When I was in my mid teen years, I volunteered at our school library, helping to reshelf books. I would go in after school and push the squeaky wheeled cart through the rows of books. The librarian could hear the wheels squeak and stop as I snaked my way through the stacks. The cart would go silent for long periods of time. In retrospect, I was probably one of the most unproductive volunteers the library had. Books had a way of distracting me. One afternoon, cozied in a distant corner of the stacks, I discovered Ralph Waldo Emerson. I read “Self Reliance” and “Nature”. Being sixteen was not easy for me and somehow these writings transported me to a place of solitude and silence. The writings allowed me to be comfortable with being alone. I gained confidence and strength from sitting in the library ingesting the peaceful prose.
Since then, I have read many different authors, many different books. But, thirty years later, in the midst of 2020, Ralph Waldo Emerson came back to me. In particular, this quote:
“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whisper of God” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
In the spirit of being silent, I began a journey with meditation this year. That sounds very lofty and refined, but my motivation was the opposite. I was simply interested in getting away from my family and taking a few minutes for myself. We were in the midst of weeks without being able to escape each other when I started meditating. I was already in the habit of working out in our basement daily, but decided to add ten minutes of guided meditation, just to extend my time alone a few moments longer. Oh yes, my initial reasons were admittedly selfish. I had often attempted to meditate, as a reactionary response. I would meditate if I was feeling anxious, I would meditate if I couldn’t sleep. It was sporadic and not a very disciplined practice. I never considered meditation as a preventative action. In the midst of the disquieting fear brought on by a pandemic, I began a daily meditation practice.
I didn’t notice anything at first. Sure, it was nice to sit in solitude for a few minutes, but the rest of my life felt the same. I still had insomnia and got easily frustrated and worried about everything. You know, normal mom worry plus pandemic worry.
After about a week, I noticed that I actually looked forward to working out all day because I knew I was going to meditate after. Despite being a daily exerciser, I never really enjoy it that much and tend to dread my workout. Getting excited to go into my basement workout space was a new experience for me.
After about a month, I noticed I was sleeping through the night. I had developed terrible insomnia in my forties and this new found rest was a relief and a renewal for my weary soul.
Ten months now into my daily meditation journey, I can definitely say my anxiety level has significantly reduced. My emotional regulation skills have improved. Things that frustrated me before have little effect on me. Meditation has helped me gain control over my consciousness. It has helped me guide my thoughts towards productive thinking. I am aware of negative thinking patterns and can quickly disassociate from them. Meditation is called a practice because you are literally practicing how to retrain your thought patterns so that you may keep your mind more healthy and more efficient. It’s like working out for your mental well being.
As nature opens up in Michiana, I have been able to enjoy the meditative pleasures in gardening or hiking in St. Pat’s park. The time I spend doing these things remind me of the days I spent in that dusty library, years ago, pouring over Ralph Waldo Emerson. But, despite more opportunities to shut down the chatter, I continue to set aside my ten minutes a day for strict meditation.
At the moment, I am incredibly grateful for what this last year has brought me. It has led me back to the feelings I felt in that library, spending time with Ralph Waldo Emerson. It has given me my solitude back. My soul feels renewed. My mind is clear. My spirit is fed. And, during the void of silence, I am hopeful for what is next in this unexplored world, during this miraculous time of change.
Music: "Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode