I’ve always been a firm believer in meditation as a destresser, and took up the practice while I was writing my masters thesis. After a walk in the park, I would sit on one of the benches and set my timer for 15 minutes; I used meditation as a way to download my thoughts in an effort to make room for the flow of creativity. Post college, I found myself training to become a suicide prevention counselor. The trainers preached “Self Care” often, and so I signed up for a couple of Deepak Chopra’s 21-day meditations…. I like his guided programs, with titles like “Manifesting Grace through Gratitude” that use Sanskrit mantras to help distract one from intrusive thoughts.
When I began working at Tri-Valley Haven, I found myself in training again. This time as a domestic violence/sexual assault advocate. What with the difficult subject matter, the work can be emotionally taxing. “Checking in” with our trainer and practicing self care is strongly suggested here as well. As it happens, meditation came back into my life via my husband; he found a like-minded group that meditates once a week for an hour. With him, I began to appreciate the long sit, and the added impromptu dinner date after.
I had learned about Spirit Rocks Meditation Center from my sister who lives nearby, so I put myself on their email list. An “Intro to Insight” day-long meditation course came up that worked for me and I signed up for the March 5th event. I was excited to go and practice “Vipassana” or “mindfulness” meditation at the beautiful 412 acre property in Marin, but then considered canceling. The “worst storm of the season” was predicted for that day and I wasn’t thrilled about driving 63 miles in pelting rain. As it happened, there was barely a drizzle when I woke early Saturday so I decided to embark on the journey. It turned into a steady rain in the middle of the drive, so I planned a sleepover with my sister.
I am so happy I made it to Spirit Rocks. The place exudes peacefulness and I felt extremely grateful to be there. While sitting in the chair amidst 150 or so meditation enthusiasts, I learned that “Insight” meditation is slightly different from the standard meditation I was used to. Instead of trying to ignore your thoughts, the idea of Insight is to observe and sit with them, as if you’re an investigator. But my back was bothering me, so I moved from the chair down to the front of the room using my new comfy backjack.
I appreciated being in the direct line of the breeze from a window they opened. And as I went into meditation, the pitter patter of the steady rain on the vents was prominent. The tinkling sound brought me back to 1992 where, in my mother’s bedroom, I sat feeling helpless as she struggled with the pain of cancer. She must have sensed my anxiety because she told me that the sound of the raindrops was peaceful, almost like a symphony. And in the midst of my first meditation sit, I had to swallow a tear.
Then it dawned on me that I could do the same thing that Ellie did, use the rain as a tool to create a sense of peace in my meditation. And later on, in the final sit, a tear of joy quietly fell as I realized I had received a wonderful insight…not only did Ellie ease my own anxiety by calming herself, her empathy shone through…23 years after my mother’s passing, her spirit rocked. She gave me insight on my practice, reminding me to use nature as an aid…the rain as a symphony of peace. ###