“Illness is the only acceptable form of Western meditation.” Wow! Kapow! These words jumped off the computer screen at me when I read them in a weekly newsletter published by Cheryl Richardson (for more information and to sign up for her newsletter visit www.cherylrichardson.com). Cheryl wrote a list of import health wisdom’s shared by Dr. Christiane Northrup (for more information about Dr. Northrup’s work, visit www.drnorthrup.com) from a conference they presented at together last weekend. The above quote was on her list. Both of these women are leaders in the field of holistic health, recognizing and educating the public about the body/mind/spirit connection. I consider them two of my heroines, both having established great credibility for following their inner wisdom and passion for serving others.
“Illness is the only acceptable form of Western meditation”. This resonated loud and clear for me as an unfortunate truth. I have been meditating for more than 20 years now. Although I find it less outstanding to admit that I do this daily, it still draws a particular kind of response from people. Mostly the responses are related to people saying – “Oh I can't do that, I tried”. I will admit, it is a difficult skill to master. Twenty years later I am still working on it.
That said, no longer frustrated by the truth that this is indeed a difficult skill to gain proficiency in, the pleasure I get from sitting still and letting go of mental activity, is immense. It would have to be for me to continue. Some days I don’t feel like it, some days it is tricky to fit it in depending on my schedule, and thankfully, most days its just part of my routine, as is eating, drinking and bathing. My practice has altered, expanded and evolved, just as I have right along with it. Turning toward myself daily, and learning to allow whatever is present within me to surface - viewing it and welcoming it in it’s entirety - has taught me a fearlessness that emanates throughout every aspect of my life. This is perhaps the greatest gift of my practice.
Fearlessness, this does not mean I never experience fear. It means that I am aware and present when the emotion of fear rises within me, and I let the feelings be, then choose very carefully about how I will behave. In that choice, I am determined not to let fear be the ruling force within. The gift of fearlessness means I am living a life based in my deepest desires, in tune with my heartfelt values. Rarely do I regret any action, small or large. Fearlessness is a quality that is hard to find these days, but a gift when experienced from another. It lends itself to learning the truth of our encounters with one another, and it cultivates great compassion both in oneself and for others. The compassion I feel for others who struggle with individual difficulties and illness (I guess that’s pretty much the world) has grown as my meditation practice has.
“Illness is the only acceptable form of Western meditation”. This line vibrates in my own story. My motivation to meditate resided in my desire for good health. I have experienced conditions that have not been readily treated by Western medicine. Having passed through menopause, the many symptoms as well as the fluctuating quality to all of them led me to experience a roller coaster of physical debilitations. In time these physical imbalances became the great gift because they prodded me to look at my lifestyle and toward my inner world for answers to why I might be experiencing what I was. As I pushed into my inner world for answers, for calm in the physical storm, for peace in any emotional turmoil, I discovered a place within, beyond those temporary symptoms. Once discovered, that inner place became the constant in the storm of life, a quiet and safe haven that I could return to as I wished. This is what I found through meditation. Through study and consistent practice, I eventually came to share my findings with others as a teacher of both sitting and moving meditation.
Having taught meditation classes at a hospital, I am aware that the collective “we” as a culture, recognize the health benefits of this ancient practice. But somehow, it still seems to linger that "we" resist opening to this practice more readily, that "we" push against the suggestion to give it a try. When all else fails though, many of us find ourselves on Meditation’s doorstep, seeking refuge from the raging storms of life found in the fast lane of the Western culture. Illness, indeed, becomes a force that creates an acceptance to enter the world of learning about meditation. Often, it is the presence of illness that becomes a personal invitation to sit still for a time, learning to watch life. Meditation is just this, the practice of stillness, developing the ability to focus and concentrate, beyond any level imaginable prior to practicing. Through this focus and concentration, inner doors open to a world beyond understanding, until directly experienced. Even then, understanding is challenged.
It is my great hope that others will open to developing this skill of finding inner stillness. I believe the world would heal more readily if this were to happen. I hope to motivate by de-mystifying the practice through sharing my own experience, talking with others about how to go about practicing meditation, and to continue teaching this invaluable life skill. Visit my YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/LaurelHHVideo?feature=mhee) to listen to a 2-part interview where I talk about meditation with my son Dustin. Look for more postings in the next month when I will share short teaching videos as well.