never really been my favorite—are they anyone’s favorite? They overcomplicate cookies and choke preschoolers. But holy crap, it was 3:00 p.m., and I was hungry. I chomped through the stuck-together clump, then figured “what the hell,” and polished off the boxes on the chairs on either side of me.

When the speaker came out, she invited us, and I quote, “to experience the complexity of each raisin, one at a time.”

I watched as the room obediently opened their tiny red boxes. My late-entering neighbors looked around, but couldn’t find their raisins. I smiled and shrugged as I picked raisin bits out of my molars with the tip of my unaware tongue.

I flopped my head backward and rolled my eyes at the flickering fluorescent lights on the ceiling while the rule-followers fully reflected on the bumpy skin of each raisin. Then—OMG—they processed the experience out loud for 20 to 30 minutes.

Sometimes a raisin is just a freaking raisin.

I had subsequent, unwanted run-ins with strawberries, Hershey’s Kisses, and endless waterfall-and-bird themed music. It didn’t matter if the person at the front of the room was rocking a smart little Talbot’s sweater set or looked like they had just come from hot yoga class—everyone was obsessed with mindfulness.

I hated it. 

As the educational world fluttered with excitement about the benefits of mindfulness in the classroom, I grounded myself in the present and ignored emails from people who suggested I integrate it into my school. I mindfully deleted voicemails from people who were launching meditation and yoga businesses for kids. 

Then, I had the “opportunity” to experience a lawsuit, divorce, and coming out as a late-in-life, fence-hopping lesbian at 39. When a person gets hit with that pile of hell all at once, sleep slips away. After many months, the Facebook algorithms noticed my patterns of 2:00 a.m. scrolling and started flooding me with sleep meditation ads.

Out of sheer desperation (but with a heaping dose of sarcastic cynicism), I started to listen to Headspace.

And to my total shock, it helped.

I slowly became a closet-meditator. First in my bed at night, then, waking up secretly early to get a five-minute session in before anyone woke up. I bought a meditation cushion for my office floor and told my kids it was for the dog. 

I started sneaking mindfulness podcasts, spirituality audiobooks, and, eventually, Eckhart Tolle and Gary Zukav.

I bought into all of it, and could admit none of it.

One recent Saturday morning, I found my 11-year-old daughter, Jennie, sitting cross-legged on the dog-bed-meditation-pillow, deeply engrossed in what appeared to be a guided meditation on her school Chromebook.

She was focused for 20 or more minutes. When she took her headset off, she told me, “I’m so glad for this dog pillow, mom. It works out great for my meditations. You should try it sometime; it really helps with stress.”

“You know what, Jennie,” I said, sighing heavily, “You’re right. Maybe I will.”

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