John Nordell, 1
Interview with John Nordell
How and when were you first introduced to meditation and what form of meditation?
I was first introduced to meditation when I took some Hatha Yoga classes in 1989. It was basic learning about following the breath in and out, lying on my back relaxing at the end of class. I was also introduced to the concept that aspects of self-care can become ironic: rushing to get to yoga class to relax after work and getting stressed out in the process.
What type of meditation do you practice presently? Is it still about following the breath?
I often stop by the Connecticut River on my way to work and look out over lake-like section created by a dam. My session starts when I read a brief passage relating to leading a spiritual life. Sometimes I just focus on the breath going in and out, aware of either my belly moving or air entering and leaving my nostrils. Sometimes I add some phrases to accompany the in and out breaths.
Here is favorite set from Thich Nhat Hanh-"Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel fresh. Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain. Breathing out, I feel solid. Breathing in, I see myself as still water. Breathing out, I reflect all this is. Breathing in, I see myself as space. Breathing out, I feel free."
I had done these for a few days, when I realized that from where I parked, I could see flowers. I could see a mountain. Sometimes the water was still- a very powerful connection to nature. And, as Thich Nhat Hanh reminds, space (the stars) are always up there, even when the sun it out. Beyond formal morning sessions, I try to turn washing the dishes or morning grooming or house cleaning into a present moment meditative experience.
Are you watching the breath or counting while you breathe? Also, you mentioned an awareness or mindfulness present while washing the dishes, and other day-to-day events. I'd like to hear about your experiences while meditating (in terms of feelings) and also to what degree your meditation carries over into your perspective (and/or capacity to deal with) more difficult times/moments.
I mostly watch the flow of my breath in and out. I have tried different counting methods and ideas, but I feel that I start forcing the breath. That approach feels unnatural. My goal is that by consciously following the breath during structured meditation times, this habit will follow me throughout the day. Sometimes when I meditate, my feelings don't change much. Other times I feel joy, peace, connected- sometime sadness or anger.
Seven years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. As I was wheeled into the operating room so a surgeon could biopsy the tumor in my chest I consciously breathed, again lines from Thich Nhat Han- "Breathing in I calm my body, Breathing out I smile." I think I went under with a smile on my face. During chemotherapy, I listened to guided visualization healing tape. I also listened to and practiced with some Jon Kabat-Zinn mindfulness meditation tapes. These practices were a key element of my healing.