I’ve been meaning to try meditation for awhile -one of those “Eat, Pray, Love” inspired ideas. Growing up in the Bible-centric way that I did, I had, of course, meditated before, in the Biblical sense. That kind of meditation is a little bit different from your mainstream variety in that it involves things like bible verses and prayer. The literal translation, I’ve been told, for that kind of meditation is “chewing the cud”.
I had no interest this evening in chewing any cud. In fact, I am very tired of the metaphorical cud-chewing that I can’t seem to help doing lately. I have 99 problems and they’re all the same problem, which is that I have a situation-that-shall-not-be-named (except to all my friends, all the time) that won’t leave me alone. I’m not sure what to do, and I feel like there’s a piece missing that I need to find before I do anything. Usually, when I don’t know what to do, I just have to wait it out long enough and eventually, the Answer comes. I know it’s the Answer because I feel it in my gut, and my gut is very rarely wrong. Just ask all that garlic I had today for lunch.
In the past, I’ve often come to the Answer while writing. Something about writing down the things that were in my head gives them shape and weight and I can examine them properly that way. I’ve tried that this time, and it didn’t work. In the more recent past, I’ve found some answers by talking with friends. In this case, I’ve had lots of useful advice but no Answer. A couple of months ago, I had some decisions to make and I found that getting distance helped. Luckily, I was working in the field up North at the time, so distance was in abundance.
Yesterday, it dawned on me suddenly that I might be able to create the necessary distance with meditation. Not chewing the cud, but the opposite -clearing the mind. If I could clear my mind of this infernal conundrum, maybe I could get a clearer perspective on it. Luckily, this being Vancouver, there just happened to be a drop-in guided meditation at a wellness centre a few blocks from my house tonight.
I stepped into a well-lit room where a middle-aged man in beige slacks sat cross-legged on a cushion. Several other people sat in comfortable faux-leather chairs in a semi-circle around him. This was not the scene I was expecting (there was a distinct lack of sandalwood scent and loose-fitting cotton shifts), but it was welcoming.
We were urged to use meditation pillows but few of us did. I was grateful for the comfortable chairs since I can’t really bend my knee these days and my back still cramps up when I sit on the floor for very long. I was a little concerned that meditation would turn out to be an able-bodied kind of sport, but it turns out one can have a healthy mind in spite of a gimpy body.
Our leader chatted for several minutes and then dimmed the lights and instructed us to close our eyes. For the next 45 minutes, we breathed into and out of different parts of our bodies, envisioned putting down our “past” luggage and our “future” luggage for the time being, sent kindness and compassion to our loved ones and then to ourselves and imagined an inner flame of wisdom at our heart’s centre. It was like a very long shavasana. I alternated between fighting to keep my situation from taking over my brain and trying not to fall asleep. I lost, several times, on both counts. Pro tip: don’t consume a copious amount of Advil right before going to a meditation class.
There were a few moments of sweet inner silence, though. And I realized that the compassion and goodwill I so easily sent out to my loved ones was something that, for some reason, I resisted giving to myself, so I worked on that for awhile in between naps. I think I’ll try this again. I guess getting good at meditation is like anything else -it takes practice.
But no Answer. All in good time, I suppose.