On Mindful Meditation
I meditated for the first time in third grade. Every Wednesday morning of that school year, I took a bus from my school to a special program where we participated in enrichment activities for gifted students. I have always been in the upper end of average in my academic pursuits, and I am peculiar, but I certainly am not “gifted” (the very sound of the word sours me).
During one week, Ms. Capps had us all place our heads on our desks, close our eyes, and visualize her guided meditation about a giant donut with pink frosting and sprinkles. Mine also had Hawaiian drink umbrella and a polar bear sitting in a lawn chair among the sprinkles. My donut was a cake and though the frosting was pink, it was not strawberry.
When I took a bite, the sugar of the sprinkles—excuse me, “jimmies”—did not grit in my teeth, something I hated about sprinkles. I do not remember particularly that the guided meditation was a writing exercise, but I appreciated the pointed instruction to look at the pictures you make in your mind and then tell about them on paper. Had I known to do that before that exercise? I don’t know, but I did do it after.
I was more struck that our enrichment group was learning something that other students were not earning. This isn’t the place for me to discuss democracy in education, but it saddens me that a tool for writing is withheld for those who have elevated status.
Twenty years later, I encountered meditation in many forms across my years teaching in juvenile corrections. During that period, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) was emerging as a hot topic, and its inclusion of “mindfulness” practices was infused into our classroom with daily meditations that I appreciated just for the few minutes I didn’t have to perform as a teacher. Meditation, no “Mindfulness”, had made it to public education and my incarcerated students did not take it very seriously.
I adopted meditation as a practice when I took the Cleveland Clinic’s CBT for Insomnia online course at the recommendation of my neurologist. Each day, the program recommends, you should meditate for about 20 minutes, a LONG TIME. The program provided different example of meditation and I chose guided meditation, specifically those by Nature Guided Meditations (https://natureguidedmeditations.podbean.com/) because most of them are about being an animal and going out and living animal life.
Both of readings this week presented a framework of silence leading to meditation which leads to listening, and I am for this, but I am not sure I experience the same joy as either Teresa of Avila or Jackowski since my meditation doesn’t call on lovely muses or involve being filled with a divine spirit. I would imagine that if either writer imagined herself a flower, she would be a lovely flower, colorful, sweet, and attractive to bugs because she has the holy spirit. I would probably pass on a guided meditation about being a flower to begin with.
Unlike Teresa of Avila, I do not believe the body is a vessel for the mind and soul, and unlike either writer, I do not believe muses or God speak through me. I think the mind lives with the body. Furthermore, I don’t see meditation as opening up to make space for a holy spirit; rather, I believe meditation allows the mind to unfold and expand. It would be easy for me to dismiss both works for these difference, but like my worldview, both seem to believe that the ultimate goal is self-reflection and self-examination. Jackowski’s purports that if “we think about our thoughts,” our writing process will be purified, clarified, and enlightened while Teresa de Avila warns that we must not spend too long in one house, “unless, of course, it is in the dwelling of self-knowledge.” I find tremendous connection to both works for this common priority.
I discovered the power of my mind opening during Nature Guided Meditations’ Rainstorm episode in which you are a rainstorm. Never had the possibility come to me, but as my mind wandered from reality and into meditation, I lived the water, I evaporated into a cloud, and then fell back down to the earth. The experience taught me a profound experience about the writing process—put the skeleton of the story down and then meditate yourself alive in the story to fill in the detail.