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Empathy and Downton Abbey

On The Slowing

(This one took a while. Sorry for the delay.)

For the past week, I have spent every spare moment re-watching Downton Abbey. I love the show primarily because it reminds me of visiting London and Oxford last Spring Break and meandering alone around England while taking pictures of pretty things. This isn't the first time I've adopted a show for its numbing relief from taxing surroundings. During spring of my junior year at college, I watched all five seasons of ABC Family's Greek like it was my job. Every once in awhile a television show or book series or movie will catch me at the right moment and I am absorbed into its created world.

Yesterday, I was pulled into a different kind of story. I came home to the news of the Boston Marathon bombings. I watched a video online where a reporter had captured the explosions in real time. It felt like a movie. Like Boylston Street was the setting for some Die Hard explosion sequence. But that's not the case. It happened on streets I know to people I don't. A second later, I refreshed Google News to see that 34 had been killed due to the earthquake in Pakistan. A few days ago I heard a story about a gang-rape victim committing suicide that I haven't been able to shake. Like I said, sometimes the world of a story resonates and we are pulled under, for better or worse.

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How do we continue? How do we hear about the deep evils - the worst that the world holds - and keep going about our day? Ultimately, I went back to watching Downton Abbey. Because we need escape. We need breath and space away from the evils of the world. One can only ingest so much about how deeply we hurt one other before we have to walk away. A conscious, present life is a constant teetering between focusing one's attention to the present moment and distancing oneself for protection. I'll explain further.

Metrorail Meditation

On Kitty Litter Zen Garden

Finding a way to meditate regularly has been a real challenge for me. I tried getting up early to meditate but found I kept hitting snooze. Then for a while I meditated in the evenings but found that it was often skipped for a new episode of Downton Abbey or some other enticing activity. Now my "go to" time for meditating is during my commute which is thankfully by rail. It's not ideal but it happens Monday through Friday, morning and afternoon. I plug in my headphones and set the MP3 player to Jon Kabat-Zinn's Sitting Meditation. It's about 42 minutes long and I have 20 minutes in the morning and another 20 in the afternoon. Occasionally it's a standing meditation rather than sitting. Other times I run into a co-worker who likes to chat and I take that option. But often I have a chance to tune in twice a day.

This week I'm on Spring Break and finding my routine changed has also changed my meditation routine. I'm using other opportunities to be mindful (those litter boxes still need to be changed) but I haven't done my usual meditation. Let's see how it affects my mood and ability to stay present. I'm already missing it and may find a time to sit tonight or tomorrow.

How do you fit meditation into your schedule? Does it make a difference when you don't? I know it does for me, even if I'm in a "low stress" mode.

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