April 26, 2013

What Keeps Us Coming Back to the Meditation Cushion?

Week 2: Share My Path Series.

The turmoil of September 11th, 2001 and the United States quick movement into war left many asking questions and seeking solace. It left Nancy feeling ‘dispirited.’

Born into a Christian tradition she’d continued on that path before abandoning it for the Bahia faith, a practice she kept for 10 years. But this too was abandoned as she found herself questioning any and all systems of belief.

Starting with Meditation for Dummies, Nancy, now in her 60s, stepped out of her self-described introverted bubble and allowed her curiosity to lead her in the direction of a small sangha in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh. The group aspect, she says, was key.

Nancy is at ease when she shares with me her first meditation experience: a slide-show of her childhood taking place behind her closed eyes. The flashing pictures surprised her but only in that there was nothing overly surprising in that time of her life.

Through time and training, Nancy found she grew able to pay closer attention to her body, how it seeks to distract. She found her ability to observe her surrounding became clearer. And she welcomed a growing capacity to recognize suffering.

Nancy laughed as she told me of her passionate past where she enjoyed and embraced her quick ability to react in conversation or confrontation. And while you can tell in speaking with her she hasn’t lost this, you’re also witness to a woman more mindful of her words and one whose compassion has grown out of her new awareness.

Sharing is now key for her, both money and time. And she links this to her continued practice.

photo: flickr/Ryan Oelke

When I broach the topic of what kept her practicing in the beginning she’s quick to answer: “the community,” she states, “both then and now.” It was through them that Nancy learned how to share and was offered the space and teaching to help her grow.

At the question of difficulties she’s also quick to answer: “detachment.” But she notes that in recognizing it she’s well down the right path.

As our meeting came to a close Nancy offers me one last glimpse into what keeps her going to the cushion—now a daily practice. “Whether it works or not,” she said, “I would most likely still be here, but having practiced, I can rest knowing that I actively participated in my life. The day doesn’t change, but it could change you.”

Well said Nancy, and I thank you for taking place in the Share My Path experiment.


Share My Path is an archival experiment seeking to build a repository of the paths taken by practitioners of meditation and is hosted here at elephant journal. If you’d like to have your path featured and made part of the archive please e-mail or find us here for more information. It only takes a short interview and your time will be rewarded in knowing you’ve shared with others and perhaps helped someone find their path.

Read the first article in the series here:

Your First Time: Sometimes It Hurts.

Accepting Sadness in Meditation.






Like elephant journal Meditation on Facebook.


Ed: Brianna Bemel

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