a blog by Ellen Davies

Meditation IRL

Meditation IRL

Using meditation in real life 

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Have you ever wondered about how meditation can help you in real life? Here is my recent experience. I hope it inspires you to begin a daily meditation practice.

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July 2019. My husband and I were on vacation in France, taking a barge cruise on the canals in the Loire Valley. The second night of the cruise, Stuart suddenly started seeing large “floaters” in his left eye. Then his vision began deteriorating. This happened very fast.

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Ironically there were three doctors on the cruise with us, but no ophthalmologist. They were asking him all the right questions, such as did he have a headache, did he have facial drooping or loss of vision in both eyes. He did not, so they were fairly certain it wasn’t a stroke. 

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One of the crew members, Franck, prepared to drive him to the hospital emergency room. 

Stuart said to me, “Stay here, eat your dinner, don’t let this ruin your night.”

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I knew there was nothing I could do. I don’t speak French, so I would be more of a burden than a help at the hospital. My husband is also the kind of guy who doesn’t want a big fuss, and who would genuinely be happier if he knew I was back on the boat eating dinner instead of suffering in a waiting room. 

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So I stayed behind. We ate dinner. We sat in the lounge, waiting for news. One by one, everyone went to bed, including me. 

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News trickled in. The first hospital, in the small town of Rogny-les-Sept-Écluses, was not able to treat him, so Franck drove him to Orleans, about an hour away, to the regional hospital. 

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And the waiting began. 

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I sat in our cabin, anxiously waiting for news. I did my best to pray. Sometimes when I am really scared, my prayers are just a jumble of words that bounce around, never cohering and traveling up. 

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The breath prayer 

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I remembered a meditation that I learned years ago, the breath prayer. It is very simple. On the inhale, you say your name for God (Jesus, Holy Spirit, Comforter, Creator, Krishna, etc.). On the exhale, you say the deepest desire of your heart. 

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Inhale, Lord have mercy, exhale heal his eye. 

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This grounded me. For a while. I kept getting distracted by anxious thoughts, so I did some stretching. Anxiety, like any emotion, can get stuck in the body, and stretching or gentle movements can help it move out.

Counting down 

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Next I tried my favorite meditation technique, which is counting down from the number 108. It goes like this: inhale the even numbers (108), exhale the odd numbers (107). When you get distracted, come back to the last number you remember. 

Inhale, 108, exhale, 107, inhale 106, exhale 105…

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Worries kept intruding, and I had to restart the countdown over and over. I kept at it, and twice I counted all the way down to zero, then restarted again. 

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The square breath 

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Each cabin on the boat was outfitted with a battery-operated wall clock. Earlier that day we had all agreed that the ticking was really loud, and one member of our group suggested pulling out the batteries so we wouldn’t have to listen to it. But now the ticking was soothing. 

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I switched to a breath meditation, the so-called square breath. Using the ticking clock as my counter, I inhaled for four beats, held the breath for four beats, exhaled for four beats, and held the exhale for four beats, then inhaled for four beats, etc. 

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Inhale two three four, hold two three four, exhale two three four, hold two three four. 

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The steady tick-tock of the clock kept me focused. It brought me back when my mind wandered. 

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Through the night, I sometimes drifted into sleep, then jolted awake. When the square breath meditation frustrated me, I switched back to the breath meditation. 

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This is happening now 

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The meditation kept me from doing things that were unhelpful. For example, it would have been easy to stuff my feelings down. At dinner, I had the urge to keep refilling my wine glass and keep eating chocolates. But I didn’t. I knew that trying to drown my fears was the worst thing I could do.

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I was also tempted to dive into the really great novel I had just started reading earlier in the day. If I lost myself in a novel, I wouldn’t have to think about my fears. I could push them away. But I didn’t pick up the book at all. Avoidance wasn’t helpful. I wanted to stay in the present moment.

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I remembered a mantra for staying in the present moment: This is happening now. 

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This urge to stay in the present moment prevented me from thinking about the worst-case scenarios. Well, sort of. Those thoughts kept creeping in, like what if it is a stroke, what if he loses his vision, what if we have to fly home tomorrow. I did my best to pull away from those thoughts. When they got too loud, I went back to my breath prayer. Inhale, Lord, in your mercy, exhale, heal his eye. 

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In the end, he was okay. His vitreous humor (the “eye jelly”) had pulled away from the retina, causing some bleeding. The blood impaired his vision but was expected to dissipate. He was instructed to rest and see his doctor when he got home. 

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I never want to go through something like that again. However I am proud of myself for getting through the experience in a healthy way. The meditation helped tremendously. 

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I am relaying this story because I hope it inspires you to start your own daily meditation practice. If you need help getting started, try starting with my beginner’s guide, my gratitude meditation, a mindfulness meditation, or the chakra clearing meditation

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In what ways has meditation helped you? Have you had a similar experience?

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How could you set a reasonable goal for adding meditation to your daily routine? I always suggest two minutes per day, to get started.



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