As the rain poured down on a stormy yet cozy Vermont day, I found myself once again surrounded by used books in a quaint bookstore downtown. I had visited the store a few days earlier and, with benefit for my bank account, managed to only see the “Spirituality” section right before I left. Needless to say, I had to return to fully peruse what books awaited discovery. As a Religious Studies and Political Science double major, I am definitely a nerd when it comes to books about spirituality. I could spend all of my free time reading in used bookstores, which is why I try to limit my time to breaks and vacations.
My eyes were drawn to the windowsill, where excess books were stacked in uneven piles. As I searched through these books, I discovered Start Here Now by Susan Piver. I started to read the first few pages (always a dangerous choice, as I can quickly start to read the entire thing!) and was immediately intrigued. I have tried for years to integrate meditation into my self-care practices, but have failed to keep up with a consistent routine. As I have learned more about the benefits, and have focused on remaining present in the moment, I have found the inspiration to start yet again.
What intrigued me about this book is its authenticity and genuine nature. Piver explains in great (yet humorous) detail the practice that she teaches, and how to choose the meditation path that is right for you:
“Of course, my opinion is that my lineage of Shambhala Buddhism fits all of these parameters and so I recommend it. I also heartily recommend the practices associated with other schools of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as Zen and vipassana (or insight meditation). But whatever you choose should obviously do more than fit a list of qualifications. We’re talking about your spiritual path, here! Look for something you can fall in love with” (51).
In life, especially with modern technology, it’s really difficult to unwind and simply be. If I look at all of my social media accounts right before bed, I find that my mind is usually reeling with all of the things that I need to do, or new strategies for all of my endeavors. While this creativity is wonderful, it’s difficult to fall asleep and get sound rest when my mind is focused on other things.
For this reason, I want to start a meditation practice, and use it to complete my day and transition to rest. I want to limit my social media engagement to the daytime, and use the evening for self-reflection and rest.
I, like many others, always thought that meditation required a full absence of thought. Piver explains that this is impossible, and that thoughts are not what the problem is. Rather, it is allowing thoughts to take up a significant amount of mental energy.
“When it comes to thoughts, let them touch you and then flow away, as if you were standing barefoot in a stream and occasional leaves or pebbles momentarily brushed up against you and then were gone” (63).
As a blogger, creative writing is one of my true passions. Piver relates meditation to the process of creative writing, and the similarities between the two are astounding:
“If the focus of meditation is breath, the focal point of writing is a word. No matter how hard you try, you can write only one word at a time…Even if it happens very fast, each one is still selected. At the same time, how do you know what to say? I have no idea, by the way. All I notice is that the “what to say” seems to arise from space and this is what creates good writing…If you allow the writing to arise in the act of writing, it seems to result in something fresh. So both meditation and creativity share this: each is simultaneously one-pointed and panoramic” (97-98).
My writing process follows this phenomenon: the words seem to appear from space and form my thoughts in their purest form. To me, that is the magic of creative writing. Given that meditation uses the same process, I think that it will help me thrive in both my creative and personal endeavors.
This book also introduces the concept of an at-home weekend retreat. I had heard of the concept of a “staycation” before, but an at-home retreat was new to me. The premise is that you take a weekend to be free of technology, and you focus on self-development and rest. This idea appeals to me because of the overwhelming nature of daily life. Every few weeks, taking a break is one of the best things to rejuvenate your energy and mental health. I think I will definitely have to take one of these retreats in the future, once I have developed my meditation practice.
I have been thinking about how to expand my blog to reflect my current life journey, and I’ve been inspired to add my meditation experiences. I’m excited to share this new endeavor with you!
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