When a friend asked me to go on a meditation retreat, I hoped it would provide some much-needed relief from my ADD/ADHD symptoms and help me relax and focus. If only I hadn't been so distracted and bored.
by Jane D.
In search of relaxation and focus, I recently agreed to go on a meditation retreat. A friend who has monkish tendencies had the idea for the daylong retreat, and I immediately agreed to attend. For months, I’d been debating whether or not to give meditation a shot to help with my attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) symptoms. I’d regarded it as a bit of a last resort, the great white hope against the backdrop of ADD/ADHD medications like Adderall. Maybe by meditating, I thought, I would find a spiritual Sherpa who would guide me to serenity. That ended up being wishful thinking.
The friend and I got up at dawn and caught the bus that wound its way up into the countryside, toward the monastery that was tucked inside the mountains. On the bus ride, my mind already started to wander. Maybe if this retreat is a hit, I’d do the next one in Bali, I mused. And why stop there? Maybe there are urban retreats in Paris, and speaking of travel, are there meditation retreats in swimming pools, like swimming retreats? If not, maybe I should start one... My friend’s voice broke through the tapestry of thoughts as we exited the bus into the chocking humidity. “Jane, Jane, Jane! There he is! The master!” he said, excited like a kid in a candy store.
The master of mindfulness was a wizened man in his 80s whose lined face looked like a map of the world, little borders drawn all over it. He was missing a few teeth and he sat, in total silence, on the steps of the monastery with two little girls to his left and right, grinning to expose his jack-o’-lantern teeth. For a moment, I saw him as an oasis. Please save me from my scattered thoughts and teach me the art of focus, I wanted to ask. But trying to practice patience, I held back and waited for the day’s events to unfold.
Despite my optimism, from the start of the retreat, I knew that meditation would not be the Holy Grail of treatment for my runaway mind. The master monk pronounced that this was to be a “day of mindfulness” and promised to train participants in everything from mindful eating to mindful walking. But during the walking meditation, all I could do was whine about the humidity and the bugs. My thoughts centered on the mosquitoes that buzzed around my ears, and I struggled to be in the moment as I longed to be in the comfort of home. What I would give to sit on the balcony after a cold shower, a good novel in hand, and a mojito in the other, I thought. I don’t want to be here.
The rest of the day was a struggle -- a struggle to stifle yawns, to keep sleep at bay, to sit erect like a pretzel on a wallet-sized cushion. This is torture, I thought at one point. When the master of mindfulness told us to close our eyes, let our thoughts go free, and to not be critical of our own minds, I rolled my eyes. “Tough chance,” I muttered to myself.
My friend seemed to be doing rather well, and he looked like a well-rested cat under the sun, never once moving from the padded pillow. After a lunch of lettuce, rice, and green tea, I was ready to head home, hanging my head in discouragement.
I realized that perhaps ADD/ADHD is a Catch-22. On one hand, meditation should help calm one’s mind. On the other hand, it required a quiet mind to meditate. Damn, I thought as I slipped out of the monastery and took out my iPod and a magazine to cure the boredom that was fast creeping up. I was really bad at this, I thought. Can I be the only one?
Are you able to meditate away your ADD/ADHD symptoms? Tell us your story about treating ADD/ADHD with meditation in the comments.