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What I’ve Learned from the Meditation Group

By Thea Iberall

I am trying to remember what state of awareness and spiritual development I was in at the start of the pandemic. We were committed to doing about 25 performances of my play in the upcoming months. Life was exciting and full. Then everything shut down and I, with everyone else, was thrown into a new sequestered world. I was alone with my computer trying to pick up the pieces. And then, it too crashed.

I joined in the day Shirley started the morning meditation in March 2020. It sounded like a useful thing. We had six people the first day. Shirley was going to run it for a month.

We have used metaphors like waterwheels, doorways, gateways, houses, ribbons, oneness with nature, stones, the genie’s bottle, a guiding lantern, a love window. And Kintsugi, the Japanese method of repairing broken pottery that makes it stronger.

Personally, I contributed 46 readings that reflected my exploring the lessons of my life. A few of them stand out for me.

The first is the subpersonality work I did to get in touch with my ego states that broke off in my personality due to trauma as I grew up. In doing this work, I explored two of them, my out-of-control pleasure seeker and my thwarted freedom seeker. They have driven my life for over 50 years. Speaking and listening to them with intention and love has helped me with my addictions.

The second was when I faced deep pain and guilt on my 72nd birthday. I believed that some pain is so great that it is necessary to hold onto it in order to give it the importance and significance it deserves. But I decided to use the work I did in studying the Sufi path to enlightenment as the tool to face this pain head on. It’s easy to think of Attar’s seven valleys as something abstract, esoteric, and intellectual. But I explored the valleys in nine essays, and then brought those tools to bear on my pain and guilt.

I looked deep into what I was brought up to believe. I questioned what reason told me was true in order in order to see beyond it as well as to see beyond what I think I knew. As a young adult, I believed I wasn't safe and so many of my life choices were informed by that core belief. I learned to practice detachment, a real key to expectancy and acceptance. I learned that there are no opposites and that all contradictions are equal. My grief and joy were the same. My safety and endangerment were the same. The work was to expel all that was not me so that I could embrace my true essence. In walking through the valleys, I relieved myself of the agony I was in.

I think the biggest lesson I have learned from this meditation incubator is that it isn’t enough to just have the vocabulary. It’s not enough to coast on words. I can say I am in acceptance or expectancy but that doesn’t mean I am in it. My actions and responses demonstrate my actual state. The work is to actually be in it no matter what is happening. I grow when I do the work. It’s about owning my own feelings and not resisting them. It’s about not just saying a prayer, but it’s about feeling the prayer. It’s about being and living the words. To be truly authentic, I must be authentic in my actions and question all of my core beliefs. By using the tools in my toolbelt to practice and live a spiritually-centered life, I can find peace, no matter what is going on around me. Even if it’s a pandemic, a computer crash, or a problem with a relationship.

What’s in your toolbelt?

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Thank you. I felt it at a cognitive, heart, and gut levels. In sitting in the silence, I repeated your question regarding what tools are in my toolbox. I had an image of a pair of pliers in a hand-crocheted sleeve so that the whole thing had soft yarn on the whole shape. It’s like tools from this group is to do the work but do it gently.

  • I love that. Instead of a harsh metal tool, it’s a soft tool to work gently with ourselves.

  • I had a neat experience. When you were speaking, I felt a heaviness. When I went into meditation, I was experiencing visions through the third eye of the colors purple and green, like bubbles exploding. I’ve been always interested in the chakras. I looked it up. The green is the heart chakra, unconditional love for ourselves and others. The purple is wisdom (third-eye chakra).

  • Thank you so much for that list which I’m going to look at. It is so overwhelming. Who knew so many things in these 500 days? To add one, I’ve been reading The Dark Side of the Light Chasers. There are exercises in there, very practical ones. One is about reactions. When we react to someone, stop and take a look at yourself and see what it is in yourself because they are a mirror. You wouldn’t see it if it wasn’t in yourself. And how to consciously see the attributes of people you respect. On the positive side, you wouldn’t see these if the positive attributes weren’t in you. I’ve been wondering how to mark today as a special day, and I think I’ll mark it as the beginning of consciously writing down this exercise. So that, moving forward, I’m not doing what I’ve been doing my whole life. Really using the tools that I’ve learned here. Taking the training wheels off. Thank you.

  • Thank you. These lists and links you shared are an amazing gift to us. I had a personal crisis during the pandemic because I couldn’t shut down, I had to keep moving. I feel like what was returned to me was my ability to remember my dreams and recognize serendipitous experiences. I had a great example yesterday. A neighbor wanted me to remove mug wort from her yard. After I removed it, I wondered whether it is beneficial or not. I did some research and found it useful for lucid dreaming and inducing a dream-like state among other things. Those kinds of things have been happening to me a lot lately. Something comes up, I wonder what it is about, I look into it, and I learn something.

    • Thea says: That’s awareness with curiosity. This awareness around dreams is similar to what was just said about what we notice about other people speaks about ourselves. It’s all connected.

  • Thank you. The tool that came to me at the beginning of the meditation was glue. I use a very sturdy glue called E6000. I always have it around. I’d have it in my toolbox. What came to me was gluing together my talk and my walk. I feel like that is what I have really gotten from all of you is the courage to do that. I didn’t feel as brave five or six months ago. But E6000 glue is stinky and has a bad message on it. So I turned the metaphor into the gold that is used for Kintsugi to repair broken things. I would have that in my toolbox, the gold to meld together the brokenness between my talk and my walk. Also, a flashlight for shining light into the dark areas where I’ve had the courage to shine light into. Thank you all.

  • My tool would be the jack from my car. I had this revelation during the building of my deck. There were a couple of situations where I didn’t have the best tool for the problem. At one point, I drove my son’s truck to the back of my house and used the car jack to manipulate a beam into place. I never would have thought of that in regular times, but it’s one of the wonderful things of opening one’s mind to the possibilities.

  • Thank you all for joining me today. This was a rich reflection. I loved hearing what is in people’s toolbelts. I hope you have a chance today to reflect on what tools you are using and what you have learned. Use today’s many links to gain access to more tools and think about them. I hope you all have a gentle and blessed day as you go forth and learn and grow today in spiritual awareness. Thank you.

Photo credit: Sacred Earth by Linda Lundell, 16" x 16", oil on canvas

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