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Meditation for the Meditatively Challenged:
Empty Room, Open Window

By Marie Churchman

empty room, open window Photo: Alegri [CC-BY-3.0], via

I always wanted to meditate. I longed for that sense of peace and tranquility that people who meditated regularly described, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't do it.

When I was a young adult, I went to the library and checked out books on meditation. I followed their instructions closely. I would sit on the floor, my legs crossed, hands resting on my knees, palms up, bringing together the tips of my thumbs and index fingers to form the classic O's. I would recite the mantra Om mani padme hum and try to clear my mind, ready for PEACE to descend, but there was a problem: I just could not turn my mind off. I couldn't stop thinking and I couldn't stop thinking about not thinking. In the end, it was an exhausting experience.

lotus postion
By Bryan Helfrich, Alias52
CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia

I had always had a problem quieting my mind, from the time I was a small child, because I, like many others, suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD. Quieting my anxious thoughts long enough to achieve meditation proved impossible and, after many attempts, I gave up, figuring it was something I was not destined to experience. Darn.

I didn't try again for many years. One day, while on the internet, I came across a website about meditation. I was surprised to see that it said I could sit in a chair instead of on the floor. Wow, my legs don't have to be turned into pretzels and hurt like mad! In the past, when I had done it by the book, I didn't even know what Om mani padme hum meant! In other words, there was nothing about my previous attempts to meditate that was personalized. It sounds ridiculous to me now that I had thought there was only one way to meditate, but all the books I had ever read about it gave such formal rules, it never occurred to me that I just needed to open my mind and be unrestrained in my approach. It was enlightening. With this new outlook, I decided to give it another try and do what felt right.

So here's what I did:

comfortable chair

1. I sat comfortably… in a comfortable chair.

2. I thought about what words or sounds I could repeat as a mantra that would feel soothing to me. It didn't have to mean anything. I settled on counting: one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, and so on. As an alternate... bolo tie. Don't ask me why, but these are calming words to me.

3. Most importantly, I created my own visualization that actually worked! I closed my eyes and visualized a large empty room with a clean wood floor and white walls. There was an open window in the room. This window had a simple white curtain of fine linen. A gentle breeze came in through the window, blowing the curtain inward. This breeze was constant, sweeping out my thoughts. My mind became the empty room. Then I concentrated on the rest of my body. I visualized my torso and limbs as another empty room and window, attached to the first. This time the breeze was to clear my ch'i or qi. Then I visualized both rooms as one much larger empty room. In this way, I could include my head in my effort to clear my ch'i.

4. Next, I moved very gently from side to side. I read once that moving in this way can have a positive effect on our circadian rhythms. I reasoned that maybe it could have positive effect on the mind and body in other ways, so I tried it. It felt very soothing. I have also tried not moving at all, keeping as still as a statue. This has also worked for me. The technique I choose depends on the mood I'm in.


The result was profound. I didn't need anyone to tell me I had finally achieved truly deep meditation-- there was no doubt. It felt like I was riding a sailboat in the clouds. I experienced a feeling of tranquil elation. I have fibromyalgia, but my aches and pains and even itchy, allergic skin all became silent. It was almost like I was not quite attached to my body anymore. Wow! I had never experienced anything like it! I wanted more.

Now I set aside time every day to meditate. It's become very important to me. I still have GAD, but it has helped me have less overall anxiety. I have more energy, can get more done each day, and I think I'm getting somewhere with clearing my ch'i.

If Empty Room, Open Window helps anyone achieve meditation, I will feel truly humbled and grateful, but the true moral of this story is that even those who have not had success in achieving meditation in the past may be able to if they personalize the experience. In the end, all I really had to do was listen a little less to books… and a little more to myself.

About the author

Marie Churchman

Marie Churchman lives with her family and three cats in the California desert where she enjoys writing about numerous topics, including natural health, pets, art and pop culture. She also enjoys writing short noir fiction. She continues on a lifelong pursuit of physical, mental and spiritual well-being and enlightenment through natural means and processes.

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