Apple – check. Ditto, small white handkerchief. The year is 1973, and I’m a newly minted college grad, about to embark on what will turn out to be a lifetime effort to meditate successfully. The apple and hankie we were told to bring with us to the lesson. This will be their last appearance in this post because i cannot recall their role in my instruction.
I’m prompted to make meditation a regular practice because a) I feel inept, out of sorts, and any number of unwanted emotions much of the time and b) the oldest story – because of a guy. He may be a tale for another day, but for now I’ll just say that I fell for an Eastern-religions-inclined man during college for whom meditation played a key role in his physical, spiritual and emotional well-being. I’d lost touch with him by the time of my training, and I suppose that my effort to follow in his spiritual footsteps was a way to feel connected to him despite his absence from my life.
We were told at the session that meditation would lead us to “right action,” meaning our heads would be so straightly screwed on that we’d usually do the correct thing. This especially appealed to me and still does. The only other thing I recall from my inculcation was my mantra. We were told never to reveal it to anyone, but I may have given it to one of my kids in some long-ago effort to calm them down. I believe i felt a little guilty about it, as if I’d betrayed some sacred trust. In any case, I will not be revealing it here.
I took my meditation seriously for a while, though I’ll confess to a considerable amount of difficulty keeping my “monkey mind” focused. I’m sure I have undiagnosed ADD.
I meditated on and off for years, well, actually, decades. But I felt I never got the hang of it, my mind wandering off into countless fruitless directions. I tried an online program, and then another highly recommended by a friend. Neither took hold.
And then there’s yoga. There’s less of a story here. All there is to say is that I’ve tried yoga several times, and it hurt, and it was hard. I hated it.
But then….along came Parkinson’s. And, besides exercise, what do you suppose are two of the most frequently recommended practices for keeping disease progression at bay? Yup, meditation and yoga. i learned this early on in my diagnosis, and cringed at the notion of having to incorporate one or both of these practices into my routine.
Besides, I was already doing plenty, Parkinson’s-wise. A weekly dance class. I never miss Saturday ‘s boxing class. Singing and dancing. If you don’t believe me, here’s proof. Lots of walking; I shoot for an hour a day at least. I’ve just acquired a stationery bike, which means I’ve really upped the ante on aerobics.
Giving up dairy. I mean, no more cheese? Come on. And yet, I’ve been a dutiful patient; ricotta and brie are off the menu (mostly).
And today, I made an important decision. No more expectation that I will be a fully engaged meditator, though I imagine I’ll dip my toe into those waters occasionally. I think almost fifty years represents a fair effort. And now, I’m sort of throwing in the gamucha (lBengali for towel).
As for yoga, well, I hope it won’t take fifty years, but there is a a local yoga class designed specifically for people with Parkinson’s. I don’t have fifty years to decide whether it’s right for me or not, but I’m willing to give it at least a few weeks.