There’s a reason why, on September 19th, I’m putting on a Morning of Meditation. It starts about seventeen years ago. Back then, my life was a “textbook” case for happiness. Every key checkbox of fulfillment was marked: Ph.D., successful career, caring friends, great health, lovely home, wonderful husband, and awesome daughters. According to typical social measures, I “should” have been fully content. But I wasn’t. All these accomplishments couldn’t fill an undefined, unsatisfying, palpable nagging void. I realized that nothing on the outside would bring the peace I sought; I had to turn within. So, as an act of “last resort,” I took my first step into the San Diego Zen Center.
I was no stranger to “inner” work. I had worked to understand myself since middle school and, to be honest, part of my motivation to pursue a doctorate in psychology was hoping it would help me “get me” better. I’d been in therapy intermittently, attended personal growth workshops, and had a religious affiliation. Yet, still, the void.
When I met my husband in 1998, he was already a long-term meditator. At that time, I thought meditation and meditators were weird. You know, “those people.” I remember being self-conscious when he tried to introduce me to meditation one afternoon while sitting on the beach. No thanks, I thought. That’s you, not me. I’ll just keep running, my primary form of meditation. But as each box got successively checked, I became more and more frustrated that I would never be satisfied.
Shortly before my 40th birthday (decade milestones are sharp reminders of the ticking clock) I decided to join my husband one evening at the Zen Center. I was curious and also skeptical. I followed along with the bells and bows, listened to a talk I only partly understood and had a formal conversation with the teacher. And even though I didn’t know what I was doing on the cushion, or what this “practice” was all about, I was inexplicably hooked.
The concept of “practicing” presence, the idea of “craving and aversion” as a source “suffering,” and the emphasis on a supportive community and teachers made so much sense. But more so, I started experiencing moments of presence on the meditation cushion, and these felt like spiritual and mental breaths of fresh air. Over time, I realized that being present to “what is” was the growing answer to the void.
Meditation continues to be a pivotal part of my life, and invaluable in so many ways: I have more self-awareness, more patience, less reactivity, more ease with difficult relationships, and more grace with navigating major challenges. It is not a panacea nor without effort and patience, but it is like exercise: irrefutably positive in every way.
Still, after all these years, it is challenging to meditate alone. For me, and for most practitioners, being part of meditation communities and attending retreats are key ways to sustain a practice. I meditate more consistently, sit stiller for longer periods of time and go deeper when I’m with others. That’s why I created a Thursday Morning Meditation group, a time and space for ladies who want meditation guidance and support. A small (and growing) group of us love our meditation time together, even though much of it is in silence.
So, there’s my story and why I decided to put on a Morning of Meditation.