Creating A Culturally Competent Meditation Practice In The Midst of Mess

I was introduced to meditation about a year and a half ago. I remember my neurologist, a dark-haired woman with sharp features, impressing upon me the critical nature of my holistic care and stress reduction. “If you keep this up, it’s going to kill you,” she’d said with utmost sincerity. So, I marched myself out of my classes early one Wednesday, crossed town, and entered a room of people sitting on pillows in a closed doctors office. I had no idea what to expect, so I followed suit, removing my coat and shoes and setting them in a corner with my bag.

Ultimately, I could walk you through an introduction to the meditation process, or write a story about body scans, but I think the more impressive piece was the basic concept. In meditation, one focuses on simply being– acknowledging current state and redirecting the mind calmly, patiently, and consistently, as if flowing with a river rather than moving upstream. The whole point is to reduce the turbulence rather than to fight it.

What I did find particularly challenging in doing this, however, was the concept of allowing the tough things to happen, remaining unbothered, and as though all of the childhood training for rebellion (and experiences of trauma and adversity) had never occurred with significance.  

I entered this meditation group with significant trauma– the trauma of being a brown girl in private school, the trauma of seeing murder at seven, and more experiences from various adverse incidence (institutional, circumstantial, interpersonal and witness) as a young child and later as an adult. And I entered the group unexpecting that the very people who instructed me to stare in the face of my triggers and be water, unphased, would actually understand the insurmountable nature of the task.

As we sit in today’s technology-driven culture, we are subject to triggering things every day.  We watch the news, or even if we try to avoid it, videos of murder appear in front of us without incitement. As othered individuals disproportionately victimized in this media, these images can be particularly haunting– stories of forcibly sterilized or missing Native women, hunted Black men, murdered children and ongoing strife among a refusal for dialogue. How do we incorporate meditation into our coping mechanisms? Although meditation is an acculturated process, we have yet to fully adapt its uses to incorporate the critical cultural aspects of who we are. How then can we integrate the enculturated resistance that has allowed us to bond and cope with centuries of struggle into a regular practice of meditation so that we may preserve individual wellbeing?

If I might, I’d like to suggest a space to begin individual-level adjustment. I think one of the critical parts of creating a practice that bends and molds to your individual flow is rooted in the acknowledgment of the contradiction. The concept of allowing for things beyond one’s control to happen without bother is contradictory to the taught resistance, but if viewed as a time-sensitive, momentary state of being, it can allow for you to better understand how to harness that spirit of resistance into a more selective response.

Is this exercise worth it? Some folks swear by it. I’m not so sure. I tend to use the quiet, time of stillness a little differently: I plot. I take the time to reflect on something, identify something for which I am grateful, and to begin to outline the strategic steps to a new goal.

Is meditation for you? How has it helped you? If not, how do you set aside quiet time to focus your thoughts?

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