Last night, I sat on Donald and Maleia’s porch and sipped wine. Maleia mentioned she had read my blog and was surprised to learn I meditated. Years ago, she cautiously admitted, she had studied Transcendental Meditation. I think she worried I would think it hokey. I did not and besides, I had just managed to extricate myself from a conversation about high speed internet and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to talk about something I was passionate about.
Maleia and Donald met each other in a leadership class that used meditation. She remembered something else. “When I was in the first grade, I taught myself to meditate. I hated being in that classroom and I didn’t want to be there. So I repeated a word over and over until I brought myself to another place. I repeated the word until it lost its meaning.”
I was drinking wine, so perhaps this story has veered slightly over into fiction, but Maleia hadn’t thought about that time in her life for a long time. She had never really thought about it that way before and only as we sat on her porch and drank wine and talked did she realize she had taught herself to meditate.
Over the years, the practice has slipped away from her and she doesn’t meditate anymore. I thought she seemed regretful. “You might do it again. It’s always there for you. My friend’s son, Billy, says that meditation is like finding a room in your house that you never knew existed.”
“But that’s my recurring dream,” said Maleia. “Over and over, I find a room I never knew was there.”
I just love when that happens.
The last time I went for a run was a couple of decades before the swoosh was invented. For me, running was always a solitary and silent activity. I never listened to music or ran with a buddy. But that was a long time ago and my running routine dissolved around the time I started to do group exercise classes and work out in a gym. Then last week, I was inspired to go out and run. I had nervous energy and it was a blue sky day, so I laced up my shoes and left my phone in the house. I clipped along (a very slow clip) for just one-half mile with an intermittent walk/run walk/run. Thoughts drifted in, then drifted right on out. My head cleared. My anxiety dissipated.
The next day was drizzly. No matter. Something pulled at me and outside I went. I ran for a mile and once again, my head was able to clear. I remembered something about why I used to like to go for a run. With some focus, my mind and my body will partner up, unified by my breath.
Sitting in stillness is powerful. But moving with a calm and tranquil mind can also get the job done.
For my meditation today, all I could do was breathe.
All I could do was breathe.
I could breathe.
Plagued by anxiety and his father’s ghost (not to mention his creepy uncle), the Prince of Denmark pondered the most famous mantra of all time: To be or not to be. That was and always will be the question. Hamlet did not meditate and his anxiety has entertained for centuries. Anxiety ratchets up drama. See for yourself.
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.–Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Usually, the question is:
- How has meditation changed your life?
It’s hard to answer because I don’t have a clear recollection of me before I meditated. I used to get anxious. I still get anxious. I used to worry a lot. I still worry a lot. But sometimes I tell myself there’s nothing I can do about this particular worry and sometimes I listen and put the worry away.
I like this question better even though no one ever asks:
- How has your meditation changed the world?
The world is a better place. War. Famine. Hunger. Disease. Sex slavery. Illiteracy. It’s all still there. But, I’ve noticed small things and have had small conversations. I’ve taught a couple people to meditate. I’ve listened to words said by people who are saying something they think no one can hear. I notice connections and honor those connections. I observe questions more than answers. There are connections between strangers and non-strangers, things I was not privy to before. And I’ve said things to people I would not have had the courage to say before I learned to meditate.
And some of these things have changed things, that may have changed some other things I don’t even know about. Dominoes. It takes just a little push to tip the first one over and then you step back and watch the next one tip over that sets off the next and the next and the next. And then maybe the world changes just a little bit. And when I think about that, it makes me a little happy.
Billy says: Meditating is like finding a room in your house you never knew existed.
Here’s what Emmy said: Once you begin to accept the lack of control we have over so much of our lives, you can begin to relax. The tighter you try to hang on to the illusion of control, the more anxiety.
Here’s what I said: Well said. A paradox. (there’s nothing I love more than a paradox)
Here’s what Carol said: It is not a paradox that when you give up on the idea of control you have less anxiety. Once you accept the fact you have no control, you have less stress. It is logical.
Yes. As usual, Carol is right. This is logical, but still, it seems to me a paradox is in there somewhere. I try to explain to Carol where the paradox lies.
Here’s what I said (actually the edited version of what I said known as what I wished I would have said): If I had the superpower to win friends and influence people (apologies, Dale Carnegie), then I would have more control over the people around me and get things to go my way and if things were to go my way, I would have less anxiety. There is a power surge when you convince someone to do something your way or on the rare occasion you can change someone’s mind(in reality, this has never happened). But, it’s much more useful to to accept the hugeness that is the universe outside your dominion. It’s a paradox that when you accept how little control you have, you end up with more control.