I have, in the past, taken a couple of meditation courses and read a number of books on the subject. I took them seeking to quiet my overactive mind and to subdue my more extreme senses. I have heightened senses of smell, sight, and hearing. I have 20/5 vision in one eye and 20/10 in the other. I can pick out a specific smell in a plethora of others. Those are both good but my hearing is the worst, or rather best. I have the unfortunate ability to hear sounds most people can’t. I can hear dog whistles, the electric hum of power lines, conversations from long distances, it is really quite distracting. If I don’t employ the techniques I learned in meditation I am assaulted aurally and I get extremely bad headaches and my vision falters.
In meditation you are taught a specific way of breathing that brings your pulse down. In concentrating on that breathing pattern you lose focus of all other thoughts and senses. I require it enough of the time that I employ it, mainly to control my hearing, without thinking about it. There is one technique though that I have never been able to perform and eventually it caused me to quit the courses. That technique is that when you are performing your breathing to picture yourself in a safe place. Some place that only you know about, the place in your head you go when you need to get away. I could never find a place I felt at peace in. When I closed my eyes and looked inside all I found was darkness. I became disconcerted and frustrated so I quit. I kept what I needed to not go mad and left the rest.
I reenrolled in college and started attending classes a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t thought about the meditation in years because it became second nature. I use it to control my hearing and don’t think about it for anything else. That is until I attended my first maths (that’s the proper term for it) class in 10 years.
The teacher outlined what we would be learning over the term and then began to talk about test anxiety. He explained that test anxiety was just a general tension in your body that raises your pulse and causes you to lose concentration. He then said he had a simple cure for it. He outlined, though to a simpler degree, the techniques I learned in those meditation courses. I knew all of this but I played along anyway.
“I want you to close your eyes as tight as you can. Now tense every muscle in your body, make tight fists and tense your shoulders. Now, take three deep breaths, pausing at the top of each, and slowly let them out. At the end of the third I want you to relax all those muscles, drop your shoulders and let your arms hang at your sides. Keep your eyes closed and picture a place you feel safe.”
I knew this part was coming and I dreaded it. I still hadn’t found my “safe place”
“Picture it. Someplace only you know about, some place nothing bad can happen. Now let’s decorate it. What are the sounds? Are there smells? Make it real in your mind. I want you to take three more deep breaths the same way you did before and on the third open your eyes and you should feel relaxed.”
I did what he asked. Three deep breaths in and slowly out. When I opened my eyes they were wet with tears and I thanked god I was sitting in the back. I had found my safe place. I pictured it just the way he said. I found it, decorated it, and made it real. There was furniture, smells, sounds, and another person. Decorating it wasn’t necessary because it wasn’t the room that was my safe place but the person that shared it with me.
The room was easy to paint. I had spent some of the happiest times in my life there. I knew every detail and aspect, I had helped build it and make it that way so I knew it all. I painted it so well it felt like I could reach out and touch it all.
I pictured a bed fit for a queen that nearly filled the room. White and grand it has been the central feature of any room it’s been in. I saw every detail and stitch of the comforter I could never keep on. I felt the sheets against my skin and my head in the pillow. I saw every swoop and curve of the headboard and every gold tack along the bottom. I saw the exact way I made it every morning I was home. All the blankets in just the right place and the pillows arranged with exacting detail. The throw arranged with just the right amount of carefully planned disarray across the bottom corner.
Then I pictured the chaise against the window. Covered in its white and cream blankets and arranged with it own specific design of pillows. I saw the exact way they were placed. I saw every bead and bell on the ones that had them. I felt the way the fabric of the blankets felt on my legs and the way the curtains felt against the skin of my bald head did when I’d sit there to read or talk. I saw the picture that stood near by. The one that nearly fell on me one night when Paris decided it couldn’t share space with Rome.
Then to the right I saw the black desk against the wall. With its red accents and crystalline knobs it was expertly cluttered with papers and books. The lap top stood open and ready for use music pumping from its speakers.
Then I saw the little dresser at the foot of the bed and all the little things that adorn its top. There was the little lamp with its beaded tassels, the ear ring holder, and the alarm clock that would wake me when I was home. The bookshelf came next and the hat boxes that sat to the right. I filled its shelves with every book and movie I knew would be there, every title etched in memory. I saw my wallet and keys in their accustomed place next to my glass of water on it glass coaster.
I filled the room with all the sounds I knew I’d hear. There was the persistent hiss of the radiator that would keep me up late sometimes. The sounds of talking that would drift in from the building across the way. People flushing toilets and running water, I could always hear the people across the way showering.
Then I found the smells. I smelled the perfume that always hung lightly in the air. There was the smell of cigarette smoke that would come from the landing through the bathroom window. The way the bed and carpet smelled, and smells of make up and paper filled my senses. I made it real and lived in.
The last piece came then; the one I knew would but didn’t want to, the other person. In her room, in my head, she appeared dressed in her pajamas. Every curve and nuance fully realized. Every line and freckle in their place. The geography of her body was fully formed and real. I saw the shape of her lips and the line that ran down the middle of the bottom one, the same as mine. I saw every shift in the color of her eyes and the shimmering wave of her early morning hair. She sat at the foot of the bed looking at me with a glowing, expectant, smile as if the woman in my head knew I’d come. I saw the subtle way one of her eyebrows raises when she smiles.
I finally found my safe place. I pictured it, decorated it, and took the extra step of populating it. I found it and everyday in that class since it started I try to find another because this one hurts. Still everyday comes and there it, and she, is waiting for me when I close my eyes. I take my breaths, trying with each to extricate myself from this image, and at the end it’s all that will come. Sometimes I cry and sometimes I don’t but every time it hurts. I found my safe place after I had locked myself out. The locks have been changed and no locksmith can open that door again, it can only be opened from the inside.
Yes I know that some of you may find this sad or pathetic but I’ve stopped caring about the judgment of other in regard to my feelings and expression. I’m incredibly sad and I accept my culpability for the events that have brought about that feeling. I played my part both to bring about the happiness I felt and in sending it away. I made mistakes that have cost me and whether they know it or not yet they have cost others as well. And now that’s the end of it, at least on here.