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The Second Half: Meditation rocks!

October 27, 2010

By Kathleen D. Tresemer
Columnist

I recently attended a meditation class with my Second-Half pal, Pat. We went together in the hopes of learning how to mellow out and tune in, or at least to relax and turn off the noise of the world around us. Besides, it helps me if I can process the newly-acquired information with a trusted companion. Generally, I process best over ice cream, discussing things around the ecstasy of that frozen creamy delight called a Turtle Sundae.

I’m not sure about Pat’s motivation, but I’m hoping meditation helps me live a longer and more productive life. It occurs to me, however, that I won’t be able to accurately report on the validity of this assumption until I’m dead, at which point I suspect my writing skills may have diminished somewhat. I’ll just have to keep you posted throughout the process, and you will have to decide for yourself.

Once a month on a Saturday afternoon, Lazy Dog Yoga Studio in Roscoe offers a meditation class led by a Buddhist monk or nun. This is an interesting experience, humbling in nature. These folks dress in saffron-colored robes and shave their heads. As to why they do this, I found a website that explained:

The Buddhist monks and nuns own only few things like robes and offering bowl. Also, they shave their heads to lead a simple Sangha life (sangha is a Sanskrit word, roughly translated to mean community). They are not concerned about their outward appearance, but with their spirituality.

Learn more about the Buddhist life at http://buddhism.ygoy.com/.

So, I dressed in something modest—OK, almost everything I own is relatively modest, so this was a no-brainer—and I sat on a big, fluffy sheepskin to prepare to meditate.

Enter Vimala, Buddhist nun, our teacher for the class. Vimala, formerly known as Judy Franklin, is a Caucasian American woman in her Second Half of life. She has only been a part of the Buddhist community for approximately a dozen years, raised in Texas as a Christian but explored many paths before she arrived at Buddhism. Vimala is the name given her at ordination—it means “clarity.”

“In this country, most Buddhist nuns and monks work in the community,” she told us, “as a way to integrate into our culture and connect with others.” Vimala works in Wisconsin with female juvenile delinquents, so I figured she could handle anything we threw at her.

The topic for the class: the sensual attraction of thinking.

“Thinking? Sensual?”

I pondered this and discovered that, while I would never have put it that way, thinking is one of my sensual delights. I love to analyze the facets of a problem, roll the possibilities around in my mind, explore new options, and relish the concept that there is never just one solution.

“That’s why I enjoy mysteries so much!” I thought. “The delight in piecing together the options is extraordinary. I can sit and read one all day…it is a not-so-guilty pleasure.”

The problem with thinking comes with our addiction to it. Take a kid with a “smart phone”—he/she will constantly hold onto it, texting and checking e-mail and surfing for little bits of inspiration for thought. I recently saw the movie The Social Network, and there was a comment referencing the “addictive” nature of Facebook.

I say, “Anything that impedes our ability to function in society is harmful, and the inability to stop doing it is one definition of addiction.”

I paraphrase what Vimala told us, “Meditation helps to stop the cycle of thinking for the sake of thinking, as a sensual pleasure, and allows us to quiet our minds.”

The Chopra Center, website of author and spiritual leader Deepak Chopra, holds something they call the 21-Day Meditation Challenge. Each day, you receive a short guided meditation in your e-mail box, intended to help you develop a habit of meditating. Davidji, the teacher, says meditation helps us identify the turbulence in our lives and redirects our minds to a more peaceful, lighthearted approach—to “minimize toxicity” in our thoughts and lives.

Check out these meditations at chopracentermeditation.com.

“There is nothing wrong with thoughts,” Vimala explained. “We all have them.”

I don’t know about you, but I am a thought junkie, trained by my many siblings to engage in a process I call Verbal Fisticuffs—“debate” may be a more socially acceptable term. It is exhilarating and engaging, and people eventually respond to it by crying, “Enough, already!”

In the article, “The Benefits of Meditation” (published April 1, 2003), author Colin Allen states: “The brain waves of meditators show why they’re healthier. Neuroscientists have found that meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex—brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex move to the calmer left frontal cortex. In other words, they were calmer and happier than before.”

Read the complete article at http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200304/the-benefits-meditation.

In my Second Half, I am all for anything that leaves me calmer and happier. Because of positive response to the monthly meditation class, and because Yoga Master Rachel Bixby (owner of Lazy Dog) is an all-around lovely person, Monday night yoga class is now followed by a 30-minute meditation session.

Even my high-energy, 20-something pal Laura exclaimed, “After that session (yoga plus meditation), I slept like the dead…I can’t wait to go next week!”

Looks like meditation and yoga aren’t just for crones anymore—welcome to the world of wisdom, baby!

Visit Lazy Dog Therapeutics and Yoga Studios at rachelbixby.com.

Learn more about Vimala and Buddhism at the Blue Lotus Temple in Crystal Lake at bluelotustemple.org.

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at kdt-insights@hotmail.com.

From the Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 2010 issue

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