Meditation is an activity that I had not had the opportunity to take advantage of growing up. My experience with meditation was limited to sitting criss-cross applesauce with my thumbs to my index fingers, repeatedly saying the word “humm…” in a low-pitch tone. This was not the case when I attended the Zen Meditation group on Tuesday night at the Fava Chapel in Hammerman House. Immediately when I entered the “sacred room” with a bow, I felt an immediate sense of connectivity with the spiritual self and one’s well-being. The aroma of incense filled the air and aided in our transition to a place of relaxation and realization. The whole experience was about self-reflection, finding your inner being and letting go of all your thoughts and feelings. The instructor told us something that stuck with me, saying that young students like us are always looking to gain something through our experiences. This was not the case in meditation, where one doesn’t try to gain but instead tries to lose. To lose anything that might be wandering around one’s head, any pressure that one would feel the need to release. “Therefore,” the instructor said, “You will come out with nothing.” The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth, all shared something that I recognized from my own personal experience with meditation. That finding that release valve and discovering one’s true self, what makes each of us different, is one of the most important things that one can do for his or her self.
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birthmark, Aylmer is a scientist who is married to Georgiana, a beautiful woman who cannot be compared to any other. She has a small birthmark on her cheek though that she believes to be a charm and what makes her unique. Aylmer does not believe this and explains to her how he thinks that this birthmark is keeping her from reaching her full potential as the “most perfect thing on Earth”. Georgiana feels that it is her responsibility to be as perfect as she can for her husband, and agrees to let him remove the birthmark from her cheek. I found this to be relatable in my own experiences. When you’re young you always want to try to fit in and make people like you, even if it’s not who you truly are. Georgiana thought she knew herself better than anyone and felt enough confidence in herself to never worry about the birthmark, until her husband’s obsessive nature drove her to comply with his request. Had she rediscovered how unique and special the birthmark made her feel, Georgiana would’ve lived to tell the tale at the end of this story. I can relate this to meditation because when you are finished meditating, you feel as though you have rediscovered yourself and you feel like a completely new person than before.
In The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the narrator is a mentally ill woman who is being taken care of by her husband doctor. He takes responsibility in curing her illness but is blind to the sickness as it slowly takes over her mind, driving her towards insanity. To keep herself together, she writes in a journal that no one, not her husband, knows about. She writes about many things but in particular develops a fascination with the yellow wallpaper that surrounds her in the room to which she is confined. She begins to hallucinate and see things in the wall that ultimately leave her mindlessly wandering around the room, pretending that she is trapped inside the wallpaper. In this novel, the narrator finds her true self, just not in the most positive of lights. She subconsciously comes to terms with her insanity. Through her confinement, her insanity came to define her for who she was. All the same, meditation works in similar ways to help us define us better as human beings.
In I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth, the speaker relates to nature in the most beautiful ways to find peace with himself. He personifies nature as he describes daffodils dancing and turning their heads in the fields in which he walks. He considers himself a lonely cloud, just rolling on by going wherever the wind will take him. I found this to be very relatable with meditating because during meditation, you’re thoughts and feelings are not supposed to be restricted. If you let yourself go wherever the wind takes you, like a lonely cloud, then you find in yourself what makes you who you are. The speaker finds his peace in nature as I found mine through meditation.