In a quest for inner peace, I’ve been learning to meditate. I’ve tried to meditate before. I’ve been to Jewish meditation and to Zen meditation. Though I enjoyed going, I’ve always felt like I needed more guidance. I definitely have a type A personality. Inner peace doesn’t come naturally to me.
So now I’m trying transcendental meditation. I like it because it’s a simple but elegant form of meditation. You must commit to doing it twice a day. Best if you can do it first thing in the morning and then again when you’re lagging in the afternoon.
The only other time in my life I have found inner peace through meditation was when I was pregnant with our fourth and we had decided to have an unassisted birth. It was winter. Almost every night I took a hot bath. While blissfully buoyant in the water, I said positive affirmations over and over, imagining having a perfect birth. Those positive affirmations, which are an excellent way to avoid needing drugs during labor, brought me so much inner peace.
But my usual state is inner angst, not inner peace. Which is why I’ve committed to daily meditating.
The reality of looking for inner peace when life is chaotic and busy
This morning I woke up a little before 6:00 a.m. I read a Jack Reacher novel (detective novels have been helping me through the COVID-19 chaos, as I mentioned in this article about the history of pandemics and quarantines for Jefferson Public Radio) and the news headlines on my phone. Then I made breakfast for my daughter and her cousin. They cleared their plates and helped me clean the kitchen.
I realized my son had forgotten to put the trash and recycling on the street and rushed to do that. Then I took out the compost and covered it over with leaves. Then I washed a pot that had been soaking overnight, got the kids to wipe down the counters and sweep the floor. Then I started supper, since I knew I wouldn’t have time later on and I didn’t want to cook when it was really hot. (The forecast is for the high 90s today. Ah, Southern Oregon.)
After that we marched up the steep hill to our neighbor’s house to take her puppy for a walk.
I didn’t have time to eat breakfast. It wasn’t until 9:45 that I was “ready” for the morning meditation.
In transcendental meditation, you sit comfortably, then take 30 seconds to quiet your mind, and then you repeat a secret mantra (that is a sound given to you by your teacher) for 20 minutes. Then you take two minutes or so to come out of the meditation. The idea is to become deeply relaxed and to transcend your thoughts and tap into the vastness, beauty, and bliss of the universe.
The reality of my meditation this morning was my mind wandering in a thousand directions (“I need to get started on my editing,” “I forgot to set up a time to talk to Olivia,” “I wonder how hard it would be to dig a well,” “I sure hope we’ll have time to see Jamie and Melissa’s new puppies”) and my same mind gently reminding myself to come back to the mantra. I fidgeted. I stretched my neck. I wondered if I was sitting correctly. I wondered if my time was up. I did not get into a deep state. But I did relax. A little.
Mahatma Gandhi, the non-violent leader who lead India to independence, is famous for saying: I have so much to do today that I need to meditate for two hours instead of one.
I’ll be meditating this afternoon. I promised my teacher I would do it twice a day, no matter what. I may not find inner peace then either. But I’m trying. Besides, anything worth doing is worth doing half-assed. Even meditating.