July 25, 2011

Are you in the Club of Calm? ~ Abigail Stoddart

Photo: Sarvodadya Sri lanka

I was in a sorority for two weeks in college.

I was a member of an animal rights group until someone uttered the phrase, “If I knew plants felt pain, I wouldn’t eat them either.”

I’ve often had difficulty remaining a part of a group long-term. However, for as long as I can remember, I have been in awe of individuals so calm that it’s practically infectious. You know who I mean: their words are so impregnated with tranquility that they remind you, “Hey, slow down!”

This Club of Calm seemed like something I, simply, was not a part of. My wiring seemed to accommodate control, anger and competitiveness much better, leading me to believe that there was a fundamental difference between these people I have so admired and myself.

About a year ago, two previously unrelated interests intersected: the beginning of nursing school and the beginning of a consistent yoga and meditation practice. I came to each of these for different reasons, making their chronological juxtaposition a mere accident. At least, that’s what I thought when I believed in accidents.

As a part of nursing, I became interested in how to be “therapeutic,” and set the lofty goal of becoming a healer in as many ways as I knew how. As a part of my yoga and meditation practice, I was enjoying the changes to my body, and kept reminding myself that if I practiced consistently enough, I would earn the mental improvements as well.

Being truly therapeutic as a nurse and meditation finally crossed paths once, several months into both, when I led an anxious patient through a guided visualization to Puerto Rico. I consciously smoothed the tone of my voice, while internally my thoughts were as calm as a Fourth of July parade: “What if I run out of things to say, or what if I’m doing something to hurt this patient, or … ?”

Photo: Elephant Journal

While I was proud to have executed this visualization for someone other than myself, it still felt academic and somehow, phony. I was “trying.” Trying to do it right, to do it long enough, to impress my instructors. This trying did not line up with my vision of a “healer.”

Healer (according to me) – a way of being, a nemesis of fear, a zenith of existence for which one may work tirelessly, or a long series of mini-educational and experiential milestones.

Meditation became a much bigger part of my life in the months that followed the mental trip to Puerto Rico. Working my way through guided visualization, guided meditation and then, finally, to the use of a mantra, I became a Big Girl meditator. Much like the notion of a healer, meditation has no finish line because “finishing” is scarcely the point.

Then, finally, I was served my first mini-milestone on the long and winding road to becoming a healer: I heard my own voice. You know how one’s own voice becomes one of those ignorable noises like the hum of the air conditioner or the ticking of a room’s wall clock? Like the feeling of our own underwear, our brain rescues us from overstimulation by ignoring that which we constantly sense.

On a special day, however, while explaining a procedure to a patient, I heard my own voice … because it sounded different. I sounded tranquil– that infectious kind of tranquil. My words were separated my mini-pauses that were the inaudible sighs of one at peace.

On that day, in that moment, I was handed one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever earned: my own voice, on the road to healer and impregnated with calm– proof that at the crossroads of nursing, yoga and meditation, there were no accidents.

The Club of Calm. Member, 2011.


Abby Rose Stoddart is a nursing student, doula-in-training, former cynic and current outdoor enthusiast.

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