Struggle. Struggle was my entry into meditative practice. I was the new kid at school. I had been the new kid for first grade, second grade, and now third grade. Awkward, shy, and uncertain was a recipe for teasing and bullying. It was a terrifying experience to walk into school each day, although I made sure to put on a smile and hide behind it.
I’d been hiding for a few birthdays, when my parents announced that we were going to learn to meditate. They showed us an article in the Charlotte Observer newspaper. It was an interview of a father who meditated with his kids. Because it was in the newspaper, this new thing seemed real and tangible and legitimate. I remember going in with my parents and 2 sisters. Being the oldest at 9 or 10, I was allowed to participate alongside my parents, but my younger sisters did something else. We had to bring fruit as an offering, which seemed weird. It was so specific that it had to be fruit and not cupcakes. I remember watching the fruit get placed up on a ledge. It stayed up there uneaten, even once we left.
My memory gets fuzzy, but one part of the day remains clear. I had been escorted into a corner windowed room with one chair placed in the center. I was told to sit. So I sat, and sat, and realized it could be awhile. So I shifted into the space of my greatest familiarity, space and openness, light and aliveness. I’ve got this! Reveling in my innermost dimension of being, I was surprised to hear the door open and someone approach. My 20 minutes was up. I was done.
That day marked my first official practice in the meditative experience. It affirmed what I already knew, my most real and essential nature. It did not fix my struggle with real life, however. If anything, it highlighted the chasm between inherent being and my great uncertainty of real life.
I struggled in my relationships with people. I struggled to make friends, I struggled with schoolwork, then college courses, then job responsibilities. But the struggle changed. My relationship with struggle changed. I had a place for it. I could bring this windstorm of chaos to my cushion and sit with it. This windstorm reduced to a quiet breeze and sometimes dissolved completely, showing me its impermanent nature. Struggle and chaos could arise and they could dissolve, and I grew in more of my knowing of a more enduring ground of being.
My meditative practice has brought many surprising experiences. Confidence in my knowing has at times, generated a step upon which my foot lands, as if the ground rises up in a moment of meeting. We had moved to eastern Germany, only a few years after the wall had come down. As the only foreigners in our small town just coming out from under USSR rule, the people there didn’t know what to make of this young American mother and her rambunctious twin sons. My husband worked a few towns south and travelled extensively with translators. My day began with rousing my boys for kindergarten, walking them down with our great dane Turbo, and continuing on to the Marktplatz for shopping.
As an American of European descent, I was well camouflaged walking the winding cobblestone alleys. I was even stopped and asked directions, exercising my limited German language to answer. I had had 15 whole days to learn German before we moved. While it had taken awhile to find housing, I identified right away, where I wanted my boys to go to school. We had rented bicycles to ride around exploring Weimar, and on a tree-lined shady street, there was a quaint old building with geraniums in the window boxes and a sign that read “Kindergarden”. The school had a gentle sweet quality to it that felt right. We got an appointment for an interview and I was very excited.
It turns out this was a Waldorf Schule and the late Rudolph Steiner’s home was just down the street. I didn’t know anything about this whole-child concept, but I knew I wanted my boys to go there from the feeling that I had; and then I greatly appreciated their approach to teaching through the hand, heart, and head once we arrived.
Learning by doing and learning from the inside out was my bridge. This was the seamless unfolding of my meditative practice on the cushion to interface with the world around me off the cushion. I was fortunate to come to this foreign land and discover the true sense of education. I was eager to apply and practice my own learning.
With my foundation of meditative practice, I’ve had the great fortune to grow and learn, to meet companions and teachers, and receive teachings. Recognizing them not by title but by their depth of gaze, a heart connection, and awakened presence, I’ve been gifted in beauty to realize I’d been gifted by the struggle. To stay with the struggle, not turn away but turn toward, embracing, acknowledging, receiving and abiding through its rise and fall.
So why meditative wisdom? Because I have a place to return, a place to be, a place from which all else arises. Informing my existence, my growth and learning, I am enabled to receive inspiration, integrate new knowing in body, breath, and mind and open my heart to see the world around me.