“Cheer up; I’m not giving you a death sentence. I’m just telling you your test results show you need to take better care of yourself and to learn how to relax.” The doctor’s words were kind and meant to soothe her, but she felt devastated. She knew she was a little overweight and she did have a stressful job and hectic family life, but she thought the physical her doctor had suggested was simply routine, the responsible thing to do at her age. She didn’t expect to hear anything except that she was in the best of health.
In her typical Type-A, proactive style, she emphatically asked, “What do I need to do?”
The doctor replied, “Just follow the diet I am giving you and start taking time to unwind. Some of my other patients enjoy a hobby to relax, practice yoga, or meditate.”
She recited the list to her husband when she got home and added, “Who has time to enjoy a hobby or go to yoga classes? I’m lucky if I get to go to the bathroom by myself. They both laughed, knowing that it was actually often the truth. Then she said, “Well, meditation it is, I guess.”
He husband quipped, “Well, honey, I just want you to know that I’ll support you in any way I can, but I won’t be sleeping on a bed of nails with you!” They laughed again, as her husband tried to hide his true concern.
After the kids were in bed and before she did her evening chores, she pulled out her planner—the good book, as she referred to it, because it was of biblical proportions to her. It was her guiding light and a true testament to her busy life. Her eyes scanned the pages to see where she could schedule time for some of the doctor’s suggestions. She would add a few more minutes to her weekly shopping trip, so she could read food labels and make better choices. Then 30 minutes—half of her lunch hour—would be devoted to walking. Meditation time, where could she schedule ten minutes of quiet and solitude? Well, the only time that could possibly work would be in the morning before everyone else was up. She hated to lose even ten minutes of sleep, but she wrote the appointment with herself on her calendar anyway. She would start the next morning.
Each day she met her commitment by getting up early and heading to a corner in the living room that she had designated as her meditation area. A small chair and side table occupied the space and she would sit, as scheduled, for ten minutes and try to think of nothing. But “nothing” turned into school lunches, the kids’ activities, work, dinner, errands to run for her husband—a laundry list of to do’s that needed to be done, including the laundry!
When she expressed her frustration to her husband, he jokingly said, “Maybe you can take up knitting instead!” But he really wanted her to keep at it, so he purchased a gift online that he thought might be an inspiration to her. It was a necklace with an OM symbol outlined by a circle. He thought he had heard that people say, “OM,” when they meditate, so maybe it would help his wife. (Even if it didn’t, it was pretty anyway.)
She loved the necklace and decided to do a little research on the symbol. She learned that OM was thought to be a sacred sound, the sound of life, the vibration of creation; and that it is often used as a mantra that is silently or audibly repeated in meditation. She started incorporating the sound into her daily meditation practice and found it did help to keep her mental to-do list at bay a little longer. And when thoughts did pop up in her mind, she just gently pushed them aside and focused on the mantra instead. She also learned that the circle is the perfect complement to the OM symbol, as it is thought to have symbolic significance, too. It denotes infinity, eternity and boundlessness. More often than she would like to admit to herself, her fast-paced lifestyle left her feeling trapped, restricted and confined, so an awareness and appreciation of boundlessness was a comforting contemplation subject for her.
She began to treasure her alone time so much, she increased her morning meditation to fifteen minutes. Her job was still stressful and her family life was just as hectic as before, but she found herself reacting differently. She slowly began to realize she didn’t have to do everything herself to meet her high standards, and she started relaxing her attitude and accepting and expecting help from her husband and kids. Things didn’t always get done perfectly, but they did get done. And when she could feel the tension mounting up in her at work, she would stop, take a few cleansing belly breaths, visualize the OM pendant and begin tracing the outer circle in her mind. After a few minutes, she would feel a little more grounded, calmer, and ready to go on.
Several months later, delighted with her weight loss and newly-acquired sense of peacefulness, she spontaneously signed up for a weekly yoga class after work. On the first day of class, she called her husband to remind him that she would be getting home late. Then she scooped up her coat and purse and smiled to herself as she walked out the door and thought, “I wonder how hard it would be to learn how to knit?”