Tag Archives: meditation

Use stillness – or movement- to meditate?

I choose “move.”

Told by a shrink that I really really need to find a meditation class, I dabbled in various mindfulness techniques but never found one I could stick with. First, because I am Christian, and when they start talking about chakras, I get an uncomfortable feeling about polytheistic religions. I am fine with however anybody else wants to worship their God or gods, but I need to keep my own wandering and curious spirit reined in.

I choose “move.”

Second, I don’t do “Same.” Routines are supposed to be calming, I’ve been told, because you don’t have to make those minute by minute decisions. (Decision making is another of my weaknesses.)

Third, most meditation techniques emphasize quiet stillness. Since for all my 80 years I have probably had undiagnosed ADD, I have trouble sitting still.

Nevertheless, while I yearned to hear the still small voice of God, to experience the “still point of the turning world,” I remained mired in a “place of disaffection…distracted from distraction by distraction” [Burnt Norton, T.S. Eliot.]

Seven weeks ago, I found my answer. On weekdays at 7 AM and on Saturdays at 8 AM I zoomed for Wake-Up Meditations led by — amazingly — a member of my United Methodist church, who had been tapped to be the lay leader of the Adult Education Ministry Team. Claudio Lamsa Da Silva has studied a wide variety of meditation techniques.

 “In my twenties,” he says, “I explored different ways of practicing monasticism through the lens of various religions…. I explored Hinduism in ashrams in India, Buddhism in Nepal, Zen temples in Japan, and Sikhism through my wife.” In 2005, he served as a monk in Zen monasteries in Japan and after that walked the 900-mile Ohenro pilgrimage alone in complete silence. ” DaSilva employs all these concepts, and his ecumenical vocabulary accommodates all religions, but I can be personally comfortable praying to God the Parent, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

As for the formerly despised Routine, I am a changed woman. No longer a night owl with disrupted sleep patterns, I conk early, awakening at 6:15 (or 6:30) to stumble into the kitchen for the prescribed lemon water and lukewarm tea. After tuning in from 7 to 7:30, I am able to be, as we say, “present in my life” and have set my intention to govern the day. This IS what I need to do to age well.

Most valuable to me, the fidgety dancer, is the chance to emphasize a particular thought with movement and touch. Some is the same and some is different every day, Monday to Friday, because each day has a different focus. The movement is easier to do than describe. Anyone interested, I encourage you to take advantage of the free trial for Daily Wakeup Meditation, currently May 31 to Jun3 4 at 7 AM Eastern Standard Time. The daily classes are ordinarily $10 but half that price if you go by the month. Email Claudio@reconcilewithlife.com for information and the link.

If you do, you will join me and people from around the world without having to leave your house. In Da Silva’s words:  We explore together the dimensions of our being (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) and of our living (relationships with others and with life) through breathing exercises, contemplative meditation and adjusting movements. 

Photos from Reconcile With Life web page and Facebook page.


Beethoven: An edge of aggression and danger


For Princeton University Concerts today, the Takacs String Quartet played for a stage-full of people who came to meditate while listening to Beethoven. This session — free including sandwiches afterward — helped to celebrate the 6-concert Beethoven cycle. The quartet played the first movement of Beethoven’s Opus 18 #2 (it was on the first program, Tuesday) and the adagio from the E-Flat Major quartet, Opus 127, which is scheduled for the 4th program, January 19.

Princeton’s classical music audience is generally quite respectful. No unwrapping of candy, no shuffling of feet, coughers are embarrassed, sneezers more so. But rarely have I been in a listening group where everybody tried so hard to sit still. Today at Richardson Auditorium an overflow crowd filed into the auditorium, onto the stage, for Mindfulness and Music, a guided meditation. The posters overhead celebrated the Takacs quartet’s six-concert Beethoven cycle. The quartet was surrounded with people sitting on chairs and kneeling on pillows. Matthew Weiner of the Office of Religious Life explained the rules and struck a gong three times. Long silence. More long silence. We all meditated our hearts out. Than the quartet began to play.

First violinist Edward Dusinberre said later that it was a whole new experience to begin from silence — no entering with adrenaline pumping, no prep to get ready, just — lift the bow and break the silence. “It was a fragile moment,” he said.

Andras Fejer, cellist, confirmed that – with this meditation group, so receptive, in such an intimate space, the quartet felt they could just present the music, with no need garner attention by ramping up dramatic contrasts.

Geraldine Walther, the violist, was nearly overcome with emotion as she described how, as she played (and I hope I’m being accurate here), she feared for the values that she held dear. Yet she knew that these values have survived since Beethoven’s time, for 200 years, and she found comfort in that.

Mary Pat Robertson, one of my long-time friends in the dance community, had this response. It was so moving to be able to experience chamber music up close, and with a group of people coming to the experience with a specific desire and intentionality to their listening.”

Robertson offers a way to think about how Beethoven can help us get through what many of us believe will be a period of national and international turmoil:

“When we think about music to meditate to, we might think of anodyne “spa” music.  Beethoven’s music has an edge of aggression and danger that are far from that.  It is music made in a time of uncertainty and political instability, declaring the power of the individual soul.”

beethoven-poster-img_2213“We have been living (up until now) in a time of great peace and prosperity, relative to his era.  Those of us who shared this experience together took away a heightened sense of the risk-taking of great art, and the importance of sharing our emotions with each other with the materials of spirit that are uniquely given to each of us.” 

“As one of the quartet said, “we are only the vessels.”