This is a quick sketch of me, eyes closed, sunbathing, thinking, breathing deeply, leaning on a pillar in the cloister of Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France. It was drawn by my then boyfriend in my journal of the summer of 1987 while ‘interrailing’ around Europe. I am 20 and was sorting some paperwork there as few weeks later I would be back to study at the university for a year. I had discovered the Aix-en-Provence travelling round the south of France a year earlier with a girlfriend and had spent the intervening year making sure I’d return for my year abroad.
My twenties. I was a freewheeling (and chaotic) ball of energy, and in amongst exuberant happiness, I freewheeled right into some painful and bewildering experiences too. I yearned to come off that rollercoaster. It would take decades to unravel all that. And unravel it I did.
Next to the picture he drew of that blissful moment, I wrote a poem, that flowed from me on opening my eyes, a poem of a yearning to cease yearning, to find peace, strength, balance:
I dream of a thousand birds
Watching them I lose my gravity
And yearn nothing from afar.
Warm- fibred summer
Find a hole in my being
And keep this dream vibrant in my songs.
And pillars of truth
Put your strength in my backbone
May it feel with you
The harmony of the cloister
In January of this year, as I wrapped up my meditation teacher training, I had written all the assignments about meditation, practiced leading sessions and I was writing my final report: a business case. I was struggling for the words to express what I wanted to do in holding the meditation space for others. I had to somehow put words around a yearning for balance and harmony that had existed so long in my life that it had gone silently underground. I had used up the few days set aside to finish this, I was now working while doing other things that needed doing, I was sinking into the despair that I might not pull this off. I pulled open a cupboard with my old diaries that I rarely look at. And flicking through them, looking for a clue, I came across this forgotten poem, forgotten sketch.
It was during my studies in France that I met and befriended a calm American who would recommend meditation to me. It would take me a few years to start doing it, a good decade of dabbling in it, another one of doing it every now and then one day, eight years ago, having the realization that meditation was the clue to speeding up the unravelling of my troubles and then years of building up the discipline of a daily practice.
And all along I had been kept warm by the dream that all the thousand birds in my head could fly gracefully and lift me into a loving stream of well- being, that I would find a way to release me and steady my life. That hope had indeed kept vibrant, quietly flowing under my busy, crazy life. And it was about to come out to the surface.
So I sat down and wrote the truth about my challenges, and how meditation is my antidote to my busy life. I found the words to talk about my mission of bringing meditation to people who are looking for balance in their lives and to support others to make their lives vibrant, harmonious and sustainable through meditation too. I finished the assignment the next day. Over the coming months I would go back to my plan, and follow what I wrote there. As by then Covid was with us, I got on Zoom and launched Meditating with Olga.