If what they say is true, it has health benefits that can rival many pharmaceuticals. I'm told it can nearly stop a hot flash in its tracks. Apparently it's so effective, it just might be the cure for everything from reducing stress to male pattern baldness. Oprah says it can even help you lose weight. I am speaking, of course, of meditation.

So after hearing all the hoopla about the wonders of this mental discipline, I thought I'd give it a try. It seemed so peaceful, so simple. In a houseful of teenage testosterone and my mid-life hormones routinely on a rampage, a little serenity would be om-tastic. By freeing my mind of the clutter and the noise, I was going to meditate my way to inner peace, enlightenment and maybe even a smaller dress size.

After trying it I came to one simple conclusion - don't believe everything you read.

Not having time or inclination to seek out a cross-legged, bearded man chanting on a mountain top for answers, I did the next best thing: I read about meditation. So I was curious to learn that on the road to bliss, I would probably encounter my Monkey Mind. I pictured cute chimpanzees. But Buddhists define this common condition for uninitiated meditators as the unsettled, confused and restless nature of the mind.

Knowing myself, that came as no great surprise. But I don't think I'll have Monkey Mind. I'll have the whole San Diego Zoo Primate Center running loose in my head.

After reading long enough, I decided there was no time like the present to start my inner vision quest for tranquility. I attempted to contort my plywood-like limbs into a graceful Zen-like lotus position. After my hips and knees froze in place, I managed to duck walk to my favorite chair where my lower appendages eventually regained circulation.

Having mastered the seating arrangement, I moved on to timing. Being a rookie, I set my timer for five minutes because I can do anything for five minutes. Meditating is just emptying my mind, so how hard could it possibly be? I closed my eyes, just like the book said. I started breathing. I just knew I was minutes away from achieving nirvana. And so I began to meditate.

Cool. So this is meditating. This is easy. I can do this for five minutes. I can do anything for five minutes. Keep breathing. Focus on the breath. I once held my breath under water in third grade for what seemed like five minutes. Maybe that's because Kenny Jarvis was sitting on my head and holding me under.

Wait. I'm not supposed to be thinking. No thoughts. There. That's better. I am going to be SO centered. Quiet mind. Peaceful mind. Mind over matter. What really does matter?

Stop it brain! You are not supposed to be thinking. I am in charge of this zoo. Monkeys step aside. Breathe in, breathe out. Yes, that's more like it. That sound is not my breath; that's my stomach growling. I'm hungry. Pancakes sound good. I'll make pancakes when I get up. Do I have syrup?

How much longer do I have to sit here? I have things to do. How can people sit here and do nothing for FIVE WHOLE MINUTES? WHEN WILL THAT STUPID TIMER GO OFF?

Despite the monkeys running amok and occasionally mocking me in my own head, I did manage to sit still for the entire five minutes. And I really did find my bliss - when the timer went off.

Sadly, Denise Malloy did not lose any weight. She can be reached at dmalloy@q.com.


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