Tag Archives: Meditation

On Being Loved

If you have as many true friends as you can count on one hand, that’s a lot.

I can’t remember where I first heard it, but it’s stayed with me for years. It has held me up when I’ve been alone, afraid, and unconvinced that there was such a thing as feeling better. It’s what keeps me holding my friends close and trying to be to others who they are to me.

Since friends are special and since Valentine’s Day is coming up, I wanted to say a few things about friends, about the people who have come to be my people. February 14 is the day we’re supposed to remind our people that we love them, though I try not to let mine forget.

True friends are the people who have stopped what they were doing to be happy or sad with me, who tell me when I’m wrong and cheerfully admit when I’m right, who have welcomed me into their arms and homes and lives all over the world, who have seen me grow, who want for me what I want and don’t mind how often that changes. These are the people who I turn to at any time for any reason because they’re always glad to have me. These are the people who I can (and have) called at odd hours with laughter and with tears. These are the people who witness my life the way that I witness theirs.

Like any relationship, that with friends ebbs and flows. The people who immediately come to mind when I think of counting on one hand (which, admittedly, is a very rare occurrence) have remained largely static for some time, but I always find it interesting to observe how, why, and when that changes. Life changes. People change.

But what doesn’t change is the warmth and love that all of these people make me feel. Being reminded, flooded, with all of that love augments my desire to bring warmth and love to everyone else. I’ve found loving-kindness meditation to be particularly helpful in guiding me to let go of frustrations, irritations, and anger that get in the way of the compassion and caring that I prefer to feel. It’s also a good reminder of everyone who loves me – and I admit that sometimes I do need a reminder.

Valentine’s Day can be difficult for people who don’t feel like they have people. The circle of people in loving-kindness meditation ultimately extends to all humanity, so I can assure you that you’ve got me.

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Made by Hmong women in Sapa, Vietnam

To all of my people, thank you for everything. Love you now, love you always.

Dance Class

I grew up dancing. I started in dance classes when I was three, competed for a few years in elementary school (think: sequins, makeup, anxious mothers fluttering around), taught dance in high school, joined a dance troupe the first or second week of college, took a ballroom dance class for credit. In addition to ballroom, I’ve danced ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, hip hop, and modern.

And then I stopped.

I guess other things took priority. At first I was a new teacher and grad student, and then I started spending a lot more time running or working out at the gym. I started doing yoga instead of dance because I could follow videos on YouTube and it seemed like less of a commitment when I was trying to write a thesis.

And then dance just melted away. It became this thing I had loved and had done – past tense. As years passed, apprehension and ego took over each time I thought about trying again. What if I’d forgotten everything? What if my feet slipped out from under me? What if my legs got twisted around and I turned the wrong way? What if, oh gosh, what if I was bad?

This was a concern because I used to be good, good at tap in particular. What if that was no longer the case?

But I knew that I missed it. I’d taken my dance bag with me to multiple countries and let it sit in the back of the closet, a not-so-gentle reminder of a love I’d let lapse.

Back in September, I took a step towards a new thing by starting meditation through a program at school and I learned, actually learned, what I tell my students all the time: It’s okay to be inexperienced. It’s okay to ask for clarification or advice or express uncertainty. Meditation reminded me that we all start somewhere and that it’s okay to start over.

So just last night, I took my first tap class since college. I will admit that I was nervous. I slept fitfully the night before and woke up early with a hint of anxiety just under my sternum, which is usually where I find anxiety when I (mindfully – thank you, meditation) probe for and analyze it.

But when I walked out of class, I felt like I was flying. I’d forgotten a lot but there were more steps that started to come back to me. I’d forgotten to keep my knees bent and toes pointed outwards. I’d forgotten when to shift my weight to the opposite foot and I did get twisted around a few times. But I remembered the three distinct sounds of a riff and how to spot a turn (on my right side, at least). I remembered flaps, shuffles, cramp rolls, and the ball changes that go along with them (at slower speeds, anyway).

I’d forgotten that dance is why I never used to paint my toenails and that it consistently leaves me with a high beyond anything running usually accomplishes. I’d forgotten that I used leave class laughing, testing out steps on the sidewalk, silently chanting the rhythms we’d been practicing. I’d forgotten why dance had been a priority for so long and I’m still not sure how I lost it.

I could not be happier to find it again.

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A New Thing I’m Doing

I’ve been a regular yoga practitioner for about six years now and I’ve grown increasingly curious about mindfulness and meditation. I’ve done some reading and attempted one guided meditation (after letting the website just sit in GoogleKeep for weeks) that I did enjoy. But I have found it difficult to appreciate the quiet that (I think) is supposed to come with mindfulness and meditation. A year ago, I actively avoided silence because lack of noise was never actually silent –  it was whisperings of thoughts I didn’t want to have but couldn’t stop having. I turned to podcasts and NPR as a way of listening to something other than what was going on in my own head.

I’m in a much healthier place now and I’m trying to break habits that I purposely developed to avoid reality. After a recent experience where I fell into stillness, I made the decision to deliberately seek out more quiet and blank space than I was used to. Last week, cooked a few meals without a podcast in the background for the first time in at least two years since I’ve done that. I’m not hiding from quiet any more and that feels empowering.

Right now, day-to-day living is easy. I’m comfortable with myself and I’m happy. So, basic needs met. Time to try something new.

Enter mindfulness. We have a faculty/staff fitness program at school, which is how I’ve taken weekly yoga classes in the past. I’m doing that again, but this year one of my colleagues is also offering a mindfulness class. I didn’t immediately sign up, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it, either.

The first class met this afternoon.

He told us about his experiences living at meditation centers for years at a time, some of which I already knew. He introduced us to Osho Kundalini meditation, an active meditation divided into four 15-minute parts. We shook, danced, sat, and lied still. The music changed to introduce each stage. Bells indicated the end of the fourth stage. I enjoyed the music, the movement, and the freedom that came with closing my eyes and doing whatever my body decided it wanted to do. Time didn’t pass quickly, but other than lying in savasana at the end, I didn’t pause to wonder how much time had passed.

But I couldn’t shut my mind off.

I couldn’t stop thinking. I was doing okay until I thought that I might blog about the experience, and then I began writing this post in my head. That’s not infrequent, but this post contains almost nothing of what my “meditating” self thought it would. I made a couple to-do lists. I reviewed plans for a party we’re having tomorrow. I thought about how I was feeling and how long it had been since I’d formally taken a dance class and what I was going to have for dinner. I thought about not berating myself for being so busy when I was supposed to be so internally still.

I tried, I really did. I tried counting the beats of the music while I danced. I tried keeping a pinch in my shoulders during the seated meditation to keep my back straight. I tried counting breaths. But my mind was curious and loud and it stayed that way.

And then the bells rang and it was over.

When I got home my roommate asked me how it went. I didn’t know how to respond because I had enjoyed the meditation hour but hadn’t had the type of moment I expected to or had hoped for. But at the same time, I really didn’t know what I’d expected or hoped for. I’m not sorry I spent an hour in meditation class after school, but I can’t say that I meditated. I certainly wasn’t mindful. So how was it? I can’t quite say. It was new, that’s for sure.

The only thing I do know is that I’m curious and want to learn. I’m open to new things and I know new things take practice. So far, I’ve learned that meditation doesn’t only mean listening to someone speak soothingly while you sit and focus on what they say. Learn something new every day is a rule that I live by.

Since I’ve already learned one new thing, that’s enough reason to go back for more.

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An alley in my neighborhood during a walk in the rain