There are countless moments in life in which I’ve paused and felt something deep inside let me know that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
About a week ago, I received an invite to attend Wednesday’s session of Artful Meditation at theHunter Museum of American Art, and I was thrilled about it.
Click here for upcoming events at the Hunter.
There’s another Artful Meditation session in November and an Artful Yoga session Oct. 15.
Inevitably, though, because-well, life happened-the morning leading up to the meditation had me slightly frazzled.
Nothing major, but I was crunched for time, scarfed down a mediocre lunch at my desk, snapped at a co-worker (sorry, Sean) and generally wasn’t using my mindfulness tools as I should have been.
As I rushed out the door to meditation, I realized the article I’d been hoping to get done before I left needed more work, and for a split second, I considered skipping meditation and staying to finish the article immediately.
My racing ego: Readers need their restaurant score reports now!
Thankfully, I made the decision to take an hour out of my day and keep my commitment to the invite.
When I got there-after I ran frantically from my car, arriving just in time, breathlessly joking about how I was stressing to get to meditation-I felt something in my gut.
It was a realization like, “Wow, I’m really exactly where I am supposed to be at this very moment.”
The clean, organized, artful setting engulfed me. The vibe from the strangers I was about to meditate with was calm and welcoming. And our focus for the meditation was a painting that immediately spoke to me.
Rachel White, assistant curator of education for the museum, introduced the session by telling us about the art and asking us what we saw in Charles Burchfield’s watercolor painting “Gateway to September.”
I had never participated in this type of meditation, but it proved to be exactly what I needed. The themes we discussed, the tools we learned and the lessons I took away came to me at the perfect time.
During the sitting, meditation practitioner Jennifer Fahey asked us to focus on a part of the painting that we didn’t like. We thought about what part gave us an adverse reaction.We tried to feel whether thinking about something uncomfortable and negative created physical feelings within our body.
Then, we focused on a part of the painting that we really did enjoy. And we repeated the process. Why were we attracted to it? Did thinking about the pleasant parts create a different feeling in our bodies?
The idea of using art to evokepleasant or uncomfortable experiences for the purpose of meditation and practicing equanimity is worthwhile.It’s safer than starting with something sensitive, such as a person who creates a negative feeling.
The purpose of all this was to learn how to exist both in comfort and discomfort, the latter of which is sometimes provoked by change.
Going through change can be one of the most distressing aspects of life. It’s also one of the most important.
The painting that showed the transition of seasons symbolized all this perfectly.
It took Burchfield 10 years to finish, and at the forefront is a thick, dark, summeryscene. In the session, we talked about how being in that part of the painting might feel hot, itchy and uncomfortable.
The artwork also shows a portal surrounded by a yellow halo that gives way to a more open, clear, inviting scene in the distance.
The painting represents the search for equanimity and the uneasiness we often feel trying to achieve it.
“I like using art because there’s so much metaphor,”Fahey said. “Even in all thischaos, I can learn how to discover the peace within the discomfort. Part of our experience today is learning that we can, in fact, step back and take a wider view of what is and then respond skillfully.”
Fahey explained that we could take our practice with the painting into daily life. We could learn to summon equanimity.
“[It’s about] learning that we can, in fact, be in the unpleasant and the pleasant simultaneously without trying to change it, fix it, get rid of it or have more of it because we like it,” she said.
This rang true to me on a couple of levels.
I’m currently in a time of transition, and I can’t know what the future holds, so it’s unsettling and anxiety-inducing.
I find myself clinging to moments like the ones I had during the meditation-the flashes of clarity and certainty.
But grasping for a fleeting moment is just as futile as resisting inevitable change.
We are truly learning to rest with what is. But I don’t mean becoming a doormat. We don’t want to encourage ourselves to blindly sit back and accept and perpetuate the things we don’t like. Rather, we want to learn to become really present with what’s happening and work with our own mind to relax the hardening of judgment and negativity and separation, as well as looking at our tendency to grasp and cling and attach to what we love.
Learning to experience equanimity despite small daily annoyances and bigger life changes is the ultimate challenge.
But, with mindfulness and meditation practice, it’s within our reach.
The weather is changing, and now is a perfect time to embrace transition.
Just as the seasons shift naturally, we too can strive to findequanimity in the flow of life.
(Side note: The song below has been in my head. It feels like it’s at least partly about change, and it reminds me of fall. “I feel a change in the weather; I feel a change in me.”)
The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.