Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tides and Carmel-Covered Vocal Cords

File photo
Calvin has caramel-covered vocal cords, or so it seems to those of us listening to his guided meditation. This strapping, midwest-born, southern-bred staffing sargeant is practicing to become a spiritual director. 

After finding God in the valley, he's been steady climbing hilltops and often shares the experience with others on his journey towards a better life.

Some of us, guinea pigs really, have been journeying with him experimenting with stillness through meditation - a concept quite radical in this noisy world though certainly not new. 

As we lurch toward serenity, many of us are discovering a few of the fruitful gifts of this ancient practice: lowered heart rates; better concentration; patience, community; humility before a God of our understanding. More shall be revealed, it is rumored.

Calvin led us down a path recently towards the ocean to ponder the tide.

 "Listen to the sound of the water, as it meets the shore," the carmel cords compelled. 

We listened. We felt the hot sand and churning water beneath our toes. We breathed. We tried to "hear the sound of God listening to us," as a fellow traveler once coined.

Stomachs growled. Legs shifted. Throats cleared. Nasal passages wheezed. (Sounds of life, in all their glory, are not quiet, dainty things. Internal stillness, Janet! Inhale. Exhale.)
I tried to let go of the image running across my mind's movie screen of my teenage children laughing at me trying to sit still in a roomful of strangers. And. Being. Quiet.

A vision: a collage of friends and foe alike, who know me to be a chatty Cathy, a nervous Nellie, the princess of perpetual motion, laughing at me. I gently let that image roll by, as instructed. There's a lot of reference to water. I tried not to think of my bladder's business, having just slammed a 16-oz cup of decaf tea.

"Perhaps you're standing on the beach at high tide,' Calvin coos, 'or maybe it's low tide. Just be still and take in the moment."

Ha! Tell that to the ping-pong Olympians inside my head!! 

Breathe, Janet. 

When life seems like a series of twisted roads and painful rest stops with no end in sight, it feels like God is testing us. No, that's not honest. It feels like God has vacated the premises. Hasta luego, sucker!  A good soulful friend might use this time to remind us that the hard times pass; the good times will come again. I need to be that good friend to myself and to others. Tides go out, tides come in.

Mindfulness meditation is not an easy exercise for those with chatty minds and troubled hearts. But, as many of us are discovering, it is essential for our spiritual and emotional development. 

Call it Ground Zero for monkey minds. Call it meditation. Call it prayer. Call it communal listening. It probably doesn't matter what you call it, as long as you open your heart and mind to the idea that, with a little faith and a lot of practice, it is possible to experience stillness amidst the raging sea.

It also doesn't hurt to hear this lesson through carmel-covered vocal cords.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dear Diary?

"The fear of being laughed at makes cowards of us all."
Mignon McLaughlin

Like any reasonable woman, I am slightly afraid of the Blogosphere. Cyber crimes and wiki-weirdos notwithstanding, it seems so big and dark and scary. It's also seductive and exciting and full of new relationships in a different kind of community than I've ever really known before.

I'm trying to start a blog. I don't know who will read it and I'm not sure how to proceed. I'm more of a print gal. But, I'm just going to dive in and start swimming. I want to write about my community, my family, my friends, perfect strangers, gardens, art, cancer, journalism, faith, fear, food (goodness, I can think of all kinds of stuff.)

Blogging was made for people like me. I have kept a journal my whole life beginning with a denim-covered diary (lock and key provided) simply because I needed to write stuff down.
Some entries I shared. Some were just for me. Is that how I should approach this new-fangled form of expression?

Journals and diaries have carried me through adolescence and teen trauma to marriage, mortgages and being a mama. As I navigate my fifties with the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time, I should have enough fodder to keep Janet's Planet a lively place to orbit for awhile.

Wasn't it Flannery O'Connor who said that anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life? Amen to that!

Writing is a courageous act. To share it, even more so. I don't want to be afraid. Anybody out there?