High anxiety in the parking lot

Please, tell me where my car is!

Not again. I came out of Target, gazed at the vast, packed parking lot and realized I had no idea where my car was. I always mean to make a note of the parking row, but often forget as soon as I’m out of the car. 

I managed to remember it wasn’t too far from the store, so I went down the first row, clicking my key button and waiting hopefully for the beep. Silence. I turned down the next row, clicking. Silence. Another row, silence….

After the third row I got anxious. Evidently it showed, because suddenly I heard a sweet, angelic young voice. “Ma’am, do you need help?” I turned to see a pretty young woman looking at me from her SUV window, at exactly the same time I clicked my key and heard…my car!

Then the angel asked me again. “Are you lost? Can I help you find your car?”

“Oh, I just found it, finally! But thanks so much. I appreciate it.”

It was wonderful to encounter such a helpful, caring young woman in this age of self-centered individualism. Perhaps I reminded her of a beloved grandmother. I’m 71. At the same time it was disheartening to be so distracted I couldn’t remember where my car was and, the worst part, that it SHOWED. My anxiety was probably flashing like a warning light.  

I might find myself again someday wandering up and down parking lot rows, searching among countless nautical-blue Toyota Corollas for “216” at the end of the license plate. But maybe I shouldn’t be so anxious. “He shall direct your paths,” Proverbs 3:6 promises. The young woman was a reminder that God always sends angels. Almost always, anyway. Maybe I should have gotten her phone number.  

Better yet, maybe I should be my own angel and take responsibility for myself and enter the damn parking row in my iPhone notes. It’s time to grow up.  

Meditation in Real Life

I’m pretty new at meditation, with only about a year under my belt. But already I find that the more often and the more consistently I do it, the better my life goes. When I tune in to my newly discovered inner spiritual center, I find peace, wholeness, and connection with God. It benefits my emotional, mental and physical health. It heals, soothes, and restores. It keeps me from wigging out when my anxiety disorder flares.

My church holds great meditation sessions twice a week but that’s not enough, so I meditate at home. I use an itty-bitty room in our tiny house. The room is right next to the living room where the TV is. We use this room for so many different things we call it the Infinite-Purpose Room (IPR). The term multi-purpose just doesn’t come close. The IPR is our office, our storage room, guest room, exercise room, spiritual-reading room, and my blogging room. It’s the bad-kitty room, where we put one of our two male cats–Jack and Joe–to separate them when they’re fighting.

I had a typical meditation session this morning. I entered the IPR, and carefully stepped around Christmas decorations covering the floor to get to the small couch. I had to remove a couple of angels and a Styrofoam snowman from the couch to make room to sit. I know, I know. Here it is more than a month after Christmas and I haven’t put the decorations up in the loft yet. In my decorations rule book it’s okay as long as you get the Christmas stuff put away before Easter.

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I’d love to meditate in the vast, silent woods.

I sat on the cleared space on the couch, turned out the light and turned off my phone. I put in earplugs to drown out the sound of Judge Judy from the living room on the other side of the wall, where my husband Frank was watching TV. Judy was shouting rudely at an annoying, logic-impaired litigant. Her cynical raspy Bronx voice does not contribute to a peaceful ambience. Fortunately it got pretty faint when I closed the flimsy sliding accordion door to the hallway, and then the door of the IPR behind me. The words grew unintelligible, reduced to a faint sound like a fingernail scraping on a blackboard. I sat for a while in stillness, or as close as I’m ever going to get to stillness in our house, and thought of God. When I felt centered and ready, I turned on my CD player and put in some soothing music. I settled in while the calm of the cosmos gradually enveloped me.

I lost my centeredness temporarily when Judy raised her voice to tell a sweet, frail elderly woman that she was too despicable to even deserve to live. Then she lowered her voice, and I relaxed a bit more and let my thoughts float. I am at peace, I am peaceful, I am filled with peace, I am peace. I am hungry. I serenely let the stomach growls drift through my consciousness. The noise I make bothers me much less at home than when I’m meditating with others at the church. It’s always embarrassing to share body noises. Alone, I can just let everything rip and continue to drift in the vastness of my inner eternity. I am serene. There is nothing to be afraid of in God’s world. And nothing to be embarrassed about.

The growls stopped. In the silence I went deeper and deeper…deeper still…until I was tuned in to the heartbeat of the Universe. I entered into a profound and powerful state of relaxation, transported, transformed. I floated up-up-up to a higher state of consciousness, from which I was rudely torn away by the refrain of Lara’s Song from Dr. Zhivago. Frank programmed it on the doorbell. I remained calm, knowing it would go away and I would return to my altered state. Instead it played over and over. I paused the music to answer the damn door. I tripped over the wreath on the floor and bumped into our life-size plastic Rudolph.

“Quiet in there!” Frank called out.

It was the mail carrier at the door, with a registered letter that I needed to sign for. I was scared. I couldn’t think of anything Frank or I have done to anyone that would call for a registered letter. I took the envelope and studied it. Ah. It was for a person at the same number as our address, but on the next street over. Right address, wrong street. I was relieved. And annoyed. The mail service isn’t what it used to be. We get our neighbors’ mail all the time—retirement accounts and taxes and all kinds of private stuff, and they get ours. Being good neighbors, we always walk misdelivered mail over to the proper house and ring the doorbell, and put it in the mailbox if no one answers. Our neighbors do the same for us.

Once on my birthday I didn’t get the card from a dear friend that has come on time without fail for years. I was upset. I couldn’t believe she forgot about me! I sulked and spent a couple of weeks using up a lot of energy not forgiving her. Then the card arrived. It had been delivered to our neighbors while they were on a three-week cruise, and they brought it over when they got back. So I forgave my friend, and then I had to start all over, not forgiving the Post Office.

I returned to the IPR, relieved that the registered letter wasn’t from Frank suing for divorce, or some lawyer with clients in the neighborhood complaining that Jack and Joe were using their yard as a bathroom. In the silence I began to know with a total certainty, a sublime reassurance, that I am a partner with the Infinite and I do not walk alone through this world. Meows at the patio door affirmed this Truth. My feline companions were meowing for food and wouldn’t stop until someone brought it. I knew this, and I knew that I knew it. Jack and Joe will meow for eternity. They’ve done it before. The someone who feeds them, naturally, is usually me. Frank was glued to the TV, now tuned to Judge Milian, who is always yelling just like Judy but whose voice is more pleasant. At least there’s some humor in it. I paused the music, brought the boys their kibble, and returned to the IPR. Instead of Judge Milian, faint sounds of Hepburn and Bogart in the African Queen now wafted through the wall. I focused on my music, sounding like a river with its eternal flow, while on their river Kate and Bogey struggled in the background with leeches and hostile Germans.

I heard a click. The TV was off. Then Frank snoring. It was a soft, soothing sound and I fell asleep, which is an unpardonable offense when you’re meditating but it happens. I had a wonderful dream involving Hugh Jackman. It was not spiritual. Suddenly I was roused by shouts of “Fumble?! No!! You idiot!!” and other un-meditation-like exclamations from the TV room as the Pats socked it to the Steelers. I pushed my earplugs in tighter and the noise receded. I closed my eyes hoping Hugh was still there but he was gone. I was alone in my elevated state. I had no thoughts. It was all silence, stillness, eternity, infinity, all-life, all-God, all-love. Then all-football again, culminating in a deafening roar when New England ran out the clock to win 36-17 and secure their ninth trip to the Super Bowl in 32 years.

The roar died down and I heard another click followed by silence. Then Frank snoring. In the stillness broken only by Frank’s softly wuffling snores, there in my claustrophobic IPR, I was transported to a higher plane, a state of divine consciousness, a sense of endless love and good and wisdom and power that surrounded me in an atmosphere of total tranquility. I was also aware that I had until six o’clock when the news would come blaring through the adjoining wall, and I would have to leave my cluttered sanctuary to fix dinner. I threw my arm around the 4-foot Santa next to me, settled back comfortably, and enjoyed the tranquility while it lasted.

Another day, another meditation session in the IPR. 


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Scripture: On the glorious splendor of your majesty and on your wonderful works, I will meditate, though Super Bowl ads egregiously assault mine ears. 

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The Power of Chocolate: Don’t wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty. ~Lora Brody

 

With Starbucks all things are possible.

I should have taken the sign that said “This lane must exit” more seriously. I was driving to a friend’s house and there was a horrific accident that caused a huge traffic jam. Not a car was moving as far as the eye could see and I decided to turn around and go home. I squeezed into the far right lane of the next exit then changed my mind. My friend needed help with a problem and I decided to do the right thing, which is where I went wrong. Checking my side mirror carefully, ignoring the sign, I slowly pulled back onto the freeway and immediately heard the dreaded, eerie meep

Uh-oh.

Uh-oh.

It was the meep of a Highway Patrol motorcycle horn. Though it was my first ticket in 15 years, the old familiar awful feeling came right back like it was yesterday. My stomach churned, my hands trembled, my breathing was shallow.

The cop, of course, took the must-exit sign seriously. He wrote my ticket and drove away, and I continued my slow crawl on the freeway, worrying about how much my little adventure was going to cost me. My jaw started aching. Lately my jaw had been really sore and popped when I opened it. TMJ, I figured. Stress related.

I started to call my friend  and tell her I’d be there late, and realized I left my phone at home. iPhone-less! OMG. I felt vulnerable, incomplete, disconnected from the world. It was the last straw. I was on the brink of losing it. I was just about to let out a naked, blood-curdling primal scream when I saw that I was at my friend’s exit. Right off of which was a blessed Starbucks. A miracle. Where isn’t there a Starbucks? Can you think of a place where there isn’t a Starbucks? So I decided on a caramel mocha latte instead of screaming.

A second miracle awaited me inside. The bathroom was vacant! That’s a rarity at Starbucks (of all places, with all that coffee) with their one-unisex-room accommodations. PTL! It was just what I needed. 

If the vacant restroom wasn’t miracle enough, when I ordered my drink I discovered another miracle. I had earned the holy number of Stars. Lo, all things come together for good. My drink was free! I was healed, instantly. It was like all those bad things in my morning never happened. It’s such a blessing to know that Starbucks is always there for us, everywhere, with its 22,000 points of light around the earth.

It makes me feel a lot better about the thousand dollars a year, at least, that I spend there on my daily fix.