I'm going to begin a ten day meditation retreat… Tomorrow. The last time I entered into a weeklong meditation, the global pandemic was declared. My fingers are crossed. My heart open. Hoping to be greeted near week’s end by a vibrant rainbow across the sky. And being prepared for just about anything.
Let's take a look at where we are this very day, June 4, 2020. The United States of America is in turmoil. Protests march peacefully among many streets not only in our nation but across the globe. All to bring attention to the racial injustice of our society.
Generally speaking, I am not politically inclined. I'm a creative. I am very happy behind my microphone, canvas, yoga mat, and meditation cushion. Speaking out in a political way just hasn't resonated with me. Until now. Because the immorality I see is crushing the fabric of society. The foundation of democracy.
In our very community here in Rochester, New York, I have not only seen and witnessed but experienced the racial divide. I grew up in the inner city. And after being assaulted at the innocent age of five, I asked my parents if I could go to Catholic school. I know now that that was not in their budget. But they made it happen. So there was a new level of safety for me, a little Italian girl, in a little Italian neighborhood, in a racially divided community.
This new level of safety did not always protect me from my walks back home from school. My belief in Jesus and Mary did. My respect for all beings did. And my gift for standing up for myself and speaking reason to a prospective offender did.
Hear me out.
I was raised to believe that we were all born equally. Each and everyone of us regardless of the color of our skin or the homeland of our ancestors. And so when I was hurt by someone whether from my own nationality or another, I stood up for myself. I prayed for them. I was empathetic.
I was never afraid.
And that's what confuses me about today, half of a decade later. Why is our nation so afraid? America, the United States of America is a melting pot. My ancestors came from Italy. Your ancestors may have come from Ireland or New Zealand or Africa. We are all from the same planet. We all eat and breathe to live. And loving acceptance is crucial for us to survive.
Last year I found myself in my old neighborhood, reminiscing about the fun we had. Playing kickball in the middle of the street. Or football in someone’s backyard. Or going to Spaghetti Dinners at church.
I decided then and there I had to give back. I had to truly forgive my own injustices. Then I stumbled upon a wonderful memory.
I was riding bikes with my cousin Eileen at the age of ten. We were near the school parking lot which was exciting enough as it was because we weren’t supposed to be there. And then I saw it. A ten dollar bill. Just lying there on the sidewalk. Like a miracle.
We didn’t tell anyone, for several reasons. 1. We weren’t supposed to be there! And 2. We wanted to spend it on ourselves!
There was a Diner on North Goodman called Carrols. I had only been there once before with my family. Eileen and I decided to go there - on our bikes - and got 2 burgers, fries and a milkshake. This was decadent at the time, considering the first McDonalds had only just opened.
And with that memory, I decided to start dropping dollar bills in the neighborhood. Opening the car window and sending them out to fly and land, hoping that someone, anyone would find them. I could feel their joy and excitement. Maybe, they would get their burger and fries and milkshake. Or maybe they’d use it toward their bills.
It filled me with such a sense of release, of offering peace that I took my little idea to the nearby parks, folding up dollar bills and tucking them in the crevices of the trunks of trees. You have no idea how much fun this has been. And I share it with you to inspire you. To forgive those who have hurt you. To release your pain and suffering. To bring joy to others who may very well be less fortunate than you.
I was going to write about what to expect when entering a meditation retreat. Well here it is in a nutshell. You get off the grid. You pray. You get in touch with the deepest aspect of yourself. And you seek the truth. You may not like what you see. Whether it's about yourself or others. And that's where the real work
begins. Addressing what you don't like about yourself and others. In a non-judging, loving way.
Self acceptance allows you to accept others exactly as they are. Self love is about seeing yourself in others, and loving all beings regardless of their heritage, their accent, the color of their eyes or the color of their skin.
Wish me luck. Because I already know that as I enter into this meditation retreat, I am about to see ugliness that needs addressing. Within my own mind, behavior, and attitudes.
Alana writes her monthly column 'Mind, Body, Spirt' for RochesterWomanOnline focusing on the balance of all 3 in a creative manner, filled with inspiration.