Sunday, September 14, 2014

Say the Word

There are days we remember and days we’ll never forget.  February 12, 2002 was one of those days for me.  It’s the day we discovered my step-brother took his life.  Losing a loved one to suicide is one of those defining moments in life. One that leaves you changed forever.  

We all experienced this recently in a more distant way with Robin William’s suicide, although those close to him certainly were impacted more directly. Well known, well loved, well respected for his comedic talent and acting ability...Robin Williams is one who will be remembered forever.  His death left a hole in the fabric of the entertainment world.  His suicide left all of us wondering, “Why?”  

After a suicide loss, many survivors of suicide are plagued by one question, “Why?” We try to make sense of something that seems so contrary to our human instinct for survival.  I was tormented by this question for months and carried out the psychological autopsy that is common in the aftermath - trying to piece together the precipitating events and make sense of the senseless.  This is the problem - us survivors try to apply logic and rationale in understanding the minds of those who were not in a logical and rational state at the time of their death.  It doesn’t work.  Eventually, I had to come to grips with the reality that I knew all I was possibly going to know and still did not have all of the answers.  I also came to understand that it is not just the precipitating event that is the causal factor in a suicide, but it is a multi-causal phenomonon and in 90% of the cases involves a mental health condition that possibly could have been treatable.  

After the shock of Jason’s death wore off, I went through denial. My mind didn’t want to accept reality. Every time I saw a green Honda accord, I’d look to see if he was behind the wheel.  I created a scenario in my mind to protect myself from my pain, imagining he was in a witness protection program and he was alive somewhere.  I didn’t really believe this, but I’d fantasize about it at times.

The grief would strike me at the most inconvenient moments….in the grocery store upon seeing his favorite food, in a restroom when I saw a hole in the wall that reminded me of the bullet hole he left behind in his condo, or when a certain song would come on the radio.  I couldn’t always predict when my grief would be triggered, and this left me on an emotional roller coaster ride.  

I struggled with anger and guilt and did a number on myself.  I wasn’t angry with him.  I was angry with myself. As a counselor, I felt like if someone should have seen the signs it should have been me.  I even questioned if I wanted to continue in the field of counseling and wondered if I was even competent to be practicing.  I had to learn to be gentle with myself, forgive myself and recognize that hindsight is 20:20 and if I knew this was going to happen I’d have done something about it.  The reality was I had not spent a lot of time around my step-brother in those recent months prior to his death.  Life had it’s grip on me and I was consumed with my own life and raising children.  I eventually learned not to “should” on myself, but it took time.  I realized this grieving thing truly was a process and it had to run it’s course.  

Early in the process I had an “aha” moment.  I truly believe it was God’s hand on my shoulder, grabbing my attention and telling me to use this experience for good.  It was in that moment that I realized I needed to find purpose in Jason’s death. I needed to give it meaning.  I came to the conclusion that I was meant to help with suicide prevention efforts in some way.

One of the most healing aspects of my journey was participating in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Walk in Washington, D.C.  I raised $5,000 in a month’s time and hit the streets walking.  Every step I took training for the walk was for Jason.  Every dollar that poured in was for him as well.  Each step and every dollar brought tears, but in my crying, healing was happening - little by little, step by step. The walk was one of the most powerful experiences of my life.  It started shortly after dinner, then into the darkness we walked for 26 miles.  I was prepared to powerwalk as I usually do, but in the opening speech we were told it wasn’t a race to get ahead, as in our race to get ahead, others are left behind.  We were encouraged to have conversations along the way, share our stories of grief, help people up who have fallen, be with one another’s tears.  This message hit home. I walked.  I talked.  I listened.  I cried.  I helped others along the way.  I was honored and overcome with emotion as those lining the street with photos of their loved ones thanked me for walking.  Then out of the darkness I eventually arrived at the finish line.  I did it.  I did it for Jason and for others like him.  I did it for those who are left behind after losing someone to suicide.  I did it for myself.  

I went on to help start a support group for survivors of suicide called H.U.G.S. (Healing and Understanding of Grief from Suicide) and co-facilitated that group for a number of years.  I became involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and helped start National Survivors of Suicide Day here in Charlotte.  I attended workshops and learned all I could about suicide.  I eventually was willing to work with suicidal teens and help them in their walk out of the darkness through my counseling practice.  Hearing parent share with their teens about how they'd feel if they acted on their suicidal thoughts brought the most moving and powerful moments into my counseling office, which I was privy to witness.

Breaking the silence surrounding suicide became my mission after Jason died.  So, with it being National Suicide Prevention Week, I decided it was time to use my voice again and share my story.  One thing I learned in all of this was that when I would share about my experience, I made it okay for others to do the same. In doing this, I learned just how many people are touched by suicide in some way - either they have been in that dark place themselves at some point, or they know of someone who died by suicide.  People just don’t talk about it.  We have to make it okay to talk about.  When we do, then perhaps those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts will talk about it too and reach out for the help they need.  Say the word and save lives.  Suicide.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Finding Intention When Life Interrupts

My intention is to get back to writing.  So, here I am again three years later.  What took me away?


Life interrupted...

I remarried, moved, went through a custody battle, battled to have my daughters learning disabilities identified and their learning needs met.  I struggled to adjust to a whole new life, adapt to country living and a new neighborhood.  I fought to successfully blend our Brady bunch family - my two girls and my husband's two boys.   I cleaned out my Mom's home of about 20 years, helped her move and settle into a retirement center.  I devoted Sunday afternoon's to taking her to visit my step-father in the nursing home and adapted to being her wheels.  I spent more time than I cared to commuting in my car, taking my girls to all of their various appointments and activities (tutoring, the orthodontist, doctors, softball, Brownies, youth group, etc.), their separate schools - 45 minutes apart, and back and forth between their Dad's home and mine.  All of this and work too! Yet, I fit in another triathalon - coming in 2nd in my age category....all of the running around obviously kept me in shape.  I also did a mud run - WonderWoman style...I lept over fire, hurtled obstacles...not all that different from my daily life, really.  I did manage to get away.....Aruba for our honeymoon, Disney World for Spring Break, Hatteras for the Lyon family reunion, Thousand Island Park with my side of the family, and a remote cabin near Boone with my husband that had no internet connection nor wifi. Ahhhh....finally I turned it all off.

Yet, no sooner did I get back to reality...than I was back in the rat race.....running on the treadmill of life.  I realized something had to change when I'd get in bed and feel like I was still on the treadmill. I had difficulty getting a deep breath, I pulled a calf muscle, tore a hamstring, started getting headaches from dehydration, was snapping more at my family, and finding myself in tears more often.

Ironically, at a counselor's meeting we had a wise woman counselor remind us about the importance of self-care.  She had us partition a circle according to the energy and time we give to work, home/family and self care.  In looking at the tiny sliver of self on my pie, I realized I need more pie! I sought out an old friend, Mike Whitehead, who runs a business called The Center for Intentional Leadership.  He reminded me to slow down, be still and listen to myself.  So, I disconnected from all social media and began to discover small slivers of time in my day to sit and "be."  I focused on being more present with myself - paying attention to my own thoughts and feelings and on being more present with those around me.  After five days of this, I woke up one morning and said to myself, "I'm back."

Mike's business intrigued me.  The Center for Intentional Leadership.  I thought about that word "intention."  Intention..."a determination to act in a certain way; what one intends to do or bring about." My first intention was to go on a women's retreat with Mike for three days  Getting three days off from work right before Spring Break was something I expected would be frowned upon.  Yet, my boss said, "I think you should go."  I held my breath when I told my husband how much it cost, waiting for him to gasp and close the door on my intent.  He gasped alright, but after sleeping on it, he said to me the next morning, "I think you should go." I was already learning that when we put our intent out there, the universe responds to make it happen.

Taking time away for myself for three whole days was nothing I had ever done before, not since being married and having kids anyway.  And, it was the best thing I've ever done for myself!  It was a wake-up call.  I woke-up and came to learn about the beliefs, the lies I tell myself that hold me back from living the life I intend.  I sailed to places where I was anchored and learned to "let it go."  I reclaimed parts of myself that were there all along, but were hidden from view.  I connected with amazing women who helped me see that I'm not all that different from them, that there is a common bond we share as women in our struggles and challenges no matter what we do for work - whether we manage people or a company or our homes and families - we are all leaders as we go about leading our own lives. There was hesitation as I embarked on this journey with other women, who I assumed were in positions of leadership.  I remember telling a few of them at dinner one night - "I'm not a leader."  I admitted to being intimidated to go on the retreat, because I thought I'd be a fish out of water in a sea of corporate-world, high-powered women.  Yet, an empowering dream one night had me awaken with the realization that it was all a lie.   I am a leader.  I'm a leader of my life.   I am THE leader of my life.  Once I was able to claim this, I developed a plan to live my life with intention.  I've already started implementing my plan and it is empowering and invigorating to live the life I intend.  Life interrupts sometimes.  It is what it is, but we can get off the treadmill and catch our breath, slow down and learn to take each step in the direction we so choose.

Mike told a story of someone asking Michelangelo how he got his vision to make David out of the stone he had to work with.  Michelangelo answered that all he had to do was chip away, that David was there all along.  The process Mike took us through was quite the same.  I discovered things about myself that were there all along.  The busyness of life had just gotten in the way...interrupted what I already knew, who I already was.  I had to slow down, be still, listen, let go....and it was all mine again.  I take it all and move forward with intention to live the life I want to live and not succumb to being a human doing machine, but rather to "be" all that God intends me to be instead.

And so, here I am again....writing.  It is as I intend. 

Thanks Jane, Dave and Mike!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day

It is Father’s Day.   It is natural to be thinking of my biological father, the father whose genetic make-up is a part of me.  Yet, despite the fact that I carry this man around in my denim pocket, he is no more a part of me than the other fathers I have had.  There have been many who have creeped into the crevices of my soul – seeing me and knowing me in ways my own father never could.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my Dad.  I just wish he had more interest in being an active participant in my life.  He has always been generous with his ink in cutting a check and for that I am grateful.  He has helped me out during difficult financial times.  I have gone to him for advice and he has been a good sounding board, but he has tended to play therapist much easier than Dad – emotionally distant and neutral in his responses.  Sometimes I just want a Dad who tells me what he thinks and what he feels.  I want him to be on my side and rally for me when I need him to.  I want to feel his love, to know he wants to spend time with me and looks forward to seeing me.  I want him to put his book down and be present with me when we are sitting in the same room.  I want him to make me a priority in his life – okay maybe not his top priority but somewhere above his friends, travel, and his own personal adventures. 
I realize we all probably have mixed feelings about our fathers.  We idealize them as kids then as we grow to their level and see eye to eye, all of a sudden it’s like we can see into their souls and realize they are not perfect.  It’s a disappointment that we grapple with – some for maybe only a short time and for others maybe for a lifetime.  It is hard to let go of that ideal father we so wish we had.  It’s not easy to get to a place of accepting him for who he is – just Dad. 
Despite my struggles with this myself, my Dad has taught me some important lessons and has shared with me some wisdom I live by.  From him I have learned to trust life’s process – that all will work out for the best if we so believe.  He has taught me the importance of recognizing life lessons in challenges and difficult situations and to view these experiences as opportunities to grow.  Perhaps my focus towards personal growth largely comes from my Dad and I can credit him for the career path I chose. 
Yet, there are many other father figures I must give credit to as well.  I can think of a few who have taught me important life lessons.   My step-father, despite, his mental health challenges taught me the importance of “being there” for others.  He was always there for me.  He was my audience when I wanted to model a new outfit I bought.  He would beam with pride and his eyes would swell with tears when I shared an accomplishment.  He would help me understand and appreciate politics when I challenged my resistance and took interest.   
A supervisor, Alan, challenged me to self-reflect and take responsibility for my actions and choices.  Through his sharing of parables, he demonstrated that we all have a story and can be the authors of our own.   Another supervisor, Dave, helped me develop my professional thinking and judgment – not by sharing his own but simply by asking questions that helped me connect my own thoughts and draw my own conclusions.  He gave me a model for helping to empower others to do the same.  
Ranjit taught me many important things as well– namely to not look for love outside of myself.  He taught me self-love and the importance of fulfilling my own desires.  He taught me how to breathe and find that peaceful place in my own soul.  With his lessons, I have learned to let go (if even just a little bit) of looking to my Dad to be that ideal father.  I am now more able to accept my Dad for who he is, not expect him to be any different and to recognize the gifts he has given me.  This has saved me from continued hurt and disappointment and for that I am grateful to Ranjit.
And Dave, my fiancĂ©.  With his love and support I am healing parts of myself that were wounded by my father.  He reminds and encourages me to look to the Father of us all, for what no human on earth can give.  There I can find my ideal Father!  He in turn is giving me the things my Dad never could – love, understanding, reliability, emotional availability, and validation.  Through his love and stead-fastness, I am getting re-parented and growing from that wounded child into the woman who is so ready to embrace life, love and 2nd chances.  Thank you for that Dave.  There is no greater gift!
Thank you fathers.  Happy Father’s Day!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

a time to be born and a time to die....

"With living in between," I explained to the children. 

Today was a day I will never forget.  It was perhaps the hardest and most difficult discussion I have had to ever initiate in my career.  The sweet and innocent faces of thirteen Kindergarten and 1st graders looked to me with anticipation, knowing there was big news I was about to share. I hesitated and looked to the teachers nodding as if to say, "Okay, here I go."  I then proceeded to break the news that their classmate would no longer be attending school.  Her body had grown too weak from cancer and she was expected to soon die. 

The silence of a room full of children is something you don't hear often. One student commented on how quiet it was.  "Yes, it is very quiet, isn't it?" I responded.  As the children gathered their thoughts, I sat with them in silence.  Then the questions came.  "Can she feed herself?" "Does she get to watch t.v. in her room?" "Does she know she's going to die?"  "Will there be a funeral?"  "Will we see her in heaven?"

What amazing questions these young children asked!  How open they were in sharing their thoughts and feelings!  Perhaps by initiating this discussion, we gave them permission to do so.  All too often parents, teachers and others think children can't possibly understand death.  I don't think we give them enough credit sometimes and out of our own discomfort with the topic avoid such discussions.  Yet, death is a part of the life cyle of all living things.  If we are so afraid to talk about death with children, children will learn to fear death rather than accept it as a natural part of life. 

I have had many experiences with death.  I've lost grandparents, a great aunt, a cousin, a step-brother, friends, two unborn children of my own, and many pets.  I am all too familiar with death and the grief process - having experienced it first-hand many times.  Yet, perhaps those experiences are what gave me the strength to talk about death so candidly and openly with these young children today, and for that I am grateful.  If my experiences can help someone else as painful as they may have been for me, then it is all worth it. 

"A tummy bug is very different from cancer, right?" one child asked.  "That's right," I responded. "We all get sick sometimes with tummy bugs, the flu, chicken pox,....but cancer is very different."  I went on to explain that there are many different kinds of cancer and many things doctors can do to treat cancer and even cure it in many cases, but sometimes they can't and people do die.  I assured the kids that there is nothing they did to cause their classmate to get sick - even if they said something mean to her or cut in front of her in line - none of these things could cause her to get cancer.  I also explained that cancer isn't contagious, and they can't catch it from her or anyone else.

As I sat there explaining about cancer, I thought about my own daughter's recent surgery and how ironic it is that I was having this discussion as I was awaiting the biopsy results of her lymph node.  I wondered if the pathology report would bring relief from the worry I'd been carrying all week, or if I too would experience the shocking reality of having a child with cancer.  I tried to not let my mind go there and continued....

"It is so sad when someone dies and it's okay to cry.  I have cried too."  I think of the time I sat at my desk reading the Caring Bridge website, allowing the tears to flow as I read the words of this child's grieving father.

The students shared memories of others they have known who have died - pets, grandparents, and others.  We then shared memories about their classmate - how kind, caring, helpful, and compassionate she is.  We talked about how these memories are what we will hold onto and keep with us to remember our friend when she does pass, and in this way she will always be with us - in our hearts and in our minds.  I had flashes of the smiling faces of loved ones I have lost pass through my mind as we shared these memories.  I told the kids that at first these memories may make them sad, but in time the sadness will heal and their memories will bring comfort.

The students were going to make cards for their classmate and then go out to play on the playground.  As adults, we might wonder how children could just go play after hearing such heavy news.  I let the children know that even though this very sad thing is happening that it's okay to still play, have fun, and be happy.  I remembered the joy I felt when I went dancing soon after my step-brother died and the guilt that came as a result.  I didn't want the kids to feel guilty for experiencing joy while grieving the loss of their friend.

There is a time to be born, a time to die....and in between is living.
There is a time to weep and a time to laugh....

To everything there is a season.  Life does go on, and it's okay to have laughter along with the tears.

Sunday, May 1, 2011



Balance is something I have continually strived for.  Does anyone ever have their lives perfectly in balance?  I have come to realize that with “balance” as my goal, I am living in a very tenuous state.  Have you ever tried to stand on a balance board?  You put weight on one foot then the other and try to distribute your weight equally until you find that balance, which only lasts momentarily before you are out of balance again. 
As a kid, it was fun to ride the teeter-totter or see-saw.  We’d find it fun to go back and forth, up and down, in a constant state of motion.  We might try to find that balance somewhere in the middle, but we couldn’t do it alone.  We had to work together, finding the exact positioning that would momentarily hang our lives in the balance.
To be “in balance” is to be at risk of being out of balance.  It is a constant adjustment and readjustment of all the aspects of ourselves and our lives that we are trying to bring into balance.  As a single, working Mom finding balance is no easy task.  I juggle many balls -  maintaining my responsibilities at work, caring for my girls, my pets and aging parents, maintaining a house and yard, tracking finances, etc.  The more balls I am juggling, the harder it is to find that sense of balance.  At one time perhaps I thought of “balance” as keeping those balls in the air without dropping them.  More and more though, I find I am dropping balls.            I have had to learn to say “No!” when someone tries to give me another ball, to pass a ball to others now and then, to not be so hard on myself when I do drop one, to just pick it up and try again, and  to put the balls down on occasion and rest.  
I think of yoga class and trying to find my balance in one of the yoga poses.  It is fun to try to get to that place of balance, and with practice it becomes easier to get there and easier to maintain the pose.  When I lose focus I tend to wobble and even lose my balance, falling out of position.  In that moment I have a choice, I can give up or I can try again.  In giving up, I am not recognizing that being out of balance is part of the process of learning to be in balance. Finding that balance is a constant shift and willingness to move in and out of balance.
As circumstances have changed for me in my life personally, I have essentially had to redefine what “balance” means to me.  Where once it was the goal and something that I seemed to be able to achieve rather effortlessly, now, I have come to think of balance more as a static process.  I have come to accept that at times I will feel in balance and that no sooner that I do I will feel out of balance again.  It is a back and forth momentum – like riding that teeter-totter.  As I have come to understand that being out of balance is as much a part of being “in balance” it has become easier to accept and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Is Your Facebook Type?

What’s Your Facebook Type?
If you are reading this, then you probably read my post on Facebook. 

Ahhh….Facebook, what would we do without it?  Don’t we tend to say that about the latest and greatest….cell phones, laptops, wifi, etc.  Like anything else, once you start using it pretty soon you wonder, “What was life like before Facebook?”  and “How did I ever survive without it?”  I had a friend give up Facebook for Lent.  Another who swore she was going to start a Facebook Anonomous Group.  Friends who don’t use Facebook purposely opt out, cuz they know it’s one of those things that once you start…’s hard to stop.

So, what is the appeal?  Well, I think somehow it appeals to a variety of needs.  Perhaps it allows for an expression of needs that aren’t getting met elsewhere or even for a release of our secret desires.  There are different Facebook types.  There are the competitive types who are in a race to compete to have the most friends.  There are the voyeuristic types who don’t post much but like to secretly spy on others.  Then there are the exhibitionists who put their innermost thoughts and desires out there for everyone to see.  The obsessive-compulsive who are checking FB and posting all the time, throughout the day.  The lonely, who just need to feel connected.   Will you be my friend?  The nacrcissists, whose galleries are filled with photos of themselves.  Then there are those who are seeking closure in relationships or perhaps are wondering if there’s a chance the door still might be open.  For some, the Facebook appeal may just be a means of entertainment and fun.  Yet others, see it as a means of advertising their business. 

There is nothing wrong with any of this, really.  These are all needs we have as humans.  Perhaps it can serve us well if we channel these needs into Facebook rather than express them in irritating ways in our relationships.  So, what’s the problem?  Well, the problem comes when….well, like anything else….it begins to take over your life and interfere with what is really important.  Maybe it’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning.  You walk in your sleepy haze to the computer and pull up your profile.  You squint at the brightness of your screen as your eyes are not yet fully adjusted to the light of day much less to the glare of Facebook staring back at you.  You get to greet your friends without showing your morning face.  Then you check it throughout the day, a multitude of times.  Looking for the latest posts.  Has anyone commented on mine?  It becomes an obsession.  You can’t stop thinking about it.  You’re in a meeting and you slyly glance down now and then trying not to be obvious that you’re paying more attention to Facebook on your iphone (under the table) than to your boss’ boring monologue.  You’re in your car checking Facebook at the red light only to realize the light has turned green after the car behind you lays on his horn.  You’re ignoring your kids beckoning for your attention and find yourself growing more and more irritated with them because you’ve told them, “Just a minute!” over ten times in the last ten minutes already!  Dinner is burning and the smoke alarm is going off.  You’re up into the wee hours of the night pecking at that keyboard, post after post. 

Until …one day you realize, the phone hasn’t rung in months.  You haven’t gotten together with friends in….when was the last time?  Your husband is complaining you never go to bed with him anymore.  You’re debating whether to have an affair with an old boyfriend you’ve reconnected with (on FB).  Your kids grew a foot in the last week.  The house is quiet.  Where is everyone?  Where am I?  What has happened to my life?  Do I still have a job? 

Do you recognize yourself in any of this?  What Facebook type are you?  Me?  Facebook appeals to that 4 year-old in me who fresh out of the bath lifted her towel and mooned her Dad just as he snapped a picture.  I love that I can sit in front of my computer wrapped in a towel if I want to and flash my friends without them even knowing it!  It appeals to my playful side.  I love that I don’t have to care what I look like as I carry on a conversation, as virtual as it may be.  I love that I have been able to reconnect with people whom I haven’t been in touch with for years and learn where life has taken them.  I love that so many of the people who have touched my life are right there at my fingertips…..magically connected somehow.   I love how when I run into someone that I haven’t seen in a while, it’s like I saw them yesterday and we can share a laugh together knowing some of the silliness we’ve shared through Facebook.   Facebook is one of those experiences that leaves you saying, “What a small world!” And, what a comforting thought that can be.

For those of you who realize your Facebook addiction….do something about it.  Don’t wait until your loved ones provide an intervention.  Have fun, get your needs met but then get out there and live your life.  There’s a whole wide, wonderful world waiting for you!

What other FaceBook types can you identify?
What do you love about FaceBook?
What are the dangers ?
Please share…….

Monday, September 20, 2010

More on Meditation

by Diane Reid Stewart, March 6, 2009
I recently commented to a friend…”I’d love to be able to get into people’s heads, you know read their minds, know what they’re thinking.” He said, “Not me!” “Really, why?” I asked. He chuckled.
“What?” I was dying to know what he was thinking. “Oh, nothing,” he said, making me ever more curious. “No, tell me,” I begged. “Well, it’s kind of like wanting to know what’s inside a hotdog. I really don’t want to know.” I just had to laugh. Thinking about what goes through my mind each day and comparing it to a hot dog…maybe not all that dissimilar. Scary thought! I do hope my mind is healthier than a hot dog, though sometimes I do wonder.

I have one of those minds that is constantly going, hard to turn off. “Monkey brain”, my meditation master calls it. That incessant chatter that plays as if it’s on auto-pilot. Ranjit tells me I have an overactive mind. Highly creative. Lacking focus. I remember my first meditation with Ranjit. As I closed my eyes I immediately became aware of the incessant flow of traffic on a nearby highway. In contrast, I heard birds just outside the window quietly chirping. I commented to Ranjit, “My mind is like that traffic… constantly going. I want my mind to be more like the birds…a peaceful, sweet song.”

“Relax….your….mind. Relax….your…. body,” I hear his voice in my head as I breathe in and breathe out. With each breath I begin to focus less on what’s going through my head and more on my breath and my breathing. I chant my mantra in my head in rhythm to the inhale and exhale of my lungs. My mantra…that Ranjit gave me in exchange for a piece of fruit. What does a banana have to do with these words I say silently to myself? I don’t know, but my mantra was exactly what I needed. The words mean exactly what I was hoping to achieve through meditation. Peace.

As I slip into that peaceful place, it’s as if I let go of my mind and body. There is a rising sensation, and I feel as if I’m floating somewhere above my body…aware but removed from the restraints of my own skin. My mind feels as if it opens up, my sinuses clear. All is quiet. A sense of inner peace washes over me. I bask in this sensation, losing track of time and space. Connecting to a universal energy I feel “at one” with the world and all of life.

I open my eyes and hope this peace will sustain me throughout the day. I try to hold onto it, as I’m growing impatient with my daughter slowly gathering her things to get out the door in the morning, or as I’m sitting in traffic that doesn’t seem to move as fast as I’d like. I try to bring it back, as I am bombarded with phone calls and people showing up at my office door…everyone wanting something from me. Sometimes I just have to shut my door and take a few breaths. I’ve trained my mind…to let go with just a few breaths. It amazes me how quickly I can calm the chatter now, after months of daily meditation. Like anything, once practiced enough it becomes more automatic, second nature.

As I’ve come to find this peace within myself, I find I’m responding more and reacting less. I’m calmer and less emotional. I’m clearer in knowing what I want, how I feel, and what my intuition is telling me.
When I have an important decision to make, I might mediate on it and and find I know just what I need to do. If there is a question I want answered, I meditate on it, and I discover I have the answer by the time I open my eyes. A concern, and I give it to the universe in a meditative prayer, knowing it’ll be taken care of and I no longer need to carry it.

Ranjit advised that I mediate 5 out of 7 days a week. He warned me not to stop practicing, and told me I’d lose all that I had gained if I did. So, I deligently got up at 5:45 a.m. every morning to meditate before beginning my day. I was consistent in my practice for many months. Until, I slowly slipped out of my routine. Perhaps it was my daughter waking me regularly in the middle of the night and disturbing my sleep. It became harder to get out of bed in the morning and easier to just hit that snooze button. This went on for a month or two, and I slowly felt the anxiety creeping back in, the negative thinking, the reactivity to external events. I wasn’t liking myself again and how I was feeling inside. I knew what I had to do. I went to see Ranjit.

It didn’t take me long to regain my sense of peace. I was grateful. I didn’t beat myself up for falling out of practice, but knew what I needed to do to get back on track. It was an important lesson for me to realize just how helpful the meditation is and what a difference it has made in my life. Sometimes we need to be reminded of where we’ve come from in order to keep from going back.

So, on those weary mornings when I want to roll over and go back to sleep, I think of the peace I’ll feel if I just sleep-walk to my living room where I meditate. When I think of hitting that snooze, I remember my “aha moment” when I first realized that our world would be so much more peaceful if everyone meditated before starting their day. I remember the commitment I made to myself, to bring peace into the world by first finding it within myself. And, I slowly slip out of my warm, comfy bed out into the crisp morning air, take my seat on the couch, close my eyes and breathe….