new jersey stream

One of my favorite spots in New Jersey, July 2015

In many things, I am a perfectionist. I try to tell myself “good enough is good enough,” but it’s often hard for me to believe it. However, there is one place in my life where striving for mediocrity is just right for me, and that is meditation.

There has only been one period of my life when I meditated regularly, and I always did it badly. In fact, I remember only two sessions of meditation that felt anywhere close to transcendent. One was accidental, before I had ever tried to meditate, and the other was helped along by sleep deprivation and skipping breakfast before hiking vigorously uphill to watch a sunrise in Argentinean Patagonia.

Recently I realized that the time in my life when I was meditating regularly was the same time period when I was given the story that has become my books. I picked up a pebble, and a woman came to visit me. Now if that sounds hopelessly woo-woo to you, I apologize. Although I live in Berkeley, I do not generally go around talking about peoples’ auras and energy fields. And although I am a writer, I have more often thought of my stories as ideas that I developed from a moment of inspiration, not gifts or burdens that I have been chosen to carry.

But the mystery remains. I picked up a pebble, and a world unfolded itself to me. Was it luck, was it the Muse, was it spirit? Whatever it was, I am certain that if I hadn’t been listening, I would not have heard it. That I was primed to listen might very well relate to the fact that I was meditating regularly at that time.

Meditation offers a tapping into the stillness that our world of distraction and constant entertainment seems to be striving to block out. So when the urge to start meditating suddenly surfaced again, 13 years since I last regularly practiced, I listened. But I am a busy lady, so I decided that the only way to do it would be with some kind of structure, and striving at the best to be mediocre.

And I am happy to report that I am! I started two months ago, using a guided meditation online program & app called Headspace. Headspace tracks your statistics, so I know that I have meditated for 36 sessions and a total of 473 minutes since I began. What it doesn’t track is how badly I do it. I meditate lying down, because I don’t get enough time in a prone position in my life. Sometimes that does lead to falling asleep, but when it does, I figure that means I’m tired enough that I need to fall asleep. Sometimes I repeat certain sessions. Sometimes I am very distracted. Sometimes I open my eyes and change positions in the middle. Sometimes I stop in the middle and don’t come back to it. And I definitely skip days, sometimes several in a row.

Nevertheless, I have seen some positive impacts of meditation practice, even a really mediocre one. At the end of a particularly stressful few days, when I realized Emry had drawn on the wood floors with pen because (he said) “I was mad at you,” the 20-minute meditation I did earlier that day most certainly influenced the fact that I did not freak out.

I think every perfectionist should have something in their life they do badly, where the striving is for mediocrity, and the recognition is that even mediocrity – and perhaps especially mediocrity – can open a door that might otherwise stay shut.


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