Meditation for Dummies: My Quest for Mindfulness

I’ve always been fascinated with meditation. I grew up with a sort of voodoo Haitian grandmother who adopted Buddhism and claimed she could astroplane in her sleep; she was a very spiritual person for whom mental health was a lifestyle.

Me, on the other hand… I’ve always been an anxious person, even since I was little. I remember significant parts if my childhood being peppered with self-doubt and depression, which eventually led to chronic insomnia by the time I was 14.

wat suan dok chiang mai

The Buddha of Wat Suan Dok. (Outpost / Michael Fraiman)

As a teenager, I never told anyone about these dark thoughts, not even my parents. Since then, I’ve spent years trying nearly everything to help get me to sleep: pharmaceuticals, exercise, yoga, changing my habits and my diet.

I didn’t try meditation until my early 20s. I wasn’t so good at first; my mind was so busy that meditating seemed like a dark and scary place where time stood still.

So when the Tan Your Mind team visited a Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai to shoot a full episode, I was eager to get a new lesson in meditation.

wat suan dok meditation

Jess and Abra follow KK on a tour of Wat Suan Dok. (Outpost / Michael Fraiman)

After a tour of Wat Suan Dok, a beautiful temple complex west of Chiang Mai’s old city, our monk friend, KK, delivered us to his office and sat us down. I knew this lesson would be different than the others I’d had before.

The meditation room was dripping in gold and various Buddha statues. The silence was intimidating; I worried my thoughts were so loud maybe KK could hear them. I calmed myself and sat in a half-lotus pose opposite KK. Abra and I both closed our eyes as KK began coaching us through the meditation process.

monk chat chiang mai

Jess in the back is on a quest for mindfulness. (Outpost / Michael Fraiman)

He explained that it is okay to feel distracted, it is okay to feel uncomfortable and to feel pain. That we should acknowledge these “distractions” (or, in my case, insecurities and anxieties) and breathe past them. To KK, it was always important to breathe and have a focal point. Focus as long as you can on relaxing different parts of your body until your entire body is relaxed. Distractions are normal. Don’t feel caught up in them. It’s better to feel them, speak to them and accept them as welcome neighbours to your mind, letting them pass into your mind and out as swiftly. Instead of anxious thoughts, I focused on my own breathing.

By the time I opened my eyes, it felt like far more time had passed than what really had. The internal struggle was real. I can’t say for sure whether I’ll sleep better tonight, but I’m feeling more rested now.

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