Mac, Cheese, and Meditation

Adventures of a Meditator, Episodes #5 and #6

Susan Hills Nelson lives in Columbia, SC, and works as an attorney for Nelson Mullins Riley Scarborough. She has also been attending Ganden Kadampa Buddhist Center for about four years. In this week’s episode, Susan addresses how meditation helps her deal with family and work stress.

Mac, Cheese, and MeditationMarch 16, 2014

6 weeks of daily meditation down, minus one day.  Yes, I missed a day of meditation this week, and a blog entry.  Please find it in your hearts to forgive me.  I blame fatigue.  I think I may have an iron deficiency or something.  Anyway, I sat down to meditate and did not get through the liberating prayer before dozing off.  So in the interest of full disclosure I am not counting that day.  My apologies for the missing blog entry as well, dear avid readers.

This week, someone left a comment on this blog asking how meditation is helping me with family and life stress.  This is an excellent question.  I think it deserves an in-depth response.  So, here is how meditation helps me:

Previously in my life when stress arose I went to external sources to alleviate it.  I would zone out watching a movie.  Or eat an entire box of macaroni and cheese.  Or drink.  Let’s be honest, I used to turn to alcohol for stress relief on a regular basis.  Red wine, mostly.  Lots and lots of cabernet.  Bad day?  Drink some wine.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  If insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, I was definitely insane.

Since I started coming to the Buddhist center on a regular basis, I stopped watching t.v.  Indeed, I don’t even own a television anymore.  And to be honest, I don’t miss it.  Not one bit.  I no longer spend time thinking about the life drama of people who do not exist at all.  There is less clutter in my head.  My house is pretty quiet most of the time.  I can’t say enough about life post-television.

I also stopped drinking.  Which was much harder than giving up my television, by the way.  But again, now that I have been alcohol free for a while, there is nothing I miss about alcohol either.

However, this is not to say you have to give up your t.v. and your red wine to be a Buddhist.  That would be another way of fixing external things in order to fix your mind.  And if you do that before you are ready, you will probably be pretty miserable and not like Buddhism very much.  You do, however, have to start to change your life from the inside out.

So, now when I am super stressed and feeling overwhelmed by life and feeling like everyone wants more from me than I can possibly give, I run for refuge to my meditation cushion, and I remember that I am creating my life story.  Moment by moment.  So if I am feeling overwhelmed, then I am telling myself I am feeling overwhelmed by saying things like “This is too much” and “I cannot handle this.”

After meditation, I usually feel more grounded, more centered, less like I am being pulled in ten directions.  I start to ask, “What is there that needs to be handled exactly?  And by whom?”  I get a little space between the event, and the effect on my mind.  For example, if I have too much to do at work, I can think, wow, my work is really busy right now.  However, that does not have to translate into “I am stressed out because my work is busy right now.”  I can choose how I react more and more.

I am definitely not a master at this by any means, but each day, drop by drop, little by little, I start to see more suppleness in the seemingly static and insurmountable barriers in my life.  I am starting to separate the cause from the effect.  I am learning that I don’t have to make everyone else happy all the time.  I am completely responsible for my thoughts and my actions.  No one else is to blame, and no one else is in charge.  I am also learning that I have more choices and more freedom than I think.  I can choose what I tell myself about my life, and who I am, what I want, and why.  This is quite liberating.

So that is how meditation is helping me with life and family stress.  And unlike television or wine or mac and cheese, meditation actually works.


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