guest-a-thon day 3: meditation

Still reeling, down here in Miami, from Monday’s events. My daughter is scared, and just wants to watch the news. Joan and I are also obsessed with any piece of information we can get our hands on. My heart is with all those people whose lives have changed because they were at one of Boston’s most happy days. I give you everything, people. I am fighting for you in my heart.

Anyway, the guest-a-thon today comes from my friend Steph, who I have known since I was 13, and who I will love until I am 113, wearing granny panties. She is the greatest person, true and real. And I love her so mucho much. She is an illustrator, a pilates instructor, and now an art teacher. A very talented girl, she is. And I think her post about meditation is apt, given the horrors of Monday.

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Name: Stephanie Peterson

Occupation: Art teacher

I am grateful for my meditation practice. It is a new practice, only 110 days old, and I missed once, or twice maybe. I started it as a auto ethnographic study for my graduate program’s culminating project.

I have always been intrigued by meditation, and intuitively knew that it was THE THING I needed to do to stay healthy, and happy. I needed it to deal with some issues that have come and gone but have been rearing their ugly little heads since menopause.

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I always have thought I was a happy person, and optimistic. After all, I have managed to create a pretty good life for myself. I’ve changed careers multiple times to fuel my interests, and have found success each and every time. I married a really great guy. I also have really, really good friends. What’s not to be happy about?

Well, last summer I found myself depressed, really depressed. In my mind my life was miserable, and I really didn’t care for living it very much. I latched onto little annoyances that happened in the day-to-day and turned them into stories written for a mini-series, and they didn’t have a happy ending. At least not in my mind. I knew I was doing it, and that it wasn’t how it really was, but I partly believed them, because I said them over and over, and couldn’t stop. Everyone does this, right?

Fortunately I have a really good and caring doctor, who helped me out with a cocktail of meds and hormones (don’t worry, not a very strong cocktail) that put me on my feet and helped me to function well enough to do what I had to do every day.

Five months later I started doing meditation, 20 minutes a day, in conjunction with a daily art making practice. I decided to follow the way of Insight Meditation, incorporating concentration (on the breath), mindfulness (connecting fully with the present moment), and loving kindness (toward my self and others).

One of my biggest realizations is that meditation isn’t done well or badly. All it really is, is a choice to begin again, to refocus our attention on the present, without any criticism or judgment. We let go of the distractions, and the stories that we drag along from our pasts and the ones we make up for the future. Meditation provides clarity and calm, and is so simple, grounding and so incredibly healing.

Nobody’s marriage is perfect, nor is their career or financial life or family. But one thing I hope to do, is not get caught up in the monkey mind I did last summer, and I think so far I am doing pretty well with it.

It’s a practice that I plan on sticking with, and seeing where it goes. I feel good again, and am comfortable with who I am, and am less sensitive in a good way. I am not making up stories, but enjoying the moments when I choose to bring my attention back to the present moment, and treat myself with loving kindness.

This week I am going to spend two days meditating at the Insight Meditation Center in Barre, MA. I am so grateful for the chance to be there, meditating with others, and for the possibility of it. I’ll let you know how it is, because I am not going to write the story ahead of time.

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