Susan's Blog

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I was reading Real Simple waiting for Ben at the dentist, an article about meditation, of all things. I don’t meditate, I medicate. Ha ha. No, the truth is, I’ve always wanted to meditate, but I didn’t really know how. Blank your mind? Empty your mind? In my brain, the minute one thought leaves another one moves right in. Sometimes there is overcrowding.  My head is like a poorly-run group home, where the uneven ratio of helpful thought to overly active impulses spells trouble most of the time.

My tumultuous emotions and high stress levels make me a perfect candidate for meditation, and so I read the article with great interest. The bit that stuck in my mind the most equated the meditative state with watching a river flow, where your thoughts are like leaves floating by.  Leaves floating by, I thought. I can do that.

Since reading that I have found several opportunities to try this out. Once was after a particularly disappointing phone call. I envisioned the stream and the leaf and noticed that this metaphor allowed me to have a kind of distance from my feelings that I have never felt right when something bad has happened.

I tried this several more times; there was no emptying of my head, no need to push thoughts away to maintain some kind of blankness. Rather, the simple practice of picturing the curled brown leaf passing along on the curve of the current gave me a recurring separation from the event. One day later — today — I had the realization that what this was doing for me was showing me for the first time in my life that feelings, events, pass by. I am not my feelings. I am not what happens to me. I am something else, next to, or underneath the feelings.

My insight stops there. I’m not ready for more. I have a friend who is a master yoga teacher, a longtime meditator, a person who is  beyond being crushed by others and brought low by weaknesses or events because she knows, just knows, that there is so much more to us, to life, than this particular body, this particular moment in time.

I have not been able to listen to her. I don’t like those thoughts of hers. I want to matter, I want my moment in time to be utterly unique and momentous. In fact, she and I don’t really talk to each other anymore, because of these large differences in our outlooks. And yet there is some comfort I have found from my little leafy stream exercise, some measure of sanity and sweetness I am getting from that small distance from — but not repression of — my bad feelings.

The phone rang a little while ago and it was Martin, from Nat’s former group home at school. He was just calling. He wanted to know how Nat was doing. I told him all the news — the surprisingly easy transition to home, the new job at CVS — and Martin was clearly delighted. He spoke to Nat himself, but I could see that Nat was worried that this call might mean he was not going to his “new apartment in winter,” which is what we are calling his new group home. A while back I told him it would happen in the winter, and so this is what Nat calls it.  (All I can say is, the thing better be ready soon, because today is the first day of winter!)

I hung up the phone and felt my tight chest, the clogged feeling of an overstuffed heart. I am just so blown away by what people are capable of, by the reality of love. I realized that love was one of those feelings that does not flow by me, however. Love gets stuck on a rock or in a throat.

I sat on the corner of the couch, in the light, near Nat. He was leaning on his hand, looking at me. His brows were raised. I said, “It was so great of Martin to call.”

“Apartment in winter,” Nat whispered.

“Yes, darling, of course,” I said. “Martin was just calling because he loves you. You are still going to the house, the apartment that we saw on Saturday. Soon.”


“So many people love you Nat.”


We just looked at each other, and I felt how special he is, that particular human being, this particular moment, this life.


Great post. I’ve been thinking about this stuff alot lately myself. Have you seen the Scorcese George Harrison documentary “Living in the Material World” I saw it in 2 parts on HBO. Highly recommend!!! Definitely made me want to get in to the meditating, chanting, living in the moment thing, and if you didnt love GH already you will after watching (and even if you did, you will love and appreciate him much more) 🙂

— added by Eileen from Florida on Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 6:51 pm

I think people with autism are sometimes in a state of meditation, the kind we struggle to get to just to have a moment. In a sense, I envy that ability. And then think of all the time we spend trying to get the out of that state, the state we are trying to get into. Enjoy this moment, because it is the only one that you have right now.

— added by Michele on Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 6:52 pm

I did see it, Eileen, and I did love it very much. George was my favorite Beatle growing up!

— added by Susan Senator on Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 7:29 pm

This warms my heart! I think of my old clients/residents from time to time, wonder how they’re doing, and enjoy running into local past clients and seeing how they are & chatting with their families. What a thoughtful phone call that was to receive! Warm thoughts for you and your family at this time of the year, and here’s hoping for great success for Nat in his “apartment in winter.”

— added by Joanna on Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 10:32 am

Interesting reaction to Yoga meditation. I don’t like it either. I don’t want to be one with all. Well, I’m Jewish. Do we have a Tikkun meditation? To help us fix things instead of letting them go?

— added by Sarah on Friday, December 23, 2011 at 8:11 am

The thing is, I do like meditation, or at leas the idea of it. I, too, am Jewish, and I don’t think the two philosophies are at cross purposes. It’s definitely worthwhile and important to fix things, but it is also important to be able to let painful things go when they are over. And don’t forget that in the Old Testament — Moses’ 5 Books — we have Ecclesiastes, where it is said there is a time and a purpose to all of these opposites in life.

— added by Susan Senator on Friday, December 23, 2011 at 8:19 am

I like meditation too, but the ones I learned in the Ashram don’t fit. I am from a Jewish background, but don’t practice it as I was brought up to do–kosher, synagogue, etc. Sometimes I practice a Rabbi’s meditation I read online–to sit, breathe and let each passing thought go with a blessing and like it a lot. Happy Chanukah.

— added by Sarah on Friday, December 23, 2011 at 8:55 am

You, too! 🙂

— added by Susan Senator on Friday, December 23, 2011 at 8:58 am

Loved this post, so happy to hear that someone from Nat’s “past” checked in on him. Generally my thoughts are too “busy” too, but every once in a while, there’s a quiet moment where I feel I’ve let everything go. I’d love to get there more frequently!

Happiest of holidays to you and your family!

— added by kim mccafferty on Friday, December 23, 2011 at 10:37 am

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