My special guest today is author Whitney Stewart, a woman with a fascinating background.
Her latest book, Give Me a Break: No-Fuss Meditation, focuses on overall — mind and body — health and tranquility. Whitney describes the book as a “straightforward, non-denominational guide to meditation” that is suitable for all audiences ages ten and up.
I wake up to a rare New Orleans day without heat or humidity. The bougainvillea blooms bright orange in my backyard; the sweet olive scents the street; and the woman next door zips up her fleece and jumps on her bicycle. I meditate on happiness.
But at breakfast, I have a toothache, and my throbbing cuspid bites at my mood. I keep probing my infected tooth with my finger, and I know it’s time for antibiotics. All I can think about is the thousand dollars I’ll have to spend on another root canal. And how I can’t eat the multi-grain roll I wanted for breakfast.
Now I’m grouchy. How did my mood change so fast?
That’s the way we humans work. Our minds flit and flutter -— happy, sad, kind, mean, generous, spiteful -— sometimes all in the space of a day.
So I meditate to find the spacious, unchanging, ungrasping, luminous and natural state of mind underneath or behind or within my mental silliness.
And the woman next to me was in a panic.
“Have you had a root canal before?” she asked me, her leg bouncing up and down. “Are you nervous?”
And then I told her that I always meditate during dental procedures and have gone through more than a dozen root canals and three oral surgeries without a hitch. She asked me how to do that, and in five minutes, I led her through quick meditation instructions that, if nothing else, would calm her bouncing leg and her pounding heart. I asked her to concentrate on her breath, breathing in and out. Breathing in calmness, breathing out peace.
She wasn’t buying it. “I hate the sound of the drill,” she said.
So what about using your imagination to distract your mind? I suggested she choose a favorite place -— a mountain setting, a beach sanctuary.
The only path I know to a permanent, lasting, joyful natural state of mind is through meditation practice that focuses and relaxes the mind.
Whitney Stewart began writing young adult biographies and meditating after she met and interviewed the fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet, the subject of two of her books, and lived with a Tibetan family in India.
For her next biographies, Whitney trekked with Sir Edmund Hillary in Nepal, interviewed Burma’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in her Rangoon home, and climbed along China’s Great Wall to research the lives of Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong. In 2004, Stewart published a picture book about the Buddha, which contains a foreword and a meditation suggestion from the fourteenth Dalai Lama.
In addition to nonfiction books, Stewart has published three middle-grade novels. In August 2005, Stewart was trapped in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and evacuated by helicopter from a rooftop. She returned home and volunteered as a creative writing teacher in the public schools. She discovered that her students suffered from post-Katrina stress. Using meditation, improvisation, and word play, Stewart taught her students to write about their lives.
Be sure to visit Colloquium tomorrow, Thursday, December 8, 2011, to learn more about Give Me a Break: No-Fuss Meditation & enter to win your own e-copy!
Thank you, Whitney!
Thanks also to Dorothy Thompson and Pump Up Your Book!