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Bill Wilson

Transcendental Meditation Is Not as Boring as It Sounds 1024 576 Thayer Fox

Transcendental Meditation Is Not as Boring as It Sounds

Do you meditate regularly? If so or if not, are you sick of hearing about meditation? That makes two of us. Listening to anyone describe their meditation practice is on the same level of tedium as someone telling you about their dream. But meditation is an essential habit in my life that produces results. This post is about how I went from being a New Yorker brain NEVER meditator to someone with a forty minute a day Transcendental Meditation practice.

Similar to my belief in God, meditation is my own thing, I don’t need anyone to support or understand it. What you get out of meditation may be different than what I do, and if you practice it regularly, you will get something, guaranteed. As promised, I won’t wax poetic about my profound meditative experiences, but I strongly suggest that you read David Lynch’s Catching the Big Fish. It’s easy to digest and will get you excited.

For twelve years I listened to people discuss their meditation practice at AA meetings. Meditation is part of the 11thStep in the 12 Step program. If you take on recovery the way the founder of AA, Bill Wilson intended, you will come face to face with it at some point. Some people listen to the Headspace app, others have cushions, some meditate on a subway for five minutes during their morning commute. I used to pretend that my park walks counted as walking meditation but after learning TM, I feel the difference.

I am an all or nothing gal which leads to my main reason for signing up to learn Transcendental Meditation: I do well in structure. The four-day course is designed as a springboard to help you create a new habit in a supportive environment. It’s not free, and after plunking down the fee, you feel obliged to see it through.

Pain has always been my greatest motivator, so I signed up for a TM introductory course in the Fall of 2016 after a rough summer with my son.  If you read my previous post about Expansion and Survival Mode, then you know that I experienced post-traumatic something after he had an accident as a four-year-old.

Up in Maine, a year after the doctors declared my son recovered, he cartwheeled down a narrow stairwell while running. I lost it. Thankfully the area was carpeted, and after five hours spent in the ER for observation, the doctors said we could head home. My son barely had a bruise on him, but I wept for days. I use the word wept on purpose because it wasn’t conventional crying, it was frenetic trapped energy passing through me in the form of non-stop tears. My hands shook, and I could barely sleep. Jolted awake periodically by visions of my son rolling out of bed, I started checking on him throughout the night and lining his floors with pillows at 3am. Sleep had been a “thing” before my son’s accident, but this was drastic.

Whatever mental and emotional flooring I had installed that past year fell out from under me. I knew I wasn’t my old self, but I had no idea that I was on the verge of a breakdown. Friends and family asked me if I was getting help in impatient tones. Their empathy had long expired. My husband was the only one concerned. We are both stoic creatures, and he knew my behaviors were far outside my baseline character.

A week later, on a playdate with a new mother friend, I opened up and explained why I couldn’t focus on a conversation with her while watching my son fly around the yard with her boys. She asked me if I had ever heard of Transcendental Meditation and suggested I check it out when I returned to New York in the Fall.

A month later, I was seated in a comfortable chair at one of the centers on Madison Avenue. The instructors are out of central casting, talking slowly in soothing tones and I felt like I was in a meditation documentary. To my relief, I didn’t have to sit in the dreaded lotus position, or even entirely still. This has been a past meditation deal breaker for me. You are allowed to wiggle your feet, stretch your arms, and do whatever movement comes naturally to you while you are meditating. In TM, you are given a “mantra”, a meaningless word that produces a sound that helps your mind focus and settle. Your word is your secret, I have never told anyone my mantra.

Overall, the course was simple and relaxing. I did not experience any WOW moments like I had in other workshops but I was intrigued by the data. Nonetheless, after investing the time and money, I took on my new practice wholeheartedly. After a few months, I noticed that I wasn’t as reactive and that doomsday scenarios weren’t domineering my headspace. Navigating daily life felt less weighty, which freed me up to enjoy it more.

Some days I feel like I am fake meditating, using my mantra as a hammer to break up the chatter in my head. Other days I fall asleep in the first few minutes. Occasionally, I sink into a boundless space where my mantra disappears, and I experience a chill that runs up and down my spine. In my assessment, these are the days that I am meditating correctly but my TM teacher Donna said that they all count just the same.

When people ask how Transcendental Meditation differs from other forms of meditation, I don’t have an answer. Whatever works for you regularly is the right form of meditation. For me, TM’s structure and group aspect were essential in getting started and developing a sustainable habit. Included in the initial TM course fee is a lifetime membership to all TM facilities so you can go to group meditation events, lectures and one on one check-ins if you feel frustrated or need the extra support.

I love my mantra. The random word comforts me. I reach for it when my nervous system gets overloaded. If I wake up at 2am with a ticker tape of thoughts, my mantra puts me back to sleep. At the risk of sounding corny, it’s gives me access to a safe place inside myself that I never knew existed. That alone is worth it.

 

How to Make Everyday Extraordinary
How to Make Everyday Extraordinary 640 425 Thayer Fox

How to Make Everyday Extraordinary

Ordinary days are waiting to become extraordinary.

What if you give an ordinary day the opportunity to be more? What if you believed that the difference between ordinary and extraordinary was only a shift in perspective? And you have the power to make that shift? If you are having a “fine” day, nothing scintillating on the schedule, don’t write it off just yet. We believe that extraordinary enters wrapped in boas, followed by violinists. You will continue to miss the faint knocking if you don’t adjust your thinking. My most extraordinary days always catch me off guard.

This story is an example of everyday extraordinary that I almost missed.

The day started at 2 am with my daughter waking me up to tell me that her bedroom was too cold. A 25-degree night in January, mine was freezing as well. My light wouldn’t turn on as I got up to investigate and after trying a few other outlets, I realized the heat and electricity was off all over the apartment. Too tired to deal, we all went back to bed. Hopefully, this would resolve itself by 6:30 am. It did not.

After a cold, dark breakfast, I walked the kids down the emergency light wrapped service stairs. At the bottom, our doorman told us that the entire building had no power. Con Ed had been on our street since midnight, and due to explosions, they still couldn’t get into the manhole. I saw a crew of Con Ed workers huddled near a smoking pit across the street from our canopy when I exited to walk my son to school.

After drop off, my thoughts turned to my son’s fish. He has two tanks containing nine tropical fish, and it hit me that the heater had been off all night. The big tank was too heavy to move, so I wrapped it in blankets. Our beloved Betta fish Jek lived alone in a bowl that was easily transportable, so I brought him over to the super at a neighboring building for the day. At least I saved a life.

My agitation ballooned as I headed home thinking about all the items on my to-do list that required electricity. One of the Con Ed workmen was talking on his cell phone near my canopy, so I lingered until he hung up.

“Hi, I live here- wondering what’s going on with the power? How long will it be out for?” I asked in my best trying to sound calm voice.

“I’ll have a better idea once the explosions stop. It’s not safe to go down yet. I just got here at 6. This is nothing compared to the job I was at last night- near Chelsea Piers- snow melting mixed with salt from the plows is causing explosions all over. I got home at midnight, and they called me at 5 am to come in and take over this job.” The rosy-cheeked Con Ed man responded. I did the math on his sleep the night before and wondered how he sounded so relaxed after getting less than five hours. Exploding hole aside, insufficient sleep is enough to nose dive my day. There was something unusual about this clear-eyed man.

“My name is Thayer, What’s your name?” I asked.

“My name is Tom, nice to meet you, Thayer. God, I feel bad for all of you without light and heat. What a hassle. Once I can get in there, I promise we’ll get it back up as soon as we can.” Tom smiled.

Our conversation was interrupted by a doctor with an office in my lobby;” Excuse me, what is going on here? What in the world am I supposed to tell my patients?” she asked Tom tensely.

Tom responded with genuine concern, “I’m so sorry about this, it must be hard for business. Once I get into that hole, I’ll be able to give you a better sense of timing. Why don’t you give me your number and I’ll call you as soon as I know?”

Disarmed by his compassion, the doctor gave Tom her number and walked away.

“Wow Tom, you’re a pro,” I said.

“Nah, she just wants to make a buck, it’s no big deal,” said Tom. “I got a great life; this is all gravy.”

The use of the word gravy clarified the source of Tom’s unique energy.

“Tom, are you a friend of Bill’s?” That’s what sober people say to feel out other sober people instead of flat-out asking them. Bill Wilson founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935.

My question was met with another enormous smile, “Why yes I am. How long have you been in the program?” Tom asked.

“I celebrated 14 years two weeks ago.” I smiled back.

Standing on the frozen sidewalk, smiling at each other, my frustration was replaced by love. Love for Tom, love for sobriety and gratitude for all human beings who were doing their best that day.

“Can I give you a hug Thayer?” Tom asked. Usually, this corny request would make me cringe, but that judgment didn’t even cross my mind. I nodded, and Tom grabbed me in a bear hug, picking me up off my feet. I wish I had a photo of that moment, the smoking pit behind us and all Tom’s co-workers looking over.

We all go through up cycles and down cycles; periods of high energy, productivity and positivity followed by fatigue, doubt, and procrastination. We are not robots. I feel disappointed when I crash out of an up cycle, wonder what I did wrong, and how I can extend it next time. Trying to force my way back into the state with a “fake it till you make it mentality” is a start, but the pursuit of it as a goal takes on desperation, which denies me access every time. I am learning that the pathway to consistent re-entry is through my heart. Connecting with people who inhabit vulnerability and gratitude opens something inside me that I can’t activate alone.

Tom’s attitude not only shifted my day; it left an imprint on my soul.