This week, I completed my 9-week meditation course. Although I knew it was a powerful and important course from the beginning, it wasn’t until this final session that I realized what I’ll be missing each week.
We were a group of 30 individuals, all with different histories and experiences, coming to the course for our own reasons. Some people were dealing with chronic pain or illness, some were dealing with stress and anxiety, while others were just curious about what meditation could give them.
When I think about all the changes that took place since the first class, I’m amazed by the transformation. Many of us came to the course hardened by life’s experiences, and over the weeks, softened and opened up to our true selves. Buried not far beneath a surface of all that pain, illness, anxiety, stress, depression, and frustration were our own inner resources, strengths, and beauty.
In the beginning, I felt disconnected from the others, and that we each had our own particular road to travel. But as I left the group this week, I realized that we were on a journey together, and that the experiences of my fellow class-mates are as important as my own. Through community, our individual development was nurtured, honoured and made real.
Here are a few examples of what we shared:
After a group meditation where we focused on a nature scene, one woman shared her experience of being visited by her deceased father, who was standing at a river bank, as though they were hiking together as they had so many times in her youth. She described feeling overwhelmed with love, emotion, and with the certainty that her father was there with her during her meditation.
Another woman shared with us that after several weeks of reduced anxiety as a result of the meditation course, she felt it return this past week in anticipation of the end of the program. Rather than distracting herself with work as she had in the past, she spent the evening meditating and practicing yoga. In the process, she came face to face with her anxiety, allowed herself to experience it, and realized her own courage for the first time.
One man in the course recently realized that the body heat he experiences while in seated meditation was in fact his body’s expression of his own anger. When he greeted it with openness rather than judgment, he finally felt it slip away.
Reflecting on my own experience in the course, I can name many important moments of insight and clarity that I will take with me for all of my days.
Two weeks ago, we participated in a “Day of Mindfulness”, a day-long silent meditation retreat that always occurs close to the end of the program. The day included seated meditations, yoga, walking meditation, a body scan, and a lunch hour to ourselves. What I found during that day was a sense of peace that I think I’ve experienced only a few times in my life.
Within the silence, memories from a past that I didn’t know existed surfaced. It felt as though my spirit was sending me gentle reminders of who I am and who I have been, beyond this lifetime. I realized that my soul is deeply spiritual and connected to nature, and that I’m not “discovering” my spirituality, because it has been there all along. During one of my meditations, I had a vision – or perhaps a memory – of sitting on a dock late at night, looking up at the stars and listening to the gentle waves hit the shore. When my husband came to get me, I realized we were both very old. It was beautiful and comforting, and it felt like home.
These are only a few of the gifts I’ve experienced through meditation – somehow forgotten beneath a myriad of distractions that have filled up my life.
As the course came to an end this week, I wondered where my journey will take me next. Some of my questions were answered in our final meditation together, when voices within me spoke this message:
Where are you?
I am here.
Will you ever leave me?
No, I will never leave you.Moved by this beautiful message, I began reciting the words in my head so I wouldn’t forget them. My thoughts were interrupted by this final message:
I am with you always and will love you always.
You are loved.
Those are only words, not truth.As I bring these lessons forward, I'm reminded of the words of T.S. Eliot:
Be your truth.
“In my end is my beginning.”