In 2005, after reading yet another inspiring book by Deepak Chopra, I gave myself a birthday present and attended my first Chopra Center weeklong class called, SynchroDestiny.
The title still excites me and I can tell you that it was fantastic. Dr. Deepak is a terrific presenter with a peaceful, engaging energy, and when he signed my book he was warm and present. At our farewell dinner we chatted about a mutual acquaintance and I felt, and do still, that he is swell guy and one of the most influential leaders of mind-body medicine in our modern world today.
It was at this Chopra Center class that I was introduced to meditation for the first time, and it was there that I thought meditation was baloney the first time, the second time, the third, and twice a day for the entire week.
I really did want the promised health benefits of optimum blood pressure, deeper mental and emotional stability, and a state of “restful awareness” that would ensure a stressless existence, but my struggle to sit still in silence seemed to indicate I was wasting my time. I could NOT calm my mind, I could not focus, I could not enjoy it and I certainly did not see a future in meditation for myself.
*As you gain experience with meditation, you’ll begin to feel the reappearance of youthful energy and vitality that is being released from the deeper level of the nervous system. This is a very profound change and the real fountain of youth.” Perfect Health: The Complete Mind Body Guide, Deepak Chopra, M. D.
But I persevered along with the other 50 or so attendees because it was part of the deal and because I had paid for the entire Chopra Center experience with my birthday savings. And because I was loving the rest of the SynchroDestiny intensive.
So I returned home and went about life as usual and felt pretty good. For me, there’s nothing like a vacation that includes learning, great food, AND massage. And because I hate to give up before the promised results, I continued to try to meditate daily despite feeling I was getting nowhere.
And then, two after SynchoDestiny, something happened, the day my handyman Elvis worked in my attic.
I looked up from my computer to see Elvis’s feet dangling through a hole in my second story hallway-ceiling as huge pieces of paint and dry wall and CEILING continued to break off to expose his entire flailing lower body.
I should add here that because we have vaulted ceilings from the living-room up, the distance to the closest floor is 40 feet.
Yes, a man was falling and holding on for his life, in my home, no joke. And he was screaming, and kicking his legs around in panic, just the way it looks in movies. The fear was palpable.
But I felt completely and genuinely calm:
"Hey Elvis, don’t worry, you’ll be ok—just hoist yourself back up slowly and come on downstairs—I’ll make you some tea.”
What? Who was the strangely calm and reassuring being that had taken over my senses, my spirit, my own vocal chords?
Ahem. Turns out there was a “restful awareness” me inside me the whole time, and with just a few weeks of meditation practice (albeit sloppy and restless and checking my watch every 8 minutes) I had rewired my primal fight/flight response mechanism enough to circumvent it and thereby help prevent a disaster.
And so, my relationship with Deepak Chopra and his Center truly began (I have twoChopra Center Instructor Certifications to date), my relationship with Elvis remained intact (though my ceiling did not, and frankly has never been quite the same—I can see the painted-over patching-job right now from my living room), but most importantly, I discovered how profound it is to explore and integrate the health of my mind and body for my daily life.
This calm-in-the-storm response is what grows in us when we become aware that “activity in your mind is communicated to every cell in your body. If you can quiet your mind, you can send messages of peace and harmony to every cell in your body.” The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, Deepak Chopra, M. D.
And at first, even a brand new meditation practice is enough to clear some of the cobwebs of turmoil to establish a calm, rather than automatic panic, to unpredicted dangers. I’ve learned what every practicing meditator knows: it’s not what happens in the 30 minutes of meditation that matters (phew), it’s that you tried, and it’s what happens in the other 23.5 hours of the day that matters. The sitting in silence and trying is the practice, and like practice, it takes practice.
My health and well-being have improved by leaps and bounds over the years even as I age. I feel and look healthier at 45 than I did at 25, but what’s more, I’m much happier because when I become unbalanced it’s a mere slight adjustment back to center. Oh, and I now welcome my silent, meditative practice, it truly sets a peaceful tone for my day.
Yes, this is a great plug of a true-story to join me in Costa Rica in February for a Chopra Center intensive focused on the brilliance of mind-body medicine. This is a Women’s Retreat that features yoga, meditation (of course!), Ayurveda, adventure, hammock-lounging, sisterhood, laughter, and deep healing.
I hope you’ll consider attending with me and my Chopra Center facilitating partner and friend Sherri, for what can be the best Christmas, Hannukah, Birthday, Thanksgiving , Just-Because, gift you or your family can ever give you.
Get in touch with questions, I’d be happy to talk or type with you: LisaMMM628@aol.com
I read a story this morning that was written in 2005, about a lost and traumatized baby hippo in Kenya, who “adopted” a tortoise to be his mother. An elderly male, the tortoise is said to be a century old.
“They sleep and eat together, and have become inseparable” says the director of the nature preserve.
As if that’s not moving enough, I'm tearful after learning further that this baby had survived a tsunami-ravaged river that swept him into the Indian Ocean where tides eventually washed him ashore. Dehydrated but hanging on, rescuers found him on the beach (and brought him to the nature
This is a tug at the strings story for me. And when I step back, I find it interesting that both tragedy and miracle are (now in my heart) here in this story—two seemingly opposing forces. And a third force, inspiration, is here as well.
So, is inspiration born of tragedy and miracle?
If you're like me, your favorite stories are about true-life characters overcoming adversity.
Why do those stories appeal? Because there’s something truly amazing and life affirming and heart-filling about knowing that others have faced what seemed like insurmountable obstacles, and not only survived, but found deeper meaning.
It’s hardly ever easy to recognize the worth of something tragic while in the middle of it. No tsunami, loss, or pain feels like it’s going to lead to something positive.
But, for whatever it’s worth, I know that “worth” cannot be measured until later when the dust has settled, when we are no longer in survival mode, and as we move forward with living.
There’s an old Jewish saying, “Gamzu l’tovah” which means, “This too is for the good.”
It’s about leaving room in the moment for faith, hope and God, and about acceptance that the grand-scheme-of-things picture is not completely ours to design. But that it is one that ultimately leads to meaning.
While baby hippos might not specifically rely on inspiration and faith while riding out storms, what does seem intrinsic to the nature of all living beings is to do one’s best to survive (when there is nothing one can do to change what is) by going with the flowing. Tsunamis are devastating, but they too pass.
Finally, isn’t it true that we’re hardly ever inspired by our own life stories? That’s because we’re always still living them.
But why not step back and realize how far we’ve come ourselves? Recognizing the journey and wisdom gained through our own storms is a powerful force that is not just miraculous in some cases, but also truly empowering where inspiration leaves off.
Lisa M. Miller* *Mind-Body Health Specialist*Teacher*Chaplain