We sat in the dark on plastic stacking chairs arranged in a half circle underneath the basketball hoop. Women with silver hair and walking canes mixed with women bouncing babies on their laps. Our eyes were closed as we listened to the gentle tinkling of cymbals and chimes, while focusing on our breath as our instructor directed.
A year ago, I would have chuckled at this church sponsored event. But as it was, on this day I had just completed a forty day Christian meditation course, so the coincidence seemed serendipitous.
In my sixth grade “Quest” class, we lay under our desks in the dark and learned the concept of meditation (though I usually just fell asleep) and I’ve practiced yoga since about that age. But it wasn’t until Daniel Tiger taught me and the girls how to take deep breaths when we’re upset that I gave much credence to the idea of mindfulness. In the past few months though, it’s gently exploded into every corner of my life. The podcasts I listen to on parenting, health, and humor have all brought up the topic and its merits. A neighbor brought over a book about intuitive eating. Without any coordination, my dear friends Sarah and Anne signed up for courses in meditation at the same time that I did.
It is seemingly everywhere, and it is seemingly the silver bullet for everything. Wanna be a better mom? Meditate. Wanna lose weight? Meditate. Wanna be rich? Meditate. Wanna lower your blood pressure? Meditate. Wanna get a promotion? Meditate. Chronic pain? Meditate. Wanna commune with God? Meditate.
When I began exploring meditation I told RJ not to worry until I started hanging crystals by the windows. Well, I haven’t bought any. But my third eye could absolutely visualize them sparkling in the morning sun. I’m IN it. I still joke about myself sitting cross legged, palms facing up, chanting mantras as I deeply inhale and exhale. Its still ridiculous. It still feels awkward. But I do it. Every day. Well, only for five minutes. But it works. Maybe this is what an agnostic would feel like when they begin to pray?
Call it hokey. Call it crunchy. Call it whatever you want. I’m gonna call it magic. It’s like putting rose colored glasses onto my ‘third eye’. I’m starting to see the world and everyone in it with more gratitude and love. Of course I still have rough days now and then, but I don’t remember the last time I screamed at the kids.
The thing about meditation, mindfulness, intuitive eating, yoga and prayer, (and for me writing) is that they’re just different modalities for getting in tune with yourself. All of them are about quieting what is outside of you, and really listening to what is inside. We live in a culture where we are consuming information in vast quantities, numbing ourselves with media, food, and stuff. Our attention spans are comparable with that of a goldfish. Perhaps in previous generations, it wasn’t necessary, but these modalities are becoming so popular because they help us strip away all of that mental noise and simply BE with ourselves. And that is the only way to find mental/spiritual healing.
In the story of the Prodigal Son, he realizes he is wasting his life in “riotous living”. It’s interesting that the wording says he “came to himself”. (Luke 15)
In our ‘riotous lives’, our minds are constantly seeking external stimulation – scrolling, listening, etc. We often neglect or even counteract our bodies needs for sleep, exercise and nourishment. But as we ‘come to ourselves’ change and growth are the natural result. The dopamine rush we get from scrolling becomes less appealing than the serotonin high we get from a walk outside. The sensation of crunching chips becomes less appealing than the satiation from eating almonds. The numbing of watching TV becomes less appealing than the connection of conversation. As we ‘come to ourselves’ we trade FOMO for JOMO.
A pious name for change, is repentance. It’s time we stop making that word seem like it requires weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. I love how the Bible Dictionary explains it “The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world.”
This definition is beautifully compatible with the definition/etymology for meditation. From Latin meditatus, past participle of meditari (“to think or reflect upon, consider, design, purpose, intend”), in form as if frequentative of mederi (“to heal, to cure, to remedy”); in sense and in form near to Greek μελετῶ (meletô, “to care for, attend to, study, practise, etc.”)
Whatever words you wanna choose, whatever modality works for you… its all just a way to see the world through rose colored glasses. And boy does that make for a lovelier day.