10 July 2007

A Meditation, NOT transindental.

I took a class today about meditation. The reason for the extremely late posting of the Tuesday Brain Dump post is that I was in class until 10pm, and it is likely that although this post will have the date of 10 July, it won't go live until the 11th. It will take me too long to write all about it.

Imagine my big surprise when I discovered that several things that I do almost daily are considered meditative. I walked into the class knowing almost nothing at all about meditation, and don't know all that much more now, but I'm pretty astonished to know that my running is meditative. Who knew? The fact that I can't concentrate on anything at all except putting one foot in front of the other while I'm running is sort of a meditative state. How 'bout them apples?

The Sun Salutation that I do every single day is also meditative. Huh. I'm in "a zone" when I'm moving through those yoga poses, and darned if that doesn't count.

The instructor for the meditation class led us through several guided meditations, and as she was speaking, instructing, in between each meditation, my mind was going 1000 miles an hour, spilling all sorts of ideas, a burst of creativity that I haven't felt for a few weeks. I plan to spend some time working on my novel tomorrow, updating and changing something from a flash of inspiration I got during class. I'm so energized, I can't explain it. I scribbled notes all over the handouts she gave us, pages and pages of stuff.

My favorite meditation she did with us is copyrighted, so here's the gist. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Sit or lie down or whatever makes you comfortable. Imagine a time and place where you felt "at home," whenever and wherever that may be. "At home" in your own skin, with who and where you were/are. In your mind's eye, see it clearly. Remember all the smells, sounds, colors, even tastes if there are any. Take yourself to that time and place, lose yourself in it.

If you know me at all, or read this blog regularly, you know EXACTLY where I went. Sweden. Of course. I felt more at home there than I ever have before or since. It is something that I have a very difficult time explaining to anyone. I loved it there, and from the first minute I just felt that I had 'come home.' Someplace that my soul remembered, even if my eyes and ears did not.

The first time I went to Stockholm, Sweden's capital, I was with a boyfriend. Who turned out to be a complete loser, but that's neither here nor there. He isn't important to the story at all, except that he was the first person to show me many of the places I'm going to tell you about. We drove, unusual in itself, instead of taking the train. He parked the car, and we walked from some random, generic parking lot to a part of Stockholm called Gammla Stan, literally, Old Town.

You cross a stone bridge to get in to Gammla Stan, a bridge that may well be more than 300 years old. Gammla Stan has been occupied for somewhere around 800 years. Cobblestone streets, narrow by-ways, no cars, this is old Europe even before Europe was old. The second, the INSTANT, that I set foot on those cobblestone streets, I felt like I'd returned after a long absence, that this was "home" and that I belonged, truly belonged there.

My great-grandmother was a full-blooded Swede, left the old country in the early part of the 20th century in search of work and a better life. We have pictures that bear a photographer's mark from Eskilstuna, a town that was only 30 kilometers from my 'hometown' in Sweden of Kungsor. I know that great-gran was in Stockholm at one point, but I do not know if she ever called it home. It is very likely that she walked the same small streets in Gammla Stan that I did. Over the years and many visits to Stockholm, I've walked every single street in Old Town. I love it there. It is as expensive to live there as it is to live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, so it is unlikely in the extreme that should I ever live in Sweden again (and the chances for that are pretty slim too) that I'd live in Gammla Stan. It is the province of Old Money, OLD, OLD Money. But I did stay there, a couple of times, once in a hotel and another few times in a borrowed apartment.

The second time I visited Stockholm was with an exchange student pal whose last name means "LittleFlower" in its original language. I called him that, too, really, I did. Good goddess, I was an obnoxious teen. I digress. LittleFlower's host family was money, M-O-N-E-Y, and in addition to their primary residence in Sweden's far north, they owned this Old Town flat, plus a home in the south of France and a place on Sweden's equivalent of Martha's Vineyard. Like I said, money. Really, really great folks, just rich. LittleFlower and I stayed in the Old Town flat a couple of times, and each time, I slept like a baby, felt as if I was Queen for a Day or Weekend.

The sounds of Old Town are the babble of many languages, not just Swedish, as visitors from all over the world visit the Riksdagen (Parliament) and the palace that are located there. Carts being pushed, as cars can only travel through very limited parts of Old Town. The footsteps of thousands. The commands shouted by the guards at the palace as they go through that familiar ritual of the changing of the guards. But there are also quiet places, I have a picture of an alleyway, really, not a street, although there are apartments on it, where you could reach both walls simply by stretching out your arms. The sense of history, of age, presses in on you from all sides in places like that.

The smells are of the sea, the treats that are typically Swedish, salt licorice and cocoa-balls. Each time I'm in Stockholm, I indulge in a very typically Swedish thing, mashed potatoes purchased from a street vendor drizzled liberally with a spicy mustard. I know how strange it sounds, but yum, trust me. Hey, don't knock it till ya try it. The smell of the mustard and mos, as mashers are called for short in Swedish, takes me straight back to my very first visit with the boyfriend, where he insisted that I had to try it. It was part of his family's ritual every time they visited Stockholm, and it is now mine as well.

I so lost myself in this meditation, that when the instructor called us "back," it took me a few minutes to re-adjust. I love that I was able to do that, to quiet the endless loops in my brain that have plagued me with the depression, the fact that I was able to get a sense of peace for a while. The hours of the class flew by. I can't wait to try it again.


Dawna said...

That's amazing. Really amazing.

Lucy Arin said...

it was a blast.

MotherMe said...

I also do the Sun salutation every morning (and the Moon salutation at night, though I often mix them up, but whatever). I never realized that meditation could include a lot of huffing, puffing, and saying "ow--". Fascinating!

Enjoyed this post a lot, by the way.