Greetings from Faribault,
Whenever I am in China—perhaps twice a year on average—the mother of one of our students asks me whether I am meditating. It’s not a non sequitur. When we first met, she shared with me an app she uses—Calm—and told me about the benefits she found from it. I downloaded the app and tried it a few times, but never really made it a part of my daily routine.
When I saw her last, back in November of 2019, she asked me again. While I had to admit sheepishly that I was not using the app, I was reminded of a story that may or may not be apocryphal: When I first began listening to Jimi Hendrix, I read that whenever he felt uncomfortable or out of sorts on stage, he would begin playing “Red House” until he felt better, more present, and rejuvenated. For him, I imagine, playing “Red House” was a form of meditation. It allowed him to find comfort in the uncomfortable, and often the meandering nature of the slow blues song gave him room to explore his thoughts and feelings as he played on.
True story or not, it has stuck with me, and I have my own “Red House.” For the past several years, I have listened to John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” almost daily—sometimes, I may listen to it on repeat as I am working or on a flight. It is almost the perfect length for my walk from St. Mary’s campus to my office, and while I listen, I can feel my heart rate slow, my breathing become shallower. I know every second of the song by heart, which, at times allows me to focus intensely on each note’s inflection, completely in the moment. At other times, it allows my mind to wander wherever it wants and needs to go because the comfort of the familiar is there in the background.
For many of you, if you are like me, meditation may seem far from a daily ritual. But if we think about what we revert to in moments of discomfort, be it a long run, a hot bath, practicing slapshots, juggling soccer balls, working on jigsaw puzzles, or walking the dog, we can reflect on what those moments do for us while we are doing them: they center us, they ground us, they help us find the energy to reengage. That’s mindfulness; that’s meditation.
It is my hope that as you are all adjusting to shelter in place, that you stay healthy and safe, and that you find opportunities to meditate—in whatever form that takes for you.