In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Oasis.”
Finding the Calm.
“Meditate Schmeditate”, my mother-in- law, Dora once said to her son, my husband, Mark as he headed off one summer day in Long Beach to find a quiet bench on the boardwalk to attend to his twice daily meditation practice. From that day on, every time Mark would go sit down to meditate he would say to me, “I am going to go “meditate-schmeditate” and we would both laugh about it.
Twenty minutes a day, twice a day for over thirty years. Rarely did Mark miss taking time out to do his Transcendental Meditation practice. When he was an educator in the New York City Public Schools, he rose 45 minutes early to meditate then showered, shaved, dressed, made his coffee and peanut butter sandwich (for the energy he needed in his high-stress –very- hectic- job as school principal) and then pack himself an apple, a few clementine oranges and some almonds. He would then get into his silver Volvo 240 to drive to East New York, Brooklyn.
In my eyes (and the eyes of many others I bet) Mark was a true enlightened warrior.
Mark took his training for Transcendental Meditation in Manhattan in the early 1970’s. Once, when I asked him what meditation was for him, he said something like this, “It helps me to focus. Meditation rests my mind. It helps me to relieves stress. TM helps me to get things done.” I often noticed he seemed happy and more relaxed when he completed his daily meditations. I admire how he stuck with it day in and day out.
When I asked him if meditating meant he turned off his thoughts he said, “No, the opposite, what it does is that I just notice my thoughts and let them go while focusing on a mantra. “ A mantra is a syllable or sound to keep your mind from wandering over to list-making and looking ahead to the busy-ness of the day ahead
Meditation, a practice thousands of years old available to each of us in endless permutations and possibilities, has become a bit of a buzzword.And I say, “none to soon”. Mark was onto something 40+ years ago.
In a recent interview at the 92nd Street Y, Ariana Huffington spoke about the many CEO’s who meditate including most famously the late Steve Jobs.
Studies using MRI’s have shown that the brains of Tibetan Buddhist monks who meditate daily and for long periods of time have shown brains with increased gamma wave activity, which help with many cognitive functions including increased compassion, improved memory creativity and test taking abilities. In short, Gamma brain waves are those that get you “into the zone “.
To my way of thinking that can only be a good thing, doesn’t your brain deserve a spa treatment?
There are health benefits. Science has shown that meditation can reduce stress, helps to lower cortisol, adrenaline production and in turn lower blood pressure.
In recent articles in the New York Times, The Path meditation center in Manhattan focuses on networking for fashion and tech millennials, through meditation. According to the article, many post-meditation deals have been made and jobs have been found. In Los Angeles, there are “Drybar” style meditation centers popping up.
This is an interesting development really just a twist on ashrams. From where I sit making new friends and business contacts at a place like The Path or Suzee Yalof’s place in LA is a happy alternative to a loud bar or restaurant. People who meditate tend to enjoy being here now. There is a shared experience when meditating in a community. It’s a peaceful practice.
In another article in the NY Times it was shown that meditation has the potential to help students to increase their scores on the big tests such as the SAT and ACT exams.
It seems that Mark was really onto something so many years ago. Meditation served him well throughout his life, working in some very complicated situations in the NYC school system. When Mark was battling cancer, meditation he remained strong , calm and uncomplaining. Though sometimes he just lost it too.
Hey he was only human.
It was because of Mark that I began my 30 year journey to yoga and meditation. As someone who is high energy, active and has the need to move, I found that for me to meditate I had to do a little yoga to limber up and release excess energy and then I could sit and enjoy the stillness. I am grateful to Mark for starting me on my yogic path.
While for me, my favorite way to meditate is in a group with my fellow yoga practitioners, it is at home on my own that the practice really unfolds for me.
For those who want to give meditation a whirl there are many places to look. There are many different types of meditations to try on youtube.com, where you can practice in your living room.
Do your best not to judge yourself. According to meditation teacher and American Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfeld, it takes many lifetimes to master meditation so why not just enjoy it? There is no right way to do it.
It can be as simple as just following the breath for 5 minutes a day while sitting still. Do this: Just sit quietly, follow your breath and it will unfold. If your mind wanders to your to-do list, just come back to the breath. Five minutes a day will get you started. After 21 days of 5 minutes of focusing on the breath, it will become a habit, like brushing your teeth.
Meditation helps us to “take out the trash” in our minds to get access to creativity and our best selves. What’s not to like?
The UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center is a good place to get some free training and introductions to meditation, marc.ucla.edu and look for the link to Free Guided Meditations. Look on iTunes for both free and paid meditations. Or youtube.com
One thing I know for sure, meditation is neither weird nor complicated.
There’s an APP for that.
Here are few apps to try some are free and some charge a fee: Breathe2Relax which is great for practice working with the breath, Buddhify 2 with lots of good information and various meditations that run from 5 to 20 minutes, Omvana has music, talks, guided meditations and much more. Search your APP store to see what’s available read reviews try a few different types of meditation.
Find your calming place, I am betting you will be glad you did.
Life is a series of lessons. The lessons often offer us a gift. The gift may come at a price.
I would like to share my lesson with you.
My husband Mark and I met in the summer of 1984 in the summer beach town of Fair Harbor on Fire Island. One of the very first things he wanted to know about me was if I knew how to roller-skate. I told him I had red clip-ons when I was a kid and wore them everywhere. Even in the house, even when I rode my bicycle.
On our first date Mark took me to the Roxy roller-skating rink, New York’s home of roller-disco a members only club where Cher, Diane von Furstenberg, Andy Warhol, Liza Minella and Steve Rubell, the great Bill Butler and Elie Tahari also skated.
For our date, I wore a pair of red carpenter pants, white sleeveless tank top and my Suzy Chafee sneaker-style roller-skates that I bought at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street on sale in 1980 when I lived on East 32nd Street. My neighborhood was a furniture district by day, a red-light district at night.
It was the 80’s. Most of the women at the Roxy wore spandex, some from top to bottom. No one but me had on those red and blue Suzy Chafee sneaker skates.
Our relationship was seemingly founded upon our twin passions of roller-skating and watching the World Financial Center and Battery Park City being built. The complex was built upon the immense landfill created from the debris and dirt excavated to create the great underground city beneath the World Trade Center. At first there was just a bunch of building skeletons on the site and we drove by so often as we left the Roxy on 18th and 10th.
As the months went by we saw the dawn of a city within a city. On a beautiful day Mark and I often liked to put on our skates and venture out to the ever-growing bike paths which were beginning to snake their way uptown past Art on the Beach and what would become Chelsea Piers.
On October 27, 1986, the day the Mets beat Boston to win the 7th game of the World Series Mark and I got married.
Shortly after our wedding (that ended with us at the 7th game at Shea Stadium) I left my job, went back to college to finish up a dangling 9 credits for my BBA, and applied to a Wall Street Temporary Agency that sent me on jobs in both the World Trade and World Financial Centers.
For 18 months, I watched the unfolding of a neighborhood and enjoyed New York at its most glorious with new restaurants and store openings and jazz Wednesdays in the Twin Towers Plaza, Kodo drum concerts under the palm trees in the Cesar Pelli designed Winter Garden, Alvin Ailey recitals, Norman Rockwell and Blue Dog exhibits, strolls to the marina for lunch, or to enjoy the sculpture and beauty of the space. It was the perfect place for me. Since I was a student again I worked with investment bankers who actually enjoyed helping me with statistics and International Finance.
One balmy summer evening in August (2001)*, Mark and I skated along the Esplanade and had the place all to our selves. As always, we enjoyed the wonder of the complex anchored by those gigantic Twin Towers with the Statue of Liberty across the Harbor watching over us.
It was a lovely moment with music playing in the background from a party boat docked at the World Financial Center marina.
Saturday September 8, 2001, was another of those delicious –end of summer-of-2001 days and we really didn’t have any commitments or plans, and we both wanted go into the city in the early evening because there was a free Twyla Tharp recital in the WTC plaza at 6:00 p.m.
And yet: When friends called and wanted us to join them at the beach, it wasn’t that we didn’t love them, we’d just spent much of the summer at the beach and a week in Fire Island yet somehow felt we “should” go meet our friends.
But something kept telling Mark something different. He wanted to go to the World Trade Center Plaza to see Twyla Tharp.
Neither of us committed ourselves to it. We didn’t make a plan and we
were wishy-washy at best.
Then my brother called to say he wanted to meet us at the beach and have dinner with us.
Instead of saying “thank you, we’d love to see you, however we have other plans, we tried to figure out how to make everyone else happy.
We didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or appear selfish, or something.
We went to the beach and then had dinner at home with my brother.
We had a “nice” time. We both felt dissatisfied with our indecisiveness. But we figured we could go another time. We resolved to go the following Sunday (9/16) to see the Paul Taylor Dance Company at the World Trade Center Plaza.
Then it was September 11th.
When we didn’t go to the World Trade Center Plaza we let it go by thinking it would still be there tomorrow.
Now we know tomorrow might never come.
Okay so he didn’t speak up.
What about me?
I asked myself what kept me from getting what I really wanted?
Old habits? Needing approval? Wanting to please everyone?
All of the above?
Yes and Yes!
I let old stories and tapes remove me from having what I wanted and I was being totally inauthentic.
There I was, not living in the moment. Not honoring what I value most.
Here is the gift of my lesson.
Get out of your own way.
Do it now.
Is there a life situation that you are holding onto that you no longer enjoy?
Take action and move yourself forward to having the life you want.
Do you say “yes” when you mean no?
Be present to You.
Who do you get to be? Right here. Right now.
Honor your intuition.
Pay attention to what the whispers of the heart are telling you, “go, do, be” and seize the moment because you truly never know the impact of not doing it.
Every action or inaction has consequences and what you make of your life is up to you.
~Nancy Mindes, January 2002
A BIG Audacious HUG and KISS to you!
Originally published in the Fashion Group International Bulletin Special commemorative September 11th 2001EditionJanuary 2002