I don't meditate much. I have this idea of myself as a spiritual person who meditates, but I really don't - at least not in the traditional, seated meditation. I have friends who say they don't meditate because they can't sit still, or they can't shut their brains off, etc. That's not my issue. It is, like anything else, a discipline, and not one I make time for regularly. As a woman who suffers anxiety and depression, regular meditation would be a useful tool in my kit of healing. When I fit it into my day, specifically my morning, I find myself so much more clear-headed, and calmer.
Regular meditation also fits my happy little hodge-podge spirituality I have developed for myself. Anyone who has read here long enough, or knows me well in real life, knows my spiritual story, mainly because I find spirituality a lovely part of life to discuss, when discussed with open-minded individuals, and some of my friends are kind enough to oblige my desire to discuss. I grew up in the Lutheran church, among some of the kindest and loveliest people I've ever known. The minister was open-minded and compassionate, and the people at church were family. I miss my confirmation friends to this day, and Facebook has been a blessing in that I've been able to catch up on their lives.
What I'm saying here is that nothing drove me from the church. As one with, shall we say, non-traditional beliefs, I meet so many people who have had horrible experiences with church and the people they meet there. That is not the case with me. I taught Sunday School and VBS, sang in the choir, volunteered on committees. And I realized, as I had children and put them in VBS and Sunday School, that I didn't actually believe what I was teaching. I went to church to be social, to belong, because my friends and family were there, because I liked being useful to someone. But when my children would ask me questions about God or heaven, or anything else to do with Christianity, away from church, I didn't want to tell them things I didn't believe. Shortly after I came to this realization, we found out we were moving out of state, and I didn't have to Leave the church in which I grew up. I just moved away, and began my own spiritual journey.
Interestingly enough, with all the aspects of my life which worry me incessantly, my spirituality never did. I have enjoyed this journey. I am fascinated by studying different world religions - the more ancient, the better. I've become close friends with people who practice Buddhism, Judaism, Paganism, Hinduism, and many who practice nothing at all. My own beliefs and practices are informed by a little big of all of it, along with a small dose of my own childhood Christianity, and overall informed by my knowledge that I really know nothing, and that I am okay with that. Such an odd peace to achieve, when I fret about so much else. I, who always worries what others might be saying about me; I, who has a seriously hearty case of paranoia when it comes to even my closest friends; I have had no trouble responding to people who accused me of being a bad mother because I was not raising my children in the church. "How will they know right from wrong, good from bad, if they don't know God?" they ask. My response: a person who does good only because they fear the wrath of God, does not truly know right from wrong. A good person does good for the sake of good. Because it is the right thing to do. That is my belief.
Anyway, if you've made it this far, I appreciate it. I'm not talking about this to start a debate, or for you to save my soul (please don't try to save my soul. I'm ok.) I brought this up because A. I'm feeling introspective, and B. I found myself compelled to light candles tonight.
This was a ritual I started close to 10 years ago, when we first moved here, and most of my family was out of town. It was inspired by a good and wise friend, who, when someone would talk about something bad happening, would light a candle for them. I took that bit and added in a little of the candle meditation (a very simple and gentle meditation where you focus on the flame of the candle, imagining that you are breathing the light of the candle in and out of you. It strengthens concentration, and sometimes, meditating on a focus object like this can help quiet the mind more effectively.) I haven't done this in 6 years. Life, you know. But yesterday, a coworker spent the day at the hospital with her grandmother. Last night, a good friend had to take her grandmother to chemo. The cashier at lunch today told me she was carrying malachite in her pocket because her grandmother was going through radiation treatments. And each time someone told me something like this, I said, "I will keep you and your family in my thoughts." And today of all days, those weren't just words, and I thought about all these people, and so many others, all day, and when I got home, and I didn't want to go to dinner with my family (no reason, just not hungry,) I saw it as a chance to perform the candle-lighting ritual. So I did, and with each candle I lit, I spoke what I knew of the person who is ill, and the person who is caring for that person, and their family. And then I started saying the names of others who are having some stress in their lives right now - my friend and coworker who is having to control a monster of a workload, and hurt her foot this morning; a friend who had minor surgery last week; my mother, always; a friend from boot camp who got hurt recently and I haven't seen in way too long; another coworker who lost her grandmother recently; another boot camp friend who has the flu...and then those with happy changes made their way into my, now silent, meditation...the families I love who have new babies; the friend with the new job; the friend with new responsibilities at her job; my children, for every reason; divorces, illnesses, deaths, new babies, new jobs, new houses, new coffee mugs...and soon the whole thing coalesced into one recurring thought, "May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful, and at ease."
This is the Metta meditation - the Buddhist meditation of loving-kindness. It was extremely appropriate, but I didn't light my first candle this evening intending to practice the Metta meditation. It happened organically and spontaneously, and it was rather extraordinary.
I feel at peace and very connected to you all this evening.
May we be happy.
May we be well.
May we be safe.
May we be peaceful, and at ease.