Prompted to Remember

By Fredricka R. Maister

Slips of paper with writing prompts to get our creative juices flowing lay face-down, strewn across the table in my writing class. With eyes shut, I picked up the paper with the following words: “It’s hard to meditate because you taught me. You both blazed and blocked my path to peace.” As I would later discover, that quote appeared in a book by Andy Selsberg entitled, Dear Old Love: Anonymous Notes to Former Crushes, Sweethearts, Husbands, Wives and Ones that Got Away.

That writing prompt was so spot-on that I could have authored the quote had I had the awareness to articulate my reality back in the day when we were together.

In an unexpected flashback to our past, I recalled the two of us meditating first thing, even before breakfast, every Saturday and Sunday morning for over 10 years. “Meditation, it clears your head, starts the day off right, gives you energy and inner peace,” you would say. You showed me how to meditate according to your Zen Buddhist practice with its focus on the breath, lowered eyelids and hands folded in cosmic mudra position. You even gave me a meditation cushion so I could assume the full lotus posture.

You were a pro – the real deal – having practiced “zazen” for decades. I would marvel at how your belly would rhythmically inflate and deflate as you slowly inhaled and exhaled. I was envious at how you exuded stillness and peace, your mind no doubt aligned with the cosmos, with infinity, with wherever your deep practice led you – I knew not where.

I, on the other hand, have always been meditationally-challenged, physically and mentally unable to sit still for more than a few minutes. Despite your best intentions to help me attain nirvana, I must confess that I was a “spiritual fraud,” my meditative practice nothing more than a charade.

While you were meditating and presuming that I was doing the same, I was busy “unmeditating,” allowing my mind to take over, following my thoughts instead of just letting them pass through my consciousness. My back and thighs took turns hurting from sitting cross-legged. My stomach rumbled and grumbled in abject hunger. I waited with high anxiety for the timer to go off, signaling the end of our meditative session. Time took its time – five minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 elongated minutes. How I wanted to bolt from the room, run to the bathroom, go to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, be anywhere but in meditation with you.

Looking back, I wonder why I was so compliant to the point of pretending to meditate. We always said that we were soul mates, that we could honestly share everything and anything with each other. Was I afraid that if I chose not to join you in your spiritual ritual, you would be disappointed, angry and eventually, fulfilling my worst nightmare, leave me? Did my deep-seated fear of abandonment stemming from my father’s sudden death when I was 12 years old dictate that I accompany you on your path to peace, sacrificing my own needs and losing my way? I have to acknowledge in hindsight, uncomfortable as it may feel, that maybe our relationship just wasn’t as solid, trusting and authentic as I had wanted and perceived it to be.

Now that you are no longer in my life, and I am alone, I do not meditate. That is not to say that my life is bereft of spiritual connection; each day I pray, read spiritual literature, and feel gratitude to the Universe for the blessings in my life, and every Saturday and Sunday morning, I go to the gym where I stretch my limbs, lift weights and dance to the Latin rhythms of salsa. On my own I have finally found my true path to what had eluded me in meditation:  peace of body, mind and spirit.

About this writer

  • Fredricka MaisterFredricka Maister is a freelance writer from New York City. Her essays have appeared in a variety of print and online publications, such as The Writer, Baltimore Sun, Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Jewish Week, Big Apple Parent, Coping with Cancer magazine, OZY, Huffington Post, and Sasee.

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5 Responses to “Prompted to Remember”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Fredricka, this essay is filled with enlightenment. I enjoyed it very much.

  2. Angie biehl says:

    Very well written!! Thx for sharing. It did make me think about my most recent marriage. Bravo

  3. Jody Millstone says:

    Well done Fredricka. I enjoyed reading your article. You are a very talented writer. I hope to read more of your articles in the future.

  4. Ross Ellis says:

    Loved this essay. So well written and thought provoking! Thanks to Fredrika Maister for a great essay!

  5. Sherry Natkow says:

    Thoughtful. Well-written. Finding our own “spiritual” path is usually eclectic and definitely unique to each individual. Thankfully, we have a lifetime to figure it out. Thanks for sharing.

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