By - Sherry Bronson
It was March 2020. I'd been vacationing in Praiano on the Amalfi Coast of Italy for the last two weeks of February, and Covid hadn't yet made the news. Overnight that changed. First detected in Italy's Lombardy region, the Coronavirus spread unchecked. Cities were locked down, and airports around the world closed.
My scheduled departure was March 7th. I watched with mounting dread as the international situation escalated. Should I change the date? Get out while there was still time? Tense and stressed, I left my booking as it was and landed at Ngurah Rai airport in Bali, Indonesia, one day before they closed all flights originating in Italy.
I'd moved to the Island of the Gods, as Bali is so aptly named, eight years prior. I loved everything about that magical place, the people, the culture, the climate, the enchanting beauty of terraced rice fields and stately coconut palms. My journaling and yoga practices flourished, supported by the spiritually charged energy of the island.
I'd dabbled in meditation of various kinds but hadn't made it a part of my daily routine, even though a niggling voice said it would be a good idea. I argued with the voice telling it that yoga was my meditation, that I was already a calm, disciplined person, and that I didn't have time to waste sitting and producing nothing. I should have listened to the voice.
Waiting and wondering in Italy had stressed my nervous system. I questioned whether I'd ever see my family in the U.S. again. Would they be all right? Would I catch the dreaded virus and die in Bali? Little was known about the plague that seemed to be overtaking the world at that time. The trauma of uncertainty was unlike anything I'd ever experienced.
Overwhelmed with anxiety, my body freaked. I couldn't concentrate. My skin burned as though every nerve ending was on fire. At night, an elephant sat on my chest, crushing my heart. The governor of Bali made it clear that grave consequences would befall anyone who disobeyed lockdown rules. We were confined to our homes as the number of deaths climbed.
After a particularly unhinged morning of marathon yoga and prolonged journaling that didn't do squat to de-escalate my whacked-out nerves, the voice in my head whispered, Meditate. Desperate for relief, I grabbed a pillow, slid to the floor, and tried to clear the mental clamor. It was torment. The voice whispered again, music. I tuned into a classical station and resumed my half-lotus position forcing myself to focus on the rise and fall of sound, to breathe with the rhythm, and merge with the waves of emotion coursing through me. Something snapped. Tears poured from my eyes and drooled down my cheeks. I cried the rest of the day and fell asleep crying that night. The elephant disappeared.
After a while, music was no longer necessary. The moment I hit the pillow, my heart filled with gratitude, and I slipped into a meditative state. It became the most important part of my day.
When I mentioned my new routine to a friend, she said, "Have you met your guides?"
"Guides?" I frowned. "What are you talking about?"
She described her own experience and suggested I invite into my consciousness any ancestors or beings who had positive messages for me. That bizarre idea challenged my comfort level. I had a working relationship with The Universe. During meditation, I seemed to dissolve and become one with all things. If I asked a question or needed inspiration, the answers were there. I was doing just fine on my own, I thought. Who needs guides?
The next day, seated in gratitude on my pillow, I was suddenly aware of a presence. A female danced in front of me, stomping the ground, shaking her wildly flowing hair and pointing her finger in my direction. Who are you? my mind asked. Her answer was immediate. I am Wahine. I took you to Hawaii, and I brought you here. My eyes flew open and meditation for that day ended in gooseflesh.
I lived in Hawaii after college. In the Hawaiian language, Wahine means woman. Was she my guide? Had she been with me all these years? What was the message in her wild dance?
Over the next two years, five more beings appeared to enrich my meditations. Some had human form, and others were animal guides. One accompanied me on soul journeys, which was a whole new level of a mind-blowing experience. Each had something to show me, teach me, or somewhere to take me, and their messages brought comfort.
I’ll admit that at first, I questioned my sanity. I know myself as a logical, practical, down-to-earth person not prone to chasing after the latest WooWoo. Was my creative imagination working overtime? But I couldn't argue with the truth - the time spent on my pillow brought peace, calmed my nervous system, increased my creativity, and returned joy and positivity to my life. The more highly meditated I became, the more abundantly the Universe met my needs.
There are pearls of collective wisdom available for asking if we become quiet enough to hear. Scientists and doctors agree that a dedicated practice of meditation controls anxiety, as it so beautifully did for me, reduces stress and blood pressure, improves sleep, helps manage pain, promotes emotional health, lengthens attention span, and may reduce age-related memory loss.
There are different types of meditation. Just as in shoes, one size does not fit all. The friend that I mentioned finds that walking meditations serve her best. And that argument about not enough time… Take a closer look at your life. If there isn't room for fifteen minutes a day, something's gotta give.