Peace of Mind
The first time I meditated was last summer, a couple months after my longtime boyfriend ended our relationship. I wasn’t crying much at the time, but I felt like my insides were made of smashed glass — shattered and sharp, as if one wrong move could be the one that finally finished me. I was vulnerable. Delicate. And looking for relief.
So one evening I drove over to Serenity Wellness Centre. Anna Gokieli runs Tru Meditation & Yoga there and she sometimes offers free group meditations. It was a full house that night — 20 people sitting cross-legged on cushions or with their legs stretched out in front of them, pillows tucked under their knees for comfort. The lights were low and Anna’s melodic voice asking our bodies to release and soften lulled me into relaxation.
My limbs went limp, my breathing slowed. I felt my consciousness move to another place, to float freely. Was I falling asleep? I tried not to question. This is what true tranquility feels like, I remember thinking.
And then a memory flashed through my mind. It was my birthday, a few years back. Wayne, my then-boyfriend, had presented me with a certificate. He had paid to have a star named after me — so, he said, “You’ll shine as brightly in the heavens as you do on Earth.”
I managed to keep it together until the session ended and I could get to my car. I sat sobbing for 15 minutes before I was able to drive. I never went back to Anna’s group meditation.
But in the ensuing months I heard over and over from friends who meditate about how good it is for you. In the wake of my breakup, piled on top of my brother’s death three years ago and my parents’ continuing health problems, I’d begun to have panic attacks and bouts of depression. Meditation would ease these issues, I’d been told. And it would help get me up those mountains I planned to climb.
So I made an appointment for a session with Anna. Petite and lithe, there is a serenity about her that is a strong endorsement for the powers of meditation. We took places on the floor across from one another. Anna lit some incense, explaining that ritual was important to meditation. Make a place that is yours for meditating, she advised. Light candles, or incense. Make tea. Do this every time. You will be telling your mind it’s time to relax, to let go.
I told her that I’d come to one of her group meditations last summer and explained what had happened. I failed, I said — my mind had dredged up this old memory and instead of peaceful it had made me very, very sad. Anna responded that there are no rules in meditation. It’s not always comfortable. But your body and your mind know what to do to mend themselves. Perhaps, she added gently, this memory was something you needed to relive so you could heal.
I nodded, thinking about how after that night I felt like I was grieving differently. More intensely, because I was no longer numb.
Anna talked a little bit about how meditation lowers stress, eases anxiety and depression, and can even sharpen focus. She told me about the times she’d felt like she was getting sick, had meditated, and the cold had never taken hold. I was in the throes of the flu; this sounded especially good to me in my misery.
And then she led me into a meditation, her beautiful voice murmuring calming words. I was to count my inhalations, beginning anew when I reached 100. I struggled. My chest hurt from coughing and concentrating on my breath made me feel claustrophobic. But I recalled what she said about succumbing, about not judging the meditation. I held my position. Let go.
The next morning, I noticed my chest was less tight. My muscle aches were gone and so was my fever. Was it because of the meditation? I can’t say for sure, but I’m going to continue working with Anna. Because I think she’s got serenity to spare and I could use some of it myself. •SCM
For more information about Tru Meditation & Yoga, visit trumeditation.com.
Jill Gleeson is getting set for the biggest adventure of her life. Follow her journey on her blog at gleesonreboots.com and via her column at womansday.com.