Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Learning: Meditation is a safe space

When my husband and I got married, it didn’t just change our lives. It changed the lives of our cats.
Waddles had lived with just me for three and a half years. My husband had two cats, Thunder Cat and Sam.
It was not love at first sight when Wa met TC and Sam. It usually isn’t with cats.
They hissed, growled and made other sounds I had never heard. Wa was normally very calm. She hissed more in those first few months in our new home than she had in the years we had lived together.
We did everything the experts say to do when introducing cats: allow them to see each other, but not get to each other. Give them treats when they are together without arguing, thereby rewarding calm behavior. Spray pheromones around the room.
What really worked was time. They had to learn to live with each other, and they had to do it on their timetable.
During the hard times, I put one of Wa’s beds underneath one of the windows in the master bedroom. That way we could keep a protective eye on her.
Eventually, I added a covered bed for her. She loved that space and spent a lot of time there even when peace finally settled on the household. She moved around the house, playing and lounging around. But her place in the bedroom seemed to be her home base.
TC and Sam never bothered Wa when she was there, and they never tried to take it over. It was Wa’s safe space.
Now the space is empty. After Wa died, we took up the beds. We picked up her special blanket and her favorite toys, which still sit on the dresser where we can see them.
When I decided that I wanted to commit to meditating on a regular basis, I wondered where I would do it. I wanted a space in the house where it would be quiet and where I knew I could always go to be still.
I decided to use Wa’s space. I sit on the floor looking out over the bedroom like Wa did. I stare at my candle (battery-powered, of course). Then I close my eyes and listen.
It’s difficult for me to use breathing as a way to center myself. I don’t know if it’s because I have asthma or if OCD makes me think too much about breathing. But I feel out of breath when I try.
Chanting or saying words out loud is also a problem. I feel out of breath or I get into a mindless mode instead of a mindful mode.
So I listen. I listen to the sounds around me: the tick of the clocks, the creaks of the house, the soft puff of the ceiling fan, a train passing through town a mile away. I imagine that my ears are stretching out and turning, like a cat’s.
I practice letting my thoughts go, and I picture them swirling into a globe and spinning around there. I try to watch myself. I try to be here right now.
And I share a safe space with my Wa in spirit.
I have written before about mandalas, and how coloring them, and then creating my own, comforted me during a hard time and continue to comfort me.
The mandala pictured with this post is one that I created to illustrate my meditation, my safe space.
Do you have a safe space? Is it an actual place, or is it a place you go to in your mind? What makes a space safe for you?


  1. One of my most very favorite places to be is at church during worship time. When I'm singing to God the world literally melts away around me. I like to imagine what it will be like to be in Heaven to sing to Him. That's definitely one of the safest places for me to be in the whole wide world. So it's kind of an actual place, but it's also kind of a place I go to in my mind.

    Also, and you'll appreciate this one, another safe place is anywhere I can cuddle with my kitty.

    1. I love your description of being in church and singing. Being in church, especially at the "early" service that is smaller and quieter, comforts me too--it's another safe place.

      I would love to hear about your love of singing and music, Sunny!

      Cuddling with a kitty is just heaven! :-)

  2. I would have to say my "safe space" is in my kitchen, not cooking or doing any of those household tasks. I love to put in a cd depending on my mood (Adele is in now, as she has become a new favorite) and then I can just dance and sing and be in the moment. This is always done when I'm alone in case I hit a sour note, especially when learning a new song, I can feel the music through me and in me and as I sing or dance it helps me to feel alive and promotes thoughts and feelings I may need to get out. That's why depending on my mood I choose the music, if I'm angry or feel some rage then it's hard driving rock. If I'm in a relaxing and calm mood then it's usually something like "The Eagles" or something that makes me reflect on life and how much I have to be thankful for. If for whatever reason I can't be there in my kitchen giving myself what I call my very on concert then the car does just fine. Or grabing my camera and driving around taking pictures of the things I love so much that I have grown up around. I really love nature pictures, old barns and farms and churchs,things that most of us don't even notice because they have been there so long. I find a real peace and feel like I now have another piece of my history to tell my grandchildren about. Not to mention that most of the art in my house is my own. I also try to have things around that remind me of my family, so somewhere you look you'll see something that was made by one of my dear family members. Therefore, there's another story,at the ready when I'm ask "where did you get that?".

    1. Thank you, wildflower6213, for your lovely comment. I can tell from your description that music is very powerful for you. It is for me, too. For me, the best place to listen to it is in my car. I don't worry if it's too loud, and I can sing with abandon! I have selections to fit every mood.

      I think it's wonderful that you surround yourself with your art and other things that will provide a story for others. Thanks again for your comment!

  3. When I was in therapy for anxiety, one of my exercises was to create a safe place in my mind that I could retreat to. I created a beautiful garden with tall hedges and roses of all colors. In that space, the animals I had, now long gone, frolic and play.

    A few years ago, at 51, I created a real garden, and that now is my safe haven. In a new home, I am starting all over again, but getting my hands in the dirt is a comforting act for me.

    One of the things I love about this post is that many people think they can't meditate for one reason or another. You found a way that works for you, and that's a great example for others.

    1. Nadine, I'm so glad that you are able to create a new garden. When I work with plants and dirt, I feel calm and connected. Learning about a new zone for gardening will be an adventure!

      I have gotten a lot of help with meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn's book "Wherever You Go, There You Are."

  4. My safe place is the little hiking trail about a mile from my house. It's a wonderful place to get lost in nature.

    1. Feeling lost in nature is a comforting feeling. It's good that you have a nice trail so near to your house. Thanks for commenting, OE!

  5. I don't have a real safe place, but when I feel bad, if I'm angry, feeling down, I only can get better in front of my computer screen, maybe because the only people who care or understand are my online friends. Even during the night, I hold my mobile very strongly in my hand. There is no way I could put it next to me in bed or on the table. It has to be in my hand, otherwise I don't feel safe and panic.

    1. Nikky, I'm sorry you don't have in-person comfort, but your online friends are behind you, me included! We are just a click away.

  6. Lovely post! Just what I needed to read in the middle of my current anxiety attack. Thank you for helping to calm my mind a bit.

  7. Loved this post! Ah, the drama of our kittycats. :-) But we love 'em!I'm inspired by your taking time to meditate...I need to make time for that myself, and count it an investment in my health.


    1. Jean, Thanks so much! Yes, our kitties are precious. They definitely have the upper hand over their Mama and Papa . . . :-)

      The only way I am able to meditate is to make myself keep doing it even when I'm not "perfect" at it. I think it is helping me be calmer and more mindful.

  8. What a neat reuse of her special place!

    I have a hard time meditating through breathing as well. I do better when it's guided - yoga or even just a guided meditation podcast. I just finished listening to Eckhart Tolle's Findhorn Retreat - it's a 4 hour long dvd of this retreat on finding stillness and being present. Trying to implement some of what I've learned. Challenging. I may have to watch it again, lol.

  9. Lisa, Thank you for your comment. I like using her place. I think about her and I hope I honor her.

    That dvd sounds good. I'm still reading Jon Kabat-Zinn. I have to reread and absorb slowly!


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