Finding Calm in the midst of Chaos
One of the practices that has helped me find calm in the midst of the chaos that has been 2020 is meditation. But, it took a life-threatening diagnosis 3 ad ½ yrs.ago for me to start. Oh, I’d tried before that. But sitting still was anathema for someone who was constantly in motion. Back in the early 80s, I received my TM (transcendental meditation) mantra and promptly forgot it. At a week-long meditation retreat at Kripalu, I fluctuated between nodding off and a desire to scream and run out of the room. My attempts at mindfulness meditation always felt like a struggle. Experiencing Holosync at The Monroe Institute was interesting but not compelling. Even knowledge of the many science-based benefits of meditation – stress reduction, improved sleep, more balanced emotions, pain control, etc. (see more in RESOURCE below) – did not inspire me to make it a regular practice.
However, after receiving my diagnosis, I recalled I had a guided visualization audio tape on Psychoimmunology by sound healer Tom Kenyon. I bought this in the late 80s on the recommendation of a woman who claimed it healed her after a painful gall bladder attack while traveling to Machu Picchu. Listening to the tape continuously overnight brought her complete relief and an avoided hospital visit. Almost 30 years later, I was medically motivated to start listening and it became a daily practice, as I realized it was the only time I actually relaxed.
Several months later, while attending a Qi Gong retreat, I met MIles from England who had been cured of stage 4 lung cancer and brain metastases (with the same genetic marker as mine). He said one of the practices that helped him the most was Dr. Joe Dispenza’s meditations. Though I had read several of his books I had not previously listened to any audios. While not fond of the induction process he uses, I was willing to persist if it might benefit me as it had Miles. Several of Dr. Joe’s audios became a staple of my own practice, my favorite being Reconditioning the Body to a New Mind..
Since then, I have discovered other guided mediations that I resonate with so have a menu to chose from. I use the CALM app daily meditation each morning, and sometimes listen to their bedtime stories (my favorite is Anna Acton’s Gratitude). And during the pandemic, Bellaruth Naspartek’s Health Journeys has been offering a different free daily meditation from their extensive library of guided visualization CDs on a variety of physical and emotional health topics.
Meditation is now essential for me. How did I shift from someone who couldn’t sit still for 5 minutes to someone who meditates daily? In addition to experiencing benefits like a calmer approach to life, I figured out a way that works for me. Contrary to what most teachers recommend, I lay down to meditate – on a massage table, and if I fall asleep then I figure I needed the rest. And while some teachers might not consider guided visualizations as a real meditation, they take me into an altered state of deep relaxation and a place of calm positivity afterwards. So, if you’ve tried to meditate and have not stuck with it, keep exploring. Headspace offers simple descriptions of various meditation techniques. If you try one method and it’s not a fit, try another until you find what works for you. There’s no right way – only your way.
I’ll meditate my way!
card by Jane Norton
Even in the midst of disturbance,
the stillness of the mind can offer sanctuary.
If you want inspiring evidence of how being a practicing meditator helped one man remain calm in a fiery plane crash, read Through the Flames: Overcoming Disaster through Compassion, Patience and Determination by Allan Lokos.
CALM offers a free 7 day trial of 10-30 minute meditations, sleep stories, music and master classes. Annual subscriptions are $70.
Headspace offers a similarly priced annual subscription with a 2 week free trial. Together you have 3 weeks of free meditations to try out, and since it takes 21 days to establish a new habit, you will have a great foundation going forward.