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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 I Came To Believe in God 1024 683 Thayer Fox

How I Came To Believe in God

Today, I love the word God. It’s direct access to power that I cannot tap into on my own. My strength depends on my relationship with this simple word. When I say it, hear it, or read it, I am reminded to get out of my way and get into faith. You can’t be fearful and faithful simultaneously. The word God creates space. It is a relief that I don’t have to figure everything out on my own. I have no idea what or who GOD is, and I don’t care.

I grew up in a Christian household where God was a man with a beard. We went to church every Sunday, and I thought it was a drag. I didn’t have an issue with God; I just couldn’t figure out my relationship with the old man, so it made me uncomfortable.

At the age of 10, when my puppy died, I knew for sure there was no God. When I was 17 my father died and my belief that “God is dead” was reaffirmed. In my 20s I believed that I was the ultimate authority, or I would transfer that power to any man I was “in love with.” Christmas was the only time I stepped foot inside a church for 15 years.

At the age of 29, I started going to church every day, to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. For the first 11 years of my sobriety, I rarely used the word God. In the rooms of AA, and in the literature, they tell you to use whatever you are comfortable with as your higher power. It just can’t be you. I used to say nature, the universe, and group of drunks (GOD as an acronym—people in the rooms of AA who have transformed their lives), until April 2015.

My son Griff was admitted into the ICU at New York-Presbyterian on a Saturday evening with a fractured skull and a massive hemorrhage. The doctors told us that surgery was too risky. They needed the bleed on the brain to clot by itself. That first night, I prayed regularly. Not to the ocean, or the members of AA, but to God. Eventually, a feeling of peace overcame me as I let go of Griff’s life. I handed him over to God, clear that I was never in charge. I was ok with either outcome.

That moment opened me up to a connection that I had not experienced before. It took me a few more years to get here. If I try to track it, there is no linear path. I read Mysteries of the Kabbalah and Mere Christianity. I learned Transcendental Meditation. I read the Buddha Bedtime series to Griff regularly. I attended two Tony Robbins workshops, in which he uses the word God liberally, and no one walks out in a huff. I visit Redeemer, a Presbyterian church that takes place in the Hunter College auditorium. I have watched three women I work with, transform in front of my eyes over the past six months.

I still don’t identify solely with being a Christian. I love Buddhism, as well as pieces of all religions. Giving up self-identifying labels has been a game changer; I want the option to say I am something else tomorrow. And whatever I choose to be, will always include God. The past year has been the happiest year of my life. If the word God offends you, that’s your filter. Keep reading anyway.

 

* My favorite Nietzsche passage as a teenager from “The Gay Science.”