How this started, you’ll remember, was as a challenge to myself to write and post something daily for 56 straight days, in celebration of my 56th birthday, because that is (according to my children) how old people celebrate because old people are very boring (again, according to my children).
How it’s going is not exactly how I envisioned it, because very few things ever are, in reality, quite like I imagine they’ll be when an idea first pops into my head.
So here we are, on post number 16, and what I’ll confess is that this, the post you’ll read below (if you keep reading), is actually the 19th piece that I’ve started writing. (That’s right; there are a few that just won’t finish themselves in time for me to keep a daily schedule, which is how I got an overloaded “drafts” folder in the first place.)
This one is short – short enough that I can write it in one sitting and then finish the post I started working on last night, that still wasn’t finished this morning in time for a morning posting, because I’d really like to get to a morning posting schedule, and the only way to do that is to get ahead of myself on content. So I made a little plan to get on schedule, and the plan includes a very short post tonight and a longer one that I’m going to finish tonight and schedule for morning.
And that’s how the sausage is made. Today.
Like many children, I had nightmares when I was six or seven — an age later than is common, but likely connected to our moving into a new house and my starting school. I would wake in the middle of the night, afraid from a bad dream, and I would climb into the middle of my parents’ bed (which had no footboard) and snuggle up next to my mother for safety and comfort.
When it became clear that this routine might be turning into frequent habit, my mother tried something new. After reading together in my bed, right before my bedtime, she would turn out the lights and say:
Now close your eyes and imagine you are surrounded by a big, shiny, silver bubble that is filled with light. Can you imagine it? (Yes, I would say, I could.) When you wake up in the middle of the night, after a bad dream, imagine that same silver bubble, protecting you.
It must have taken a few times for this approach to work, because I remember hearing those words more than once. But I remember them very clearly.
This is, I supposed, the silver anniversary of that magic silver bubble.
For 50 years (ish) I have kept that same calming practice of imagining my silver bubble. Sometimes I summon it in the middle of the night, other times when something unsettling has happened in broad daylight. I think of it as a kind of lingering protective spell, not entirely unlike the one Jo Rowling dreamed up for Harry Potter’s mother to bestow on her infant son.
A sweet little story, yes? Ah, but there’s a tiny bit more:
Over the past couple of years, as I’ve written recently, I’ve taken up a more regular meditation habit, most often as a guided practice either with one of the therapists at my work or through a meditation app (Ten Percent Happier, Calm, Headspace, or Peloton).
The purpose, for me it to try an settle what has always been an overactive mind that is sometimes overactive to the point of feeling overwhelming. Meditation, I decided, certainly couldn’t hurt and might even help. (For the record, even my sporadic “practice” has been more helpful than I would have believed could be true when I started.)
One a dark, cold day last winter, when the city was shut down by a freak snowstorm, I sat on my little blanket, in the quiet of my room, for a 10 minute guided practice. “Imagine,” the voice started, “that you’re enclosed in a bright, silver bubble that protects you from harm….”
In all these many years of summoning my mother’s words, I’d never thought of that practice as meditation. Meditation was something foreign to me, something inaccessible because I didn’t have the right space, the right training, or – and this one most of all – the right attitude
So I leave you tonight with an offering and a question:
The offering is simple, and here for you to take or leave: When you wake in the middle of the night and can’t settle yourself back to sleep because the din of worry, fear, and doubt is too loud, try imagining yourself inside a bright, silver bubble. See yourself bathed in warm light, protected from harm by the power of all who love you and wish you well.
The question is simple, too, if you’ll let it be so, and it’s in two parts: What are you already doing that you don’t think of as a meditative practice? Would giving it that name, “meditation,” help or get in the way?
See you in the morning.
This post is 16/56 in a self-directed challenge to write (or at least post) something (SOMETHING) every day – a birthday gift to me from me, because writing gives me a place to put the clutter that lives in my head.