During these winter days, sky heavy with clouds, I have to remind myself that I like four seasons and appreciate this time of hibernation. I welcome the nudge to go inward and further into darkness although sometimes it feels a fine line between rich reflecting and just holing up. I’ve been trying to find some balance and peace in all the gloom rather than just wait for a sunny day.
In that spirit, I’m attempting to revive whatever scraps of past meditation practices I can remember. There were times in my life when I began and sometimes ended the day in meditation but like many a good habit, this one fell by the wayside. I’d like to start again. Too often my mind takes off like a racehorse. Or more like a tornado – twisting and turning, whipping up dread, catastrophe, chaos with a little nonsense mixed in.
The benefits of sitting, focused, breathing are clear. Conscious breathing alone calms and quiets. Sometimes I catch myself in a day, not breathing deeply or even at all. Try it. Check yourself right now – are you breathing well? Filling your abdomen, chest, lungs and then releasing completely? I was not, I realized after I wrote those words and checked my own breathing. I tend to take shallow breaths, sometimes holding my breath in a weird pause.
Breath is so expressive. Deep breath. Sigh. Gasp. Breath is life – the beginning and end. I remember when premie-baby Molly came home after 3 first weeks of the hospital looking after her. Now she was mine to care for. Holding my own breath, I watched for hers.
Thinking about my breath leads me back to something bigger than the chatter in my head about what to make for dinner, bills to pay, people to call, work issues, or something that happened 40 years ago. Random thoughts spinning through my mind endlessly. Breath and mind are amazingly linked and breath is a good boss to keep things in line.
With so many schools, techniques, philosophies around meditation, it’s hard to know what’s the way for me and if I’m doing it ‘right’. And of course, what IS right? I watched a promo pitch for Transcendental Meditation online. I had to sign up for the promo session and when I did, promptly began receiving texts and phone calls from Fairfield, Iowa. And that made me think of Tony from 40 years ago who hitched rides on freight trains from Fairfield, Iowa where he went to Maharashi University (home of Transcendental Meditation) to Cincinnati where he would show up at crazy hours and toss pebbles at my window. I lived in a converted school building in the middle of a derelict neighborhood. There was a closet in the hallway converted into a shower. Thinking back, the common spaces were pretty creepy as was the neighborhood of burned out buildings. But our studios were amazing. Hardwood floors, blackboards and light pouring in all day through old wavy panes of glass. Tony never talked about TM or Maharashi but he played guitar and sang really sweetly and while I’m not usually a sucker for that kind of thing, he was good and did I say he was cute? I wonder if he’s still alive (we’re all getting old and he used to jump on and off freight trains after all) and if he still meditates? Interesting and creative people do TM like the director David Lynch, Jerry Seinfeld, Mick Jagger. Still, I’m not sure I want to pay over $700 to learn the secrets.
See how my mind goes off on a spin any chance it can get? Sitting quietly for more than 10 minutes takes practice and I am out of practice. I try setting a timer and still end up cracking open one eye to see if time is up, kind of hoping that it is. Why? So I can get up and go about my day working for the dollar? Maybe I’m hungry. Or I feel like I have to get started on something else. What’s so important that it can’t wait 5 more minutes? 10, 20 even? Nothing. I know that if I can train myself to do this regularly, I’ll feel more peaceful, calm, less crazed. It’s worked before. Maybe I should cough up $700. That’s a lot for me. I tried some online guided sessions but found most of the voices annoying. I prefer the quiet although I signed up for something called a sound-bath session in a neighboring town. Sound is important. I do like saying ‘ohm!’ either alone or in a group. There’s a nice vibration that’s settling and centering. We’ll see.
Do you meditate? What works for you? xxx
7 thoughts on “Ohm and Other Options”
Hi Tricia. Hope you are well! Beautiful pictures in your blog. I meditate when doing yoga and I did do TM when in college. I need a refresher but cannot bring myself to pay that much for another session. I feel Yoga helps my mind and body and there are often free community sessions in AZ. We moved back to the PHX area for health reasons. Wishing you a healthy and happy 2023. Love, Margare
Margaret! I REMEMBER you did TM! Remember I visited you at Hampshire? I remember thinking it was the coolest place! My understanding is that you have refreshers for life once you’ve gone through the classes. Ask! I adore yoga and my yoga teacher – and do it regularly – and agree, it’s the best. I’m sorry about health stuff – hope you’re doing okay! Sending love to you!
Hi Tricia! My attempts at meditation have been exactly like yours. The whole “acknowledge the thought and let it go” thing works well for maybe two minutes at best, and there are so MANY thoughts pressing for attention. I have felt centered through prayer, have to say. THAT is my morning meditation. I am not a church-goer, but my concern about, well everything – the planet, democracy, the people of Ukraine, my kids, my grandkids – is calmed somewhat by appealing to The Universe. Who knows, it might even help in the broader sense. XO
Hi Lea! I love this! And I am sure your beautiful compassion and love sent out to the world – helps the world. I certainly cherish it! xxx
I especially wanted to reply to this posting as I have begun a meditation practice (just registered my 93 straight day!) that has substantially changed my mental health. For so long now I have held a deep-seated anxiety about the state of the world – rampant violence, global warming, drought, contentious politics, intolerance – you know it all. I was increasingly despondent and hopeless Going within everyday (and even that is a misnomer, as I’ve discovered in the writings of Rupert Spira; I read a section of his “The Transparency of Things” right before starting my meditation) has absolutely allayed this free-floating anxiety and grounded me in the present. It has helped stem the fear and reassure me that all is happening in the spirit of evolution and generative change.
I use the (free) app Insight Timer which has a wealth of resources, including soundscapes, lectures, yoga, guided meditations and community groups. I also listened to many of the podcasts in the 1GiantMind series. Jonni Pollard, the host, has a wonderfully soothing voice that is such a pleasure to listen to. He also has a 12-step “Learn to Meditate” app that is helpful.
Yesterday, during my weekly hike, I inadvertently found myself stuck on a rocky beach with no way off but up. The climb was steep and treacherous. (I have a HUGE fear of heights and PTSD after being stuck on the side of a cliff in 1996 and having to be rescued by helicopter.) I did my deep breathing, focused on the dirt in front of me, and placed one foot tenuously in front of the other and I made it! (The other woman I was with – 10 years younger than me – had to have our hiking partner anchor a rope so she could hold on to it while she climbed up.) I know I couldn’t have done it without the strength of focus that the meditation practice has conferred.
Tricia, I wish you perseverance in cultivating a practice and want you to know that, for me at least, it has been one of the most rewarding mental health tonics I have ever found.
I love this so much! And what a wealth of resources! Thank you! I have been here before but know it’s getting that muscle going again – and commitment. Your story inspires me! thank you! xxx
I am the world’s worst at meditating/settling, but I have found hand-sewing, and watching the sky, often helps me breathe. Also, your Rufus is adorable. How I miss ours.