We have a 50-plus-year-old house, and the closets are consequently small. I am 50-plus years old, also with cramped storage.
At the start of the month I contracted with a publication for a couple of articles on major business figures in Northwest Arkansas. One story fell through; that happens.
I’ve been told that’s that company’s way, for its executives avoid media. Still, maybe someone “Googled” me.
While a full-time newspaper guy I kept political opinions private — that’s ethical and standard company policy. That’s frustrating, here in First-Amendment America. As I’ve departed from full-time journalism, now taking any writing gig, the least I could enjoy is mouthing off about big subjects. Yet as a freelancer, I’ve found that you bumper-sticker yourself at your own revenue risk, so I still leave little exposed.
A vocation opportunity opened in October, when I taught a three-class series in vegan cooking. The course was publicized online, and I’ve posted my recipes on my website. I brewed no tea at this party, but given that most of the big corporations in the Ozarks trade directly and indirectly with foods outside strict vegetarian guidelines, one wonders. Am I poaching the Golden Egg, whether or not I eat it?
Yes, I am stepping outside the box every so often, ducking shirt hangers.
I don’t trumpet my diet, though it works for me. Evangelizing is no act of friendship, and I treasure friends, including ones I have not yet met. If the subject comes up, I aim for careful enthusiasm, leaven facts with compassion, and not too many details. Still, my talking and writing about cooking well is the beginning of a revenue stream, so the word’s out.
• • •
With November being National Novel Writing Month, I have written “Morning Pages” — three pages in a journal, about 750 words — nearly every day, as a “10-finger warm-up” to storytelling. Personal writing long has been out of my closet. I’ve explained this exercise, from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, in a 2008 Brick.
One thing I’ve learned this month is counterintuitive. The daily desk work is more productive when I do the “pages” before I meditate rather than afterward.
My 40 years of practice — I was initiated in the Transcendental Meditation technique on this very day in 1973 — have made me more creative and better able to integrate whatever inventiveness I have into daily life.
Meditation for me, while a method of unique and deep relaxation, is so much an energizing preparation that afterward I cannot wait to get moving on the morning (and jump on the evening following the afternoon session). When I write a bit then meditate, however, returning to the white page later is much easier and more productive.
Maybe I am closeting a few more oddments, but now is the moment for TM to bust the door.
On Saturday, Nov. 24, 1973, I had just turned 16, a sophomore (10th grade) at Southside High.
A “child of the ‘60s,” as the phrase goes, I was long fascinated with subjects like Kabbalah and yoga. My rabbi sent me articles on Jewish mysticism. A local bookshop had a volume illustrated with basic postures from which I learned poses.
I had been reading about Transcendental Meditation for some time, in Time, Life and the Arkansas Gazette. The Beatles and other pop stars had learned TM from its proponent, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
We were visiting my older sister and new husband for Thanksgiving in their apartment in Atlanta, which had a major TM center. My parents gave me the class as a birthday present. I begged for it, showing them articles I found. (TM tuition was much less then, and there’s a discount for youths.)
Doubting my memory, I asked my sister a year ago what she remembered. She emailed: “Yes I remember the TM! And I vaguely remember some house [the TM center] in Atlanta! That was Thanksgiving of ’73 when we were all together and I cooked the 22 lb turkey! … Glad the TM is helping you now.”
The initiation often is on Saturdays so that is how I’ve extrapolated the 24th being my big day.
I continued to practice Transcendental Meditation twice a day through high school and college nearly till graduation. When a senior, I took a little class in Jewish meditation offered through the campus’ Hillel chapter. The teacher was a fairly Orthodox young man.
He taught a variety of techniques, including guided fantasy, visualization, candle-staring, mantra, breathing and walking methods. I took decent-enough notes. They’re around here someplace.
I wanted to be more authentic to my heritage. In the years that followed I gradually dropped TM and took up the most similar Kabbalistic technique.
They weren’t that similar.
Increasingly I did no meditation at all, except sometimes on bad days. At some point after we moved to Fayetteville in 1999, I resumed Jewish meditation but just in the mornings.
It was not enough. Work began getting weird in 2008. Home life was fine. Work would get worse, but I didn’t know that at the time. I needed help de-stressing.
I recalled the energy and relief that TM provided. Its technique is so simple we practitioners tend to over time complicate it. For that reason, the movement’s onetime fee includes lifetime free “checking” where any certified TM teacher reviews the process with you. That 20 minutes stands as a refresher, which I needed.
Fortunately, I had a trip to Los Angeles in spring 2008 so I contacted the TM center there for checking and have sailed through smooth mental waters since.
It’s cut my stress and kept me sane. My analogy is that Transcendental Meditation feels like defragging a computer — thoughts and memories get sorted and lie neatly. That’s a representation of the clarity felt. GQ magazine of all places recently published a witty look at TM.
Arkansas has a married couple who are experienced TM teachers. They live in a small, central town and teach here in the Ozarks every few months. I’ve gone there for checking and sometimes see them when they come up.
It should be needless to hide a practice as helpful as Transcendental Meditation, but people take bits of knowledge and get weird with you.
I’m tired of that game.
Back in August, on a trip to see her family in Iowa, my wife dropped me off in Fairfield, the U.S. headquarters of the TM movement. I took in a weekend retreat. It was my second, the first being in late 1975 and held at Fayetteville’s Mount Sequoyah Retreat (my town at the time had its own TM center). In October, the state’s teaching couple hosted a fundraiser in Little Rock to pay for teaching meditation to stressed veterans and others in hard straits — where I met other meditators, a fascinating and diverse group.
Maybe I’d have been fine these four decades just waking up and starting the day. I am not my own control group so who’s to say? I am, that’s who. Years without Transcendental Meditation comprise a baseline.
I keep my psychic wardrobe dust-free, but it’s far easier to breathe when out.