What if I just try a little harder? About meditation hacks and wasted efforts.

I feel like a fool. I just learned how to use Flonase.

You don’t understand. This is huge. I have taken Flonase for over 20 years. Today I learned that I have been wasting over 90% of it by using it improperly.

The short version: Instead of allowing the medicine to settle in my sinus, where it could reduce my inflammation, I made the mistake of snorting while spraying, pulling the majority of the medicine through my sinus into the back of my throat.

For the last 20 years, I got better and better at inhaling. The result? I did less for my sinuses and more to increase my lung capacity.

My mistake is something all parents can learn from:

When my sinuses acted up, I pinned the blame on my effort.

My error: I thought that I was clearly not trying hard enough.

So I snorted harder. I even learned to empty my lungs before spraying to get an even bigger breath.

And the harder I snorted, the more spray I used up. Over 20 years, I wasted gallons of nose spray!

This realization doesn’t stop at nose spray.

I am learning how I have also ground down dozens of toothbrush heads, sweated through thousands of sit-ups, and how I have beaten myself up over hundreds of hours of meditation.

In each of these cases, I was the problem. 

I was also the solution. A simple hack would have kept my sinuses clearer. Another simple hack would keep my teeth cleaner, my abs more pronounced, and, oh, don’t even get me started on meditation!

I still can’t think about what I could have done if I found that hack a few years earlier.

In my first effort to learn to meditate, I held myself to an unattainable goal. Oh, there was nothing wrong with the goal, to follow my breath and let my thoughts float by like leaves on a stream.

This goal was consistent with the style of meditation I was practicing. What was wrong, again, was me. Meditating this way doesn’t work for an overthinker like me. I didn’t get more expanded. I practiced obsessing, driving harder, and thinking even more thoughts.

Repeated failures invited my Lizard Brain to drive me further from my goal. What I really needed was to play on a different playground than one where my Lizard Brain was the HBIC, Head Bully in Charge.

Three years into failed efforts with the popular, return-to-the-breath meditating style, I took a class where the teacher presented the key concept of “allowing.” Only I had never heard anyone mention this before.

She said that it’s important to balance “trying” with “allowing.” An alarm bell went off in my head What?! She was saying that you can’t just keep trying harder. You have to allow yourself some compassion and grace.

I had spent years trying harder and harder, thinking that I was the worst meditator in the history of the world.

I was so angry! I wanted all of my money back. I wanted to yell, “YOU ARE TELLING ME THIS nowwwwwwwww?!?!?”

I’m still angry.

Thankfully, I eventually found Emily Fletcher’s meditation studio. I took my first step down the Yellow Brick Road to Emily’s studio from that class, landing in New York, finding the not-fake-wizard in Emily, who took allowing to the next level. Ziva’s style is known as the “lazy man’s meditation.” The translation from Sanskrit is “union attained by action barely taken.”

Here’s an example of how much Ziva has helped me:

An hour before writing this story, my mind was cluttered. I was in an emotional jumble. I had too much to do and had no idea how to start.

Now that I have seven years of practice in the Ziva method under my belt, I knew what to do. I tapped myself on the shoulder like a gentle preschool teacher offering a cranky toddler a nap. “Hey, maybe now would be a good time for your afternoon meditation. Just saying….”

I meditated and then journaled about the level of clearness I felt. Now writing is easy, these ideas are flowing, and I feel more aligned with my goals. I can see the same jumble of resistance and anxiety and frustration. It just looks different now that I have taken my meditation-nap. I can make sense of it.

Like my first efforts in meditation and gallons of wasted nasal spray, I have ground down many toothbrush heads and done too many sets of sit-ups while heading in the wrong direction.

I’m changing all of that.

My greatest regret of all: the time I have squandered working harder to be a good father.