A June Day in My Homeland (Pesotum, Illinois)

9:00am  The alarm goes off. I am going to the very small church where my sister goes, my presence requested so I can add to the size of the choir (from 6 members to 7) because they’re singing a special song. I am a mostly-Buddhist, who-knows-what-else-ist, but I love these kind people and this small church so I go. My 4 year old nephew comes over to sing too, though who knows whether he’s singing the actual song or one of his own, and nobody minds because he is so cute.

Noon-ish  Lunch with church people; I sit next to my nephew (John John, or JJ) and he shows me silly cartoons on his iPod. Welcome to 21st century childhood.

2-ish  We return home to my sister’s Therapeutic Riding Center. It’s in the 80s and there’s a strong Illinois prairie breeze. I bounce between the 7 dogs in the house and the horse-training going on outside. I sit in the sun and the wind so the flies don’t bite me.

3-ish  I decide to meditate! On the other side of the house, where no one goes. Among the tall grass. It is 30 minutes of what meditation should be. I can imagine for the first time doing a whole hour every day. The only sounds are the wind and one of the horses running in his pasture. I finish filled with love for my friends and the world.

4-ish-6ish  I sit in a reclining chair on the porch. The windchimes play. The dogs come in and out the dog door, and my sister waters plants and chats on occasion. I think maybe I should get up and do something. I don’t. I leave my phone in my pocket.

6ish-10  We drive into town to have dinner with my brother, his wife and 2 boys. They are fun and silly. We look at old family pictures together–from when we were kids, and then older ones going all the way back to the late 1800s. One relative, nicknamed “Leafy,” looks so Irish I have to laugh, and there are many pictures of her. It is overwhelming. One letter is a typed statement by my great grandfather of how he will behave over the next year, and it includes not flirting with more girls than he can handle at one time.

10ish-11ish  Return to the country, the horses, the dogs–and then I take a walk down the road in front of my sister’s house. No car passes. Fireflies call to each other over the fields, corn and soybeans and tall grass beside the road. The moon lights the landscape nearly as much as each homestead’s lights, which are islands in the big flat rich fields. I keep walking past being tired; I keep telling myself “just a little bit longer.” The wind is a friend. I think of Robert Frost’s poem, “I have been one acquainted with the night” and I feel like a Midwest sprite and I let my hair blown around me.

11ish-midnight  Writing. Just journaling. My three dogs sleeping next to me on the couch. The windchimes outside. And then a sweet and hilarious friend messages me, and we chat while I can barely keep my eyes open.

Some time after midnight  Bed. To dream of dogs and horses, fireflies and fairies, wind and stars.

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My Meditation Spot

This is where I get to meditate at my sister’s Therapeutic Riding Center, Healing Horse Stables, in Pesotum, Illinois. This is beside her house, with a pasture behind that contains a curious and sweet stallion named Manue. As my sister Dorey and I were wandering through the side yard, noting the spots in the long grass where deer must bed down for the night, we came across a small area paved with bricks. “This is your meditation spot!” she said, and I knew she was right.

People meditate differently, and suggest different books and approaches. For me, the most important thing is just to sit quietly, my eyes closed, for a pre-determined period of time. Today it was 20 minutes. When I meditate, I don’t try to “clear my mind,” or attain an enlightened state, or stop worrying–I don’t try to do anything. I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. My mind and feelings dart around, from thought to thought. I notice that I’m thinking or feeling something, and then I take another deep breath, focusing on it. And then my mind goes again. And again I notice it moving around. But I don’t judge where my mind goes, or what I feel. I don’t try to analyze it. I come back to the breath.

For me, the key words in meditation–my informal mantra–are nonstriving and nonjudging.

And what usually happens for me? Why is it worthwhile to do this, knowing I am unlikely to attain enlightenment in those 20 minutes? Mostly: I remember that it is a whole and good thing to simply be myself, sitting quietly in the universe. I let go of the constant internal commentary that tells me I should be doing something productive. I quiet the voices that tell me my job is to solve my problems and the problems of others. The problems are there, yes. But for these 20 minutes, I give myself permission to notice them and not do anything about them.

There is so much struggle in this world. We believe everything will be better once we cleanthekitchenwalkthedoggradepaperspaybillschangethelightbulbovertheoutsidedooranswerthatemailmakemoremorey. For me, meditation is a break from this mindset. It is a peace, an acceptance, to quote my friend Nyssa Hanger, of what is.

Other things may happen for you when you meditate. Or not. They may happen every time, or just occasionally. And all of that is ok. I believe it’s worth trying, and doing even if you don’t make it a regular practice. You are worth the time it takes to center and understand yourself. You are of worth, even when you’re not actually “doing anything.”