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.

So, what does 500 days of morning meditation and reflections mean to me? We have explored topics like fear, acceptance, grief, death, expectancy, energy medicine, positive thinking, mindfulness, gratitude, stress-relieving techniques, affirmations, mediumship, surrender, love, core beliefs, boundaries, self-care, our soul’s purpose, physical healing, and our shadow side.

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.

We became an incubator. A place to explore our authentic selves. We learned phrases like I am a spiritual being in a physical body. And pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. We learned about reparenting and about building a spiritual toolbelt. About the power of ritual, about bifocal vision, and anger as fuel. To be aware of our monkey minds. Of our triggers. To use the wisdom of trees. To practice the love response. How to rewrite painful memories. We learned to not connect the dots. We are the cake. Drop the rocks. Mother mountain. Laughter is the best medicine.

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?