Personal Meditation Stories

To go directly to submitted stories, click here.

Hello! Thanks so much for visiting Zen_Prof (if you don’t know what this site is all about, click here for more info). On this page, I’m inviting my former students who have some meditation experience to share their personal stories about how it felt to begin meditating. Please read the full invitation below to see why (or click here to skip straight to the submitted stories). Meditation stories will be posted as they are submitted, so check back from time to time. To my former students, thank you for making the teaching I do feel so meaningful! And to all my other visitors, welcome!


Meditation practice can be profoundly healing and transformative, which is why I created Zen_Prof for today’s college students (and recent grads). But as anyone who’s practiced meditation knows, it can also be difficult and challenging, especially at the beginning. Like every other meditation teacher I know, I’ve seen many people turn to meditation because they want relief from suffering (such as anxiety, stress, loneliness or isolation, addiction or trauma) who hope that meditation will provide whatever it is they might need, only to become turned off by the difficulties they face as they start to practice.

The difficulties can take many different forms, from fidgetiness and trouble focusing to the reemergence of painful memories and feelings that have been suppressed for years. These difficulties are also, in most cases, inevitable and even ultimately good… integral moments in the long journey of growth and healing. But they can feel really hard, and I’m not surprised that some people, when they experience them, throw up their arms and say, “nope, this isn’t for me!” It doesn’t help that our modern capitalist consumer culture, hoping to package mindfulness and meditation as shiny commodities, has promoted unrealistic expectations about meditation, as if it’s akin to a pill that will simply eradicate one’s pain and suffering, producing bliss and peace in their place. If one is expecting meditation to feel like that, no wonder the sometimes quite different reality of practice will be a turn off! And worse yet, some people blame themselves when their experiences of meditation don’t match their expectations — if it doesn’t feel good, there must be something wrong with them, right?

What can help one persevere through the challenging moments is not only a better and more realistic understanding of what the path of meditation practice actually looks like (a key part of what I intend to offer with Zen_Prof) but also faith that there is something that lies beyond the initial difficulties. After all, we turn to meditation not to feel worse, but better, right? Yes, and amen to that.

Over and over on Zen_Prof, I will share my own reassurances that difficulties are not a sign that something is wrong, that they are a part of the path of meditation practice (on the way to wholeness and healing). But I’m also turning fifty in August and much older than than most of my college-aged readers (one of my students this term just figured out that she was 3 years old when I started working at Williams in 2005!), and so I can understand why my reassurances might not always be enough… I’m just in a very different place and time in my life (context and situation matter).

So I’m inviting those of you who are still in college or recently graduated to share your own experiences with starting to meditate: the good, the bad, and the ugly! How did it feel when you started meditating? What felt (perhaps surprisingly) hard or challenging? How did your experience change over time? I know you’re all super busy, so please just offer whatever you have the time and desire to share, short or long. And please address your words not so much to me, as to your (imagined) peers. Indeed, perhaps an even better way to think of this is as words you’re addressing to your own younger self (even if that’s yourself just 6 months younger), just before or as you were just beginning to meditate! What do you wish you could tell yourself as you were first embarking on this contemplative journey? It’s possible that some of you will want to share personal (and even painful) stories (some of you who’ve gotten the most out of meditation may have come to it carrying the most pain, after all), so please feel free to share anonymously. But even if you post anonymously, it would be helpful if you provided enough contextual information so that readers can tell how old you are (like your graduation year) and when you learned to meditate. The more readers can relate to you, the more weight your words will carry.

There may be readers out there who would benefit from meditation as much as you have, but who might not persevere (or even start) without your words giving them reason to think it could work. Think of this as an opportunity to give (back)… not to me, but to others.

Please submit your stories as comments below. Your submissions will show up on this page as they are submitted (after a short delay because of comment moderation), so come back from time to time to see what others have said. Soon I’m going to start offering bite-sized mindfulness practices on Zen_Prof, and as many of you know, it’s when you begin attending mindfully to thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations that things can start getting real, so it will be good to be able to pair those mindfulness practices with your personal stories. As new practitioners begin to encounter difficulties sitting with the sensations and thoughts that can come up during mindfulness practice, I’m sure they will feel both reassured and less alone with your words as company. In many cases, I think they will even feel inspired, as I myself have felt when I’ve heard or read your stories (in conversation or in your writing for my classes). In fact, it’s in large part because I know what many of you have to say that I’m issuing this invitation.

When I thought up Zen_Prof, my plan was, from the very beginning, to provide a platform for your voices. So this is just the first of a number of times I may reach out like this to invite you to share. I’m hoping we can produce something like a loose sense of digital community or sangha, one that fits into the interconnected lives of today’s younger practitioners. Who knows? It’s an experiment that I’m grateful to be in a position to try.

Bitmoji Image

Note: I want to be totally clear about how your submissions will be used. They will show up on this page once they have gone through the WordPress comment moderation process, and they will be visible to anyone who has this page’s URL (for now, only those of you who received my personal invitation have this URL; once a number of comments have accumulated, I plan to share the link to this page on the Instagram account so that readers can see the full text of all the submissions). I may also excerpt some of what you share and use those in posts on the Instagram account. The posts will be shared publicly, so please do submit anonymously if you’d like to keep your identity private.

15 thoughts on “Personal Meditation Stories”

  1. I initially saw meditation as the solution to all my griefs, losses, and stress. I think I had too many expectations of it, which made it quite frustrating at the beginning when I started meditating. But I am glad that I was able to persist with Prof. Rhie’s guidance, and while I probably only barely scratched the surface of meditation, I highly recommend trying it out, but more importantly, to try and stick with it through the first few “humps.” For me, meditation wasn’t “easy” and didn’t come quickly, but small steps and being patient made the experience rewarding.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I found meditation at the perfect moment in my life. And while “the perfect moment” is different for different people, mine happened to be one of my lowest points in recent memory. I was questioning my self worth, my ability to be resilient, and whether or not I had a future. I believed all these thoughts that raced through my mind. And why wouldn’t I believe my thoughts? They come from MY brain; they must be part of me.

    Learning about meditation changed this perception. Through sitting, even just for a few minutes at first, I realized my thoughts are INSANE. ‘You’re itchy… If you don’t adjust your leg, you could die right now… You know you’re not breathing right, right?’ Constant chatter. To believe any of these thoughts would be crazy, but those who don’t practice mindfulness may believe similarly crazy ones all day, everyday.

    This is just one insight, part of one persons path, but I believe many people could learn and appreciate this beginner piece of information. At some point, all persistent meditators understand it. Meditation and mindfulness help us anchor in reality, and see things as they are, not as the constant chatter of our minds tell us they are. I hope more people learn about the sense of mental calm that can result from these practices. And Bernie is a terrific guide!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Although I had used headspace on and off for anxiety over the years prior, I began really learning about meditation and building my own practice regularly in the fall of my junior year in Bernie’s class at the Berkshire House of Corrections.
    In my experience beginning to meditate, I had a range of moments that felt good, not so good, and just interesting. And like all beginning meditators, it took me a long time to leave judgment out of these observations, and trust that no matter the feelings I was having – feeling something was a thing in and of itself to be thankful for and listen to regardless.
    The struggles I ran into most often were falling asleep and straying away from my breath. Falling asleep in meditation is still something that happens to me still, which I’ve come to accept as simply something to expect might happen in a given session. I began to notice that I was most often falling asleep when I was just so scatterbrained, with too many different anxieties and distractions, to the point of complete exhaustion. I didn’t, and don’t, necessarily feel more relaxed after waking up from a half-asleep meditation, but have come to treat it as a sign my body is giving me to take more time for itself and really check in.
    Straying away from the breath and as a result maybe growing more anxious in a given meditation session is something I think a lot of people experience as well. I think this happens most often when there is one thing in particular going on in my life that I’m especially anxious about. I still struggle with this sometimes, and have found that trying to move – so no longer sitting or lying down but instead walking or jogging – allows me to expend some of the extra energy that is keeping me from being able to focus while practicing. I apply some of the breathing and thinking techniques that I learned in class meditating still while moving.
    I hope its been helpful to read about my experience, and I’m looking forward to reading about others’ as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Meditation is particularly hard when you are suffering from any kind of anxiety order. The last thing you want to do is sit in silence with your mind and accept whatever it presents you. But what therapy has taught me is that sometimes that’s the exact remedy for obsessive and anxious thinking. Meditation builds tolerance and compassion for the mind, understanding that it may do a lot of weird things but that not all of it needs our attention. Meditation is a discipline that can be terrifying for the anxious mind. But much like exposure therapy, its beauty lies in its challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. When I first started meditating, I did it because I wanted to be more calm, more controlled, and happier. It had just began becoming popularized, so I downloaded headspace and completed their 10 day program. I didn’t notice many differences for a long time, I was actually a little bit frustrated that I was still getting angry and wasn’t always peaceful. Over the last few years, I have meditated on and off. The reason I continue is because one time I got really frustrated at my family. In this situation, I tend to raise my voice in anger – I still did the same here, but it felt like there were two parts of me: the person acting and the conscious observer of the action. I was able to feel my face warm up and heart beat speed up. Since then, I have stopped meditating to be happier and calmer. Meditation is the challenge of my day – if I am able to sit for even just 10 minutes on a day, I feel more connected with my mind and body. I am no master meditator, but I have learned a bit about my emotions and the relationship I have built with myself through meditation, as difficult as it has been, and as hard as it sometimes feels

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Meditation helped me a lot. I was struggling with sadness, purposelessness, and a lot of stress in my sophomore year of college when I encountered meditation through Bernie’s noon meditation. I took Zen and the Art of American Lit my junior year. I would like to encourage everyone who would like to try out meditation for the first time. Meditation was, for me, a tool to help me stay sane. I particularly find focusing on breathing helpful.
    I am very fortunate to encounter meditation, but I don’t want to make it seem easy. I think it is a challenge when you try to calm your mind, and there are a million things waiting for you to do. It’s difficult to bring practice to life. I think that it is difficult for everyone.
    I look forward to everyone else’s posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am 18 years old and I experienced some chronic pain in high school. I started sporadically listening to guided body scans to relieve pain two years ago. Then, towards the beginning of the pandemic, I began meditating each day, morning and night for both mental and physical wellbeing.

    One obstacle in my practice has been the physical demands of sitting for long periods of time. due to the nature of my pain, I meditated lying down for 2 years before I found the confidence meditate sitting up. Sitting meditations offered me a new sense of mental ease, but were certainly difficult for my body, however I persisted in small increments. I am glad I chose to slowly, but surely progress my sitting practice, rather than attempting longer sittings from the beginning. From my trials and tribulations, I’ve learned the importance of being gentle with myself and allowing the practice to deepen with time.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. When I just started meditating, I was antsy in an indescribable way. Then I was sleepy. I started sitting weekly with Bernie’s Tuesday night Intro the Zen series one January. I thought meditation would help me be less goal-oriented, and live more in the present. I liked the energy in the room, and sitting with the group was the only way I could get myself to sit at all. I also enjoyed the handouts and hearing more about why we sit, what we’re doing here.

    The habit stuck the summer after, thanks to Bernie uploading recordings online. I sat more often, and it was only around then when sitting wasn’t just painful most of the time! Something made sense a bit more about the instruction to “soften” around discomfort. I had preferred thought-labeling exercises and had been intimidated of body scans. I could maybe tag my thoughts, but I had no vocabulary to describe what was going on in my kneecap! But maybe none of this is about describing things anyway…

    I then took Bernie’s Zen and American Literature class, and enjoyed reading and thinking about Zen. Since then I often fell off the wagon, and returned again and again to meditation in a last-ditch effort when things go wrong. I know meditation is not supposed to be another coping mechanism, and I’m not terribly disciplined about practicing it, but it’s been helpful, and I do hope that’s ok.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I had often heard folklore about meditation practice and the kinds of extremes it can be taken to, but not much about its practical daily application. When I joined Professor Rhie’s class, I was honestly looking for an easy class without too much outside commitment. My mental state, although I wasn’t fully aware at the time, was the worst it’s been in my life. Anxiety causes the thoughts in your head to control your train of thought, taking you on whatever roller coaster they have in store that day. Meditation teaches you the most important lesson, to let go. Once I started to learn how to let go of thoughts while I was meditating, things that were causing my depression started to show themselves, causing me to deal with things directly instead of pushing them to the side. Still today I meditate daily, nothing grounds my connection to myself and the universe like meditation. It helped save my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I had a thought this evening, just as I was going to sit: I’m becoming more comfortable with myself. It was a quiet thought, a thought that emerged without fanfare, slipping into my awareness at a moment when my mind and body were resting. It surprised me, and it felt worth noting because I realize just how uncomfortable I have been with myself much of my life. This discomfort has come in a variety of flavors – from the more mild unease of feeling awkward or being self-conscious to the intense suffering of finding myself mired in self-loathing, sinking in despair, and spinning into a self-induced panic at the contents of my mind. It is heartbreaking and painful to be afraid of and for oneself so much of the time.

    I first started seriously meditating when I took an intensive Zen Winter Study class in 2016, during my first year at Williams. I remember the teacher (not Bernie) putting a lot of emphasis on the importance of belly breathing, and I just couldn’t do it. After much consternation and effort, I discovered that while I couldn’t inhale into my belly, if I ‘started’ with an exhale and forcibly pumped my abdomen inward, I could then “breathe” into my belly when I released my muscles. While this stilted version of breathing allowed me to imagine and indeed, sometimes even access, the feeling of belly breathing, it was years before I was able to breathe naturally into my belly.

    Even with a tense belly, that month of meditating several hours a day was transformative for me. My sole practice was counting my breath. Day after day, I tried to count from 1-10, and again and again, I found my mind wandering elsewhere. I just kept bringing myself back to my breath, and the practice began to work on me in the way it does. I started to see patterns in my life that caused me suffering, particularly the way I’m always searching for meaning and trying to filter and control myself and my experiences. I remember one day towards the end of the month when I fell into one of those blissful states you sometimes hear meditators talk about. I walked outside after class full of a sense of boundless joy, love, peace, and acceptance. It felt like everything was perfect and exactly as it needed to be. I felt, in that awareness, that I could finally rest, that I was home – that I had been home all along and just hadn’t realized it.

    Fast forward a year or two. That Winter Study experience had shown me a home in Zen and in myself, yet patterns run deep and college is stressful, and I slipped away from my meditation practice. Once I started skipping a day here and there, a day easily turned into two days, then into a week, etc. Without my ever making a conscious decision to, I largely stopped meditating. I had every intention to go back to it, but without community or a teacher, I found it very difficult. It started to feel like one of those things I should do – to feel better, to take care of myself, to be a good person, etc – rather than something I was drawn towards.

    It was the confluence of getting a concussion and taking my first class with Bernie that brought me back to Zen. Upon being concussed, I had a very clear image that there was a vault door inside of me slamming shut. I knew that my healing journey would involve opening up that door again, and I turned to meditation – not the traditional Zazen that I’d learned earlier but just breathing and being with myself. I spent a lot of time lying on the ground or on my bed, which was a change from the stiff, upright posture I’d associated with meditation. I also talked to myself a lot – repeating in my head the words I felt I needed to hear, mantra-like. Finally, I visualized. I visualized all sorts of things but especially doors. As the weeks and months passed, consistent practice again brought about subtle shifts and insights. It was as if space was opening up inside of me, as if I was discovering doors inside of myself that had been locked, doors that I hadn’t even realized existed. It was thrilling. It was exhausting. It was terrifying. It was beautiful. I was becoming embodied, stepping into a greater fullness of being.

    Around this time, I established a more regular practice, in part because Bernie formed his Zen group, and now I had a sangha of sorts, a community to practice with and a teacher to learn from. One day, almost a year after my concussion, I was meditating and trying to “follow my breath,” and I realized that I had been thinking of my breath as a path, as the path, the way to navigate through my emotions and out of myself, to some higher, more evolved or better state of being. What’s more, I was visualizing the breath as energy moving along a vertical path through my body. In and out, breath up and down the spine. As I tried to focus my attention on my breath in this way, I was clinging to a straight, tight line of awareness in my body. Meditation had become a task of striving to achieve a narrow focus. I’d lost sight of the broader picture and context of meditation, the way it helps us engage more openly and deeply with ourselves, our experiences, and the people and environments around us.

    Just that awareness was – as is often the case – enough to bring about a change. I realized I’d been practicing this way in part because I was afraid. The breath was a path through my inner landscape, and my inner landscape was, I imagined, full of dark, overgrown forests with thorny vines; damp, shadowy caves piled with bones; and treacherous crevasses, cliffs, and jagged peaks. In other words, I was terrified to see what was inside of me. But in that moment, I made a decision to let go of the breath. I would stop “meditating” and “following the breath.” I would just sit. Just to see. Just to venture off the path a little bit.

    And I did. When I stopped trying to grasp at this sharp line of breath, I found that my breath filled my whole body. Suffused it, like sunlight, warm and fragrant. It was astounding. It was as if this inner landscape that I imagined as so dark and scary was filled with light and life and beauty. Moreover, I realized that I was a creature. I wasn’t a mind doing exercises, pacing up and down a mentally constructed path in pursuit of self-actualization. No, I was a body. Living, breathing, and suffering. A body suffering because I had been so aggressively trying to fix myself to a particular type of strict, rigid awareness. In that moment, I felt compassion for myself for perhaps one of the first times in my life. From then on, I stopped trying exclusively to “follow” or count my breaths and focused more on other practices: loving kindness, awareness of sounds, and dual or three point awareness.

    Beginning to open up my awareness opened up my life in profound ways. Some of this was exciting and energizing. Other aspects of it were intense and painful. I began to encounter the parts of myself and my experience that I had cut off, numbed, or disconnected from. I felt a lot of pain. At first, I was motivated by this; it felt like I was really “getting somewhere,” doing the “real work” of practice. It became evident though, that I had to ease up on my practice. I was unable to bring awareness to any part of myself without an intense physical reaction, almost like an electric shock. My whole stomach would tense and convulse, and I’d start heaving, as if I was trying to expel my mind from my body. After trying everything I could think of, I had to give up. I was scared. I was discouraged. I thought that something was terribly wrong with me, that meditation had revealed to me my true nature: brokenness.

    I took a break and, after several months, found my way back to practice slowly, gently. For a while, I couldn’t sit upright because there was too much tension in my torso, and I’d start convulsing if I tried to focus my attention or awareness in any way. So, I just lay down and meditated by listening to sounds. Again, I found visualization helpful. I imagined that some scared, hurting part of me had erected a wall around me, and the harder I tried to break down the wall, the more solid it became. So instead of fighting, I laid down my weapons and sat down outside the wall, waiting. I also imagined planting seeds, tucking them lovingly into cracks and crevices in the wall. My practice became tending these seeds, which felt like offerings of care to the defensiveness inside of me.

    These days I’m back to more traditional practices, mostly dual awareness. I still tend to add my own twist to things though. Lately I’ve started every sitting (I have found the word “sitting” more aligned with practice than the word “meditation,” to which I attach an attitude of striving and effort) by kissing my hands and then laying them on my heart. Loving kindness has always felt difficult and forced to me, and there’s something about this gesture and physical posture that helps me access metta energy. It means that even when my mind is spewing vitriol and I’m full of self-loathing, I can adopt a physical stance of compassion and care towards myself. I’ve also found that combining my sitting practice with other somatic practices tends to make me softer and more open. As someone whose nervous system default is a state of sympathetic (fight/flight) activation, grounding or resetting my nervous system in some way before trying to sit makes a big difference in the energy I bring to my practice and myself. I love doing yoga before I sit. And even just spending 5 minutes in constructive rest (on my back on the floor, legs bent, feet flat, a favorite book under my head) before sitting helps me soften, focus, and feel more spacious. From that place, I can then feel safe enough to open to what is going on inside of me.

    As much as I’ve found satisfaction and clarity within the structure of traditional Zen settings (most notably during a summer at Green Gulch Zen Center, part of the San Francisco Zen Center network), for now, I’m happy relating to practice in a more open, exploratory way. I love the spirit of Bernie’s Zen group and am so grateful for the sangha I’ve found there. I tend to become very rule-focused and perfectionistic about things and am absolutely guilty of spiritual materialism, so, after a lot of striving to make my practice into something, I’m trying to let it be. Like letting my body breath itself, letting my practice work itself. Practice not as something I do but as a process and energy I invite into my life.

    I’m committed to sitting twice a day (not too late in the evenings or I fall asleep. 9pm is about the latest I can manage!), and other than that, I keep things pretty open. Sometimes I chant. Sometimes I bow. Sometimes I use mala (my journey with Tibetan Buddhism is another story!). I like to sit in front of my altar, which is a space of personal expression more so than an expressly religious area. I tend to use a meditation bench because that’s how I learned to meditate, and my feet never fall asleep when I sit on a bench. (As an aside, I’ve often felt a bit guilty about this, as having one’s foot or leg fall asleep has always seemed to be such a key part of the meditation experience!). As my hips have gotten less tight, I can sit on a cushion better, and I do enjoy that for the way I feel more grounded and connected to the earth. I used to keep my hands in the traditional cosmic mudra when I sat, but then I felt like I had too much neck and shoulder tension, and I began experimenting with other options. I still use the cosmic mudra, but I also like having my hands in my lap, palms up or down, sometimes with a finger touching my thumb to make a mudra. In addition, I find it really powerful to meditate with my hands on my heart. Lately I’ve enjoyed doing some gentle head and neck movements before bringing my body into stillness. I also like to take a moment to recall or set intention(s) before I sit. Sometimes I write them down.

    Other little things…? I love meditating outside. Especially in nature, in the woods and/or near water. I highly recommend it. I also really recommend trying two back-to-back sittings with walking meditation in between. There’s a big difference between that and just one sitting. I’ve also found a big difference between 20 and 30 minutes of sitting. Once I started sitting 30 minutes more regularly, I felt that I was able to explore my experiences in a new way. Having a meditation buddy also really helped me commit to practice. I was going to write “deepen my practice” but that whole notion of “deepening my practice” has gotten me into a lot of trouble. Too much striving and seeking and spiritual materialism.

    Another idea that has gotten me into trouble is the idea of openness. For a long time, I was focused on feeling open rather than being open to. I thought of openness as the emotional state itself, rather than an orientation towards the emotional state. Needless to say, I found it quite impossible to be in a constant state of openness, and I ended up repressing a lot of emotions, particularly anger. But to be open to whatever I’m feeling, even if it’s constriction, numbness, rigidity, or tightness, that’s something that is more possible. It’s difficult, of course, and I’m still not ‘there’ — if there even is a ‘there’ to reach — but I’m learning to be with myself more. What’s more, I’m enjoying it. (For now anyway; it’s always changing). I’m no longer coming to meditation with that aggressive energy of self-improvement. Now I have a much lighter approach. I’m sitting because well, why not? And you know what? I’ve sort of gotten to enjoy hanging out with my neurotic mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think everyone has heard of the benefits of mindfulness, but the actual act of practicing meditation can be quite difficult. Sitting alone with your thoughts for prolonged periods of time is daunting. You’ll have to confront your negative thoughts and upsetting experiences. For me, learning to not push away unwanted thoughts but to accept them as I meditated was especially difficult. However, over time, I found myself more at peace and calmer (as cliche as that sounds). I still feel anxious from time to time, but my experience in Zen and American Lit has given me the tools I need to deal with that stress.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This fall I came to Bernie’s Zen and the Art of American Literature course excited to try out meditation. I had been practicing yoga for years but never seated meditation. In the fall it was very difficult for me to sit, to be still and alone with my thoughts, but I came back to practice again in the stillness of the winter. Bernie’s class split the world open for me, in many ways, and I still often think of the readings and class discussions we shared. It was also great to meet a few other students in person and share such special space with them. Thanks to the practice Bernie shared with us, I am learning to inhabit my body, my self, with a bit more ease and kindness every day. When I think of the work I hope to continue with Bernie in the future, I am only honored.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I took Bernie’s Zen class in the fall of my sophomore year, 2018. I took the course to get to know Bernie, who I’d met through Storyboard/Storytime, and to get closer to my Dad, who had been practicing meditation for years. In Bernie’s class, I learned about myself and what my values are through guided meditation, proscribed reflection, and discussion with a small, trusted group. For me, feeling, truly feeling, interconnectedness–of joy, pain, grief, and much more–helped me realize that I had to work on creating climate justice. The global pain of climate change was too much for me to bear and not do anything about.

    Despite these areas of personal growth, I never enjoyed sitting while in Bernie’s class. My already irregular practice fell to the wayside as soon as that semester ended. Of course, I don’t attribute this at all to him as a guide. In January 2021, at the urging of my psychotherapist, I returned to the practices that I had learned in the fall of 2018–this time with a more mature, but in some ways more fragile, mind. After a bumpy first two weeks, I have found an equilibrium that meditation helps me notice, although not necessarily correct, how I am doing.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. My exposure to meditation practice began when I took Bernie’s Asian American Lit tutorial. As a Nichiren Buddhist I was used to chanting, but I wasn’t used to sitting at all—I was surprised by how challenging it was! I also wasn’t sure if doing sitting meditations and also chanting were conflicting philosophies. But after graduation, I returned to meditation because I was having a lot of anxiety, and I found Bernie’s podcasts to be an accessible way to start my sitting practice. I found that my practice of chanting helps my sitting practice and vice versa. It was also a shift to think about my relationship to my thoughts—having done a lot of CBT in therapeutic settings, I had always focused on the thoughts themselves and changing them. It feels better for me to open to my thoughts and even curious about them instead of being in conflict with them. I find it challenging to meditate consistently sometimes, but I am glad I keep finding my way back to the practice. It helps me be more present in all areas of my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I’ve just finished taking Professor Rhie’s Zen and the Art of American Literature course (Fall Semester 2021). It came at a time when I was really grateful for it as I was heading into senior year quite anxiously and also returning to campus for the first time since I left in March 2020. The beginning of meditation can definitely feel difficult going into something with little or no experience, or even incorrect notions of it. I tended to feel very distracted while meditating and was worried I would never really feel present. I still struggle with maintaining a clear mind because I can get lost in my thoughts a lot, but I’m moving at my own pace to find what’s comfortable for me (which is to say: slowly but surely). Even if you’re not taking your time like I am, the practice really does require patience. You’re not going to see the results you want in a day, but you’ll feel the effects without even realizing it. I find that the way I interact with problems or even admire the beauty of everyday life has slightly shifted. I also found that I would sometimes come out of class feeling empty or sad or both and realized that this class was putting me in touch with emotions and feelings that I had kept at bay to just keep moving on. One of my favorite takeaways has been experimenting with what kinds of meditation help me. There’s sitting, walking, listening to music, dancing, singing, creating art, and writing. I’ve explored different ways of writing this semester that have helped me out a lot. There’s no need to restrict yourself. Do whatever works for you! I’m still at the beginning of my own path, but I hope my personal experience can help you feel like you’re not alone. This class and this professor are really a great way to get into meditation.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s