I’m meditating in a wardrobe and a coat hanger is digging into my foot. I’m here because it’s the only private place in our home since a family member returned and I gave them my meditation room. The session is nearly over and my neck is stiff. The breakfast clamor works its way into my brain and I’m glad when the alarm beeps; it’s been an hour and I’ve barely moved.
Nancy, my Jack Russell, sits beside me as she has every morning for five years and the alarm is her cue to approach me for her morning pat. I tickle her chin, stroke her ears and rub her underbelly before rising from my cushion and staggering into the light.
It’s the same every day: wake up, shower, sit in wardrobe. On the rare occasions I’m unable to meditate, something feels awry. It’s as if I’ve walked out of the house without brushing my teeth or combing my hair — it has become an essential part of my life. This is because this ancient practice of stilling the mind keeps me sane.
The thing is, meditation is really, really good for you. Over the years, I’ve felt a gradual lessening of a mental and physical weight and I feel lighter, stronger and less buffeted by life’s vicissitudes. Most importantly, there is “space” around my thoughts and by that I mean I don’t take my thoughts as seriously. It’s as if there’s me (the witness) and then there’s my thoughts. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say I don’t take my thoughts to be me — at least not as much as I once did.
If you’ve never meditated before, midlife is a good time to start. In fact, it could very well make such a difference that you might wonder how you existed without it. If you’re interested, I suggest you start gently with yourself — and I do mean gently. Sit in a chair with your back straight and close your eyes. Bring your attention to your breath and keep it there. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the breath. Do this every day for a week and then see if you can do it every day for the next week. Then see what happens…
And so it goes. Another morning with Nancy in the closet and another coat hanger underfoot. My wardrobe may not lead to Narnia but it it might just show me a glimpse of Nirvana.