My Introduction to Meditation; On Entering A World Where Peaches are Poems and Trees are Dancers
When I was 15 or 16, I was still stuck in the cult I was being raised in, and I was going through a particularly rough time. I was inappropriately medicated for supposed psychiatric issues due to questioning the beliefs I was raised with. Our family had just moved from Europe to America. I’d lived between the two continents my entire upbringing like a game of Atlantic Ocean ping pong, isolated and bullied, an outsider without a community outside of a cult that emotionally abused me. Every aspect of life felt miserable. Every moment of being felt unbearable. I was isolated. I was drugged, hazy, foggy. Any moment of lucidity was not a pleasant one, either. I contemplated suicide daily.
And then I noticed that no matter what the circumstances in my life were, I could spend twenty minutes admiring the leaves on trees. They resembled dancers to me, artfully embracing a far away sky. They seemed to be frozen in place, but I knew this was an illusion projected by my hurried mind. They were growing toward the light. For how stuck and stagnant they seemed to be, these immovable objects we fly by on freeways in blurry hues of green, they were moving, they were alive. I began to study them. And, in the minutes and hours I did this, all other thoughts left my mind. I admired their tangled branches and their twisted symmetry. I admired the ways they swayed and changed, and I admired the ways they always seemed to stay the same. The trees reminded me my circumstance was not forever, and I could get lost for hours in the beauty of their intricate simplicity. I discovered I could handle the worst moments of my life by slowing time down and selecting what to focus on. I could think about how hopeless I felt, or I could draw out my appreciation for eating a peach into poetry. This, it turned out, was my introduction to meditation. And these episodes of mindfulness and meditative contemplation absolutely saved my life.
I meditate consciously, now. It is such an integral part of my life today that I intentionally infuse it into my daily schedule. I do at least a half hour of meditation and yoga every morning. Without it, my mental and physical health suffers. With it, there is peace. In a complicated world, it is one of the few simple things I savor.
I play around with the forms meditation can take. Sometimes meditation is a slow and mindful walk, noticing every detail around me as I go. Sometimes, meditation is listening to a guided meditation or podcast by Dharmapunx NYC. Sometimes, it is absorbing a page of the Tao te Ching, or Be Here Now by Ram Dass. Sometimes, it is dancing. Before the pandemic, I attended Ecstatic Dance events, where a huge room full of people decided to put away their phones and their shoes and to move and shake, respecting consent, respecting each other, not judging, letting it out. These days, I dance in my apartment by myself, with my partner, or with my cat.
Meditation can be an act of self inquiry, closing my eyes and continually asking myself who I am as I slowly begin to identify with the concept of inhabiting a soul rather than a body. It can also be as simple as breathing in for five seconds, holding my breath for five seconds, and breathing out for five seconds, repeating this for a minute, or five minutes, or ten. Sometimes, meditation is reading tarot cards and thinking of how the pictures and the concepts dance together to form messages to ponder. Meditation can be an oasis in a desert, and it can be a yoga class on Tuesday evenings. It can be a spiritual experience, and it can be a secular coping mechanism. The freedom to choose is my favorite part.
Written By: Sadie Mae Cassidy