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meditation

A Meditation by Eline Van Wieren

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When I meditate, I sometimes imagine I’m on a tiny string connected to my crown that leads all the way up to a to a gigantic golden ball hanging somewhere between the roof of the house I live in and the clouds.

That might be a weird thing to do, but my yoga teacher says that gold is the color that represents love. I imagine the string being a like a leaking tap where it connects to my crown and the gold drips into my body. It fills up my feet toe by toe, all the way to my ankles. I get distracted by thoughts. Probably something about something I wanted to do yesterday but forgot.

When I get back to the leaking tap, the gold is already reaching up to somewhere around my knees. I hear a car drive by and I think about the children in the backseat and the radio station they’re listening to. For some reason whenever I think of people in cars, I imagine them singing along to a Tracy Chapman song.

I think, this is a strange thing I’m doing. Shouldn’t I be sleeping in until way past noon and drinking gin tonics and maybe sleep with some guy I care nothing about? Shouldn’t I be doing things that will turn in to stories that I can tell to make me an interesting person? But the gold has already found its way to my belly button.

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I sigh. The air I draw in reaches down all the way to where my panties start. When it leaves my body I sink a little bit deeper into my meditation cushion. A few days ago, a guy asked me why I sometimes wear make-up and I told him it’s so I can feel like a real girl. A soft and hairless girl. My aunt says I shouldn’t call myself a girl anymore, I’m a woman now. But most of my socks have holes in them and I often forget to change my bedsheets before they start to smell stale. The gold spills over my armpits into my arms.

Last week I went to a yoga class where at the end we sat in a circle to tell each other the things we had on our hearts. If you wanted to talk, you pressed your hand palms together before your chest and bowed forward. Then you waited until the group had bowed back to you before starting your story. In the middle of the group was a vase with half-withered flowers. Nobody was allowed to respond to what you told them.

When the class was over, one of the women in the group came up to me and asked me if she could give me a hug. I told her she could. I held on to her tighter than she held me and I was aware of it. Everywhere I go I look for mothers. I wasn’t sure how long the hug was supposed to last, so I tried to let go in phases. When our upper bodies were no longer touching, she placed one hand on my waist and the other on my shoulder. She said, ‘Don’t forget you’re a beautiful person.’ We looked straight into each other’s eyes and I hoped she thought my face to be pretty. I asked, ‘Can we do another hug?’ We said we could. She was soft.

I am almost filled up with gold. All of me is glittering and there’s no one here to watch. I don’t really know what love means, but at least I can imagine all this gold and glitter. All the weight of this body has sunken into the laminate flooring. As the last drop reaches my skull, the bell of the timer I set dings. I open my eyes and the gold is gone. I move on with my day.

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The gods you pray to/by Eline van Wieren

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A few weeks ago I received an email from a friend of mine who I hadn’t spoken to in a while asking if I wanted to become her pen-friend. I find staying in contact with people who aren’t standing right in front of me incredibly difficult, but I love writing letters to whomever and whatever. So I said yes.

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Her first letter arrived in a grey envelope, sealed with a little red heart sticker. In it she wrote about the monastery she’d been to for a weekend to talk about the meaning of mercifulness and what it means to be a good person. How someone asked: If you had to describe God in one word, what would it be? And how she answered: calmness.

I felt so privileged to be reading these words so carefully written down on paper. I felt like I was let in on a secret, something very real, but contained in a different universe. And when she wrote that she realized that instead of praying to God Calmness, she often prayed to God Productivity, I felt it resonate in my entire body.

When I finished reading, I thought about how I’d started taking ballet lessons when I was three years old and fell in love with dancing immediately. I loved the music and how my body flowed along with it, how I got to be different characters from one of the 101 Dalmatians to a witch and even a seahorse. In dancing, I didn’t have to think, because my body would just know.

By the time I was fourteen, I danced twenty-five hours a week. And what I loved about it started to shift. At fourteen, I thought the greatest thing about doing ballet was the control it let me exercise over my body. I was forcing my feet into impossible shapes and it looked beautiful. I was the one who decided what emotion my face displayed and whatever was happening on the inside was nobody’s business.

In the second letter, again sealed with a little red heart sticker, the friend asked how many different versions of me exist. I wrote back: I am an abundance of Elines and that’s something I have mixed feelings about. Like with ballet movements, I’d like to have control over who I am in which situation. Most of my prayers are to God Certainty.

I also wrote her that my favorite Eline only seems to come out in cases of emergency. I only one hundred percent know what to say to someone, when they’re hysterically crying in my arms, weeping the shoulders of my sweater wet. When their emotions are happening so close to my own body that there is nothing else for me to do other than stop and acknowledge what is happening in front of me.

Following my gut, bones or other body parts that could offer any kind of guidance didn’t and most of the time still doesn’t come naturally for me. I like to blame the dancing. But like praying, dancing is just a vehicle. And it’s not the words and movements I carefully formulate but the ones that seem to arise out of nowhere that let the unimportant things crumble and make space for me to be.

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Purple and green/by Barbara Heffernan

By Suhail Kapoor on  Unsplash

By Suhail Kapoor on Unsplash

At a young age, I learned I was not creative.

Rain poured from the sky, shrinking the tiny upstate New York cabin by the minute. 

My younger sister and I finished coloring butterflies.  The enticement of the myriad crayon colors had waned, and we now needed a judge.  My mom, focused on the baby in her arms, shooed us away, not wanting to judge. But we bugged her and bugged her.

She picked my younger sister’s coloring.  She told me purple and green don’t go together.

But what I heard is, “You are not an artist.  That is not your role in our family.”

I went on to excel in the exciting, crazy-making world of Wall Street in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s.  The highs of Wall Street compensated for a truly miserable lifestyle until I could stand it no longer.  In desperation, I walked into a self-help career group that happened to be doing a Vision exercise: free-write, in the present tense, what you truly desire.

What sprung from my pen was a vision of myself sitting in a window seat in a country home studying Jung and Freud.  It seemed crazy. I was embarrassed to read it aloud, which we were then asked to do.  Yet this group of strangers did not think it bizarre that a successful Wall Street executive would have such a vision. 

Within a few years, I had quit Wall Street, moved to a cozy home in Connecticut and gone back to school to be a psychotherapist.  It was the first experience I had of consciously creating my own life.

We all create every day.  We create the life we are living. Yes, there are constraints, of course.  The same as an artist who works within the constraints of canvas and oil paints, we all have to deal with the realities of our environment.  But within that, we have enormous room to design and build our lives. And one constraint we do not have to honor is the role prescribed to us by others.

At mid-life, I learned I am very creative.

And I continue to evolve and change.

I am creating online meditation courses to complement my psychotherapy practice, hoping to help greater numbers of people while increasing my geographic flexibility. 

I am creating time to write, as the time will not fall from the sky if I do not actively envision it.

Knowing I can’t evolve in a vacuum, I have consciously accessed communities that will support my transitions.  Last year, this included online classes to bolster my craft and the wonderful WOW retreat in Morocco to bolster my soul.  I walked away from the retreat believing in my identity as a writer, feeling enriched in ways I could not have imagined. 

 I am adding writer, poet and mindfulness teacher to my conscious identity.  Some may say these can’t all go together, or be added to psychotherapist.  Yet, we have so many roles.  I am also a spouse, a mother, a daughter of aging parents, a sister, a friend.  Who gets to decide which roles, and in what proportions? 

At this stage of my life, I do.

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I invite you to pick up your pen, set your timer for 10 minutes, breathe deeply and manifest the world you truly desire. Write as if that vision is already true. Use “I am” rather than “I will be.”  Let go of inhibitions.  If there are details you are unsure of, leave them for the universe to fill in.  Include the feelings you would like to have at this future date:  “I wake feeling peaceful and grounded…I am living the life of my dreams.”

The more spontaneously you write this, the better.

Now, read it to someone. 

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Barbara Heffernan is a psychotherapist and writer. She is the founder of Mindful Psychotherapy, a private practice in Norwalk, CT, specializing in trauma and anxiety.  Barbara has been a feminist since the age of five, and a Buddhist since the age of 31.  She has studied meditation in Tibetan Buddhist, Zen Buddhist, Hindu, and Shamanic traditions. She offers mindfulness instruction and is developing a series of classes titled Awaken Joy. Barbara has a BA from Yale University, an MBA from Columbia University and an MSW from Southern Connecticut State University.  She has three children, four stepchildren, a husband, an English sheepdog and a rotund orange cat. Barbara’s website is www.mindfulpsychotherapyllc.com

By Andrew Ridley on  Unsplash

By Andrew Ridley on Unsplash