Health & Wellness

When silence truly is golden: We don’t need an elephant mucking about

Joey Blum

When I began showing symptoms of the Coronavirus, our daughter Ruby, who is a health adviser in Dallas, Texas, told my wife, Nancy, and I to separate from each other in the house. “We’ve been married for 38 years,” I said, “avoiding each other shouldn’t be a problem.” 

Funny, perhaps, and true. It’s hard not having Nancy close – and without her close my mind plays games with me. I’ve spent a few nights finding ways to settle my mind. One is by practicing meditation.

I started meditating when I was a teenager and I never considered that it would be useful in a pandemic. It is. 

Like most of us, when I let my thoughts take a downward turn, I get anxious, especially without my constant companion near me. Even a few moments of meditation takes away the constant bombardment of information and self-chatter that adds tension to a challenging world. 

The Buddhists have a saying, “My mind is like a wild elephant.” An American version of that might be, “My mind is like a bull in a china shop.” 

Our mind is teasing and tormenting and when we add the internet and TV into the mix, it’s a wonder anyone can stay sane. Without each other’s company and our normal routines, the elephant barges right in, wreaking havoc on our being.  

Having been a student in 10-day silent meditation retreats, I’ve developed some facility at taming the elephant. We learn how not to react or judge, and mostly stop asking “why” or “when” about everything. You practice letting things come to you as a passive observer. The key word: Practice.  

Another Buddhist saying: “It’s not easy to meditate.” And it’s not. It is achievable.

Try sitting in any comfortable way and then close your eyes for five minutes. Turn your attention to the sensation of your breathing passing in and out of your nose and across your upper lip – nothing else – only the sensation of your breath.

When your thoughts stray, don’t worry, but start again. Don’t fret for a second if you can’t master it. Simply making the effort lets the elephant know you have other things requiring attention right now.

… And, for the record, most symptoms are gone; it was a mild case, and I feel better every day.



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