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Mindful : October 2015
When Nora Meiners, now 40, gradu- ated from college with a degree in cre- ative writing, she promptly embarked on an entrepreneurial path, starting a dog day care center and a dog grooming shop in Boston. Five years ago, she upended her life, separating from the father of her young son, renouncing her share of the business, accepting an entry-level job at a game and puzzle company where she quickly became their marketing coor- dinator, and reclaiming her passion for writing—this time as a slam poet. Tell us a bit about your path into the world of slam poetry. After I made those changes—all with a then two-year-old son—every- thing was new and scary. Most of it was give, give, give—putting out so much of myself. Poetry allowed me to recharge, to step on stage and be appreciated purely for my creative endeavor. What brought you to meditation? When I was a teenager, a close friend of mine died suddenly. Then my sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I never grieved properly or sought therapy. I just grew into a very wor- ried, nervous adult who reacted to the world with fear or with impulsivity. My therapist suggested breathing exercises and meditation. When I finally tried them, the breathing exercises worked and I thought there might be more there. So, two years ago, I tried meditation and found myself able to deal with a little more in my life than I had thought I could. Can you say more about that? I maintain my ease in the world bet- ter—and coming from a background of anxiety, I was searching very hard for that. I would walk into situations with less open-mindedness. For example, when I needed to switch weekends with my son’s dad, my approach was only about getting my needs met. I would push and push and push. It created a lot of unnecessary tension. Now I step back, breathe, and remind myself that I can turn the moment into a bigger situation or I can say, “I’ve heard you. I disagree, but let’s talk later.” I have tried to open up to more kindness and compassion, to being less stuck on an expectation of what I want. And with your son? For a while, I was pretty wrapped up in the creative process, thinking about a poem while I was with my son, rather than setting aside the time and saying, “I’m with my kid now, and I will be with my writing later.” I am more engaged, more present in our day-to-day life. And I’m more patient with him and with myself. Sometimes he’ll ask the same question 18 times. You forget you’re dealing with a child, and finally you give an abrupt answer, because you’re an adult who already knows the answer and has repeated it 15 times and is tired. Now, I can stay with him: He has a question and he’s going to need the answer repeated until he gets it. That’s okay. What has surprised you about meditation? When I experienced an immediate result—the ability to calm myself down—it was so drastic. I thought, “ Well, I’ve got it. I have made the shift.” But there isn’t really the shift. It’s the difference between taking a sip of water when you’re thirsty and replenishing fluids when you’re dehydrated. Two years into this, I have quenched a thirst to live a little differently, but I have more to learn before I can feel that I am consistently walking through this world in a way that stays openhearted and comfort- able and authentic. Meditation and poetry— was that an easy match? The meditative mind and the mind I was using as a poet are differ- ent. What fed my poetry were the moments when I perseverated over something, reliving an experience, taking it apart, remaining in an emo- tional state. But with meditation I am working to get away from wallowing in angst. I thought my writing might suffer—that I would have to choose. I was pretty desperate for some peace, so I was willing to give up part of the creative process. But then I wrote a few poems and they were just fine. You’re a single mother with a full- time job and a compelling avocation as a slam poet. Where does medita- tion fit into your day? My son has difficulty falling asleep and doesn’t like to be alone, so I worked it into his bedtime routine. I place a pillow on the landing, just outside his attic bedroom. When I put him to bed, we read a book, and if he has anything to tell me before I leave, I let him say it. Then, when he’s ready, hecountsdownforme:“3,2,1 . . . meditate.” ● Between the Lines By Victoria Dawson Photograph by Porter Gifford “With meditation I am working to get away from wallowing in angst.” 28 mindful October 2015 meet the meditator