Meditation has always interested me. There is a reasonable body of evidence that suggests it helps even one’s moods, improve one’s sense of well being, encourages the brain to rest and repair, and if done long enough, can even open the door to influencing one’s physical body.

Few of the data are strong or conclusive, and I have a private hunch that the placebo effect, long known to the scientific community and more recently, employed deliberately, plays a large part in the positive effects. Our minds are so incredibly variable, and individual practice is difficult to judge; it is difficult to imagine we can, with the tools currently available, prove that it helps.

However, I have had a lot of time on my hands the past month and after finishing The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher Heuertz I supposed there was no time like the present. He finishes his exploration of the nine personality types with guides for a few different prayers popular with catholic monks of various persuasions. These prayers are essentially mindfulness and gratitude meditations performed through a Christian lens, e easily translated into a secular practice. So, for the past six days, I have taken at least twenty minutes each day to let my mind wander and try to gently corral it into something resembling peacefulness.

My mind is not naturally a peaceful mind. One of the reasons I read so much is that I read quickly. Particularly stories that are pure narrative and don’t require much introspection or pause. Part of this is habit, but a big part of it is that my undisciplined mind sucks in information, processes it, and immediately spits it back out again. Speaking and writing both help me slow down and think, but I still think fast enough that sometimes I forget what I’m saying, or what I was going to say, because inside I’ve already moved on.

On the first day, I used a mental image of myself filling with light. It started in my lungs, filled my body down to my pelvic floor, then two columns moved towards my feet. Often I got distracted halfway. Never did the light make it all the way down to the floor. But for twenty minutes, I redirected my wandering thoughts back into the light. When I finished and opened my eyes, I almost felt like I’d gotten stoned or a little drunk. My head felt light and stuffy and I was a little dizzy, and full of a kind of mellow happiness.

It’s only been a week but I am hopeful and energized by the experiences I’ve had so far. One day in particular was almost overwhelmingly beautiful.

I spent last weekend in Portland, celebrating the gradual return of the sun with friends. One of the kids helped me with my yoga practice for the day (meaning she pestered me about it all morning until I did it, then lost interest after 20 minutes) and at the end, there is a brief cool down timer, only three short minutes. I drew breath and light into myself and let it back out again, and for a moment felt like I had zoomed out, like I was watching from above as a light full of love, washed out from me and filled the back yard. Then it overflowed the fence and went into the house, full of people I love, and began washing out into the rest of the world.

I didn’t see it keep going, I was only there for a moment, but when I came back to myself and felt this overwhelming feeling of love.

According to the nine personality types, I and people like me offer acts of service as a natural outpouring of the universal love we create, hold, and share. When we are dysfunctional, the acts of service are not done by choice but by compulsion, are often poorly considered, and can occur so frequently they leave no room for us to love ourselves. The practice I am beginning is to make room for me, to get used to receiving love, and to become more deliberate in my actions so they serve me and my community.

So to feel this powerful surge of love coming from within, coming from my pelvic floor through my heart and so abundant that it seemed it would never run out, made me cry from happiness.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever had to explain to a house full of people that you need a minute to feel the love of the universe flowing through you before you can get your head together enough to start roasting a chicken, but if you do: be prepared for some bewildered and indulgent looks. I am fortunate that my friends are tolerant of experiences outside their own. They didn’t look at me funny or shame me or try to comfort me because I was crying, they just kind of smiled and asked me to let them know when I was done with my universal happy juice and could help.

I’ve tried to recapture that moment a few times since and haven’t managed it yet. Perhaps the presence of people is necessary to spark the connection between a practice and a feeling overwhelming enough to bring on happy tears. Perhaps in time it will come back. Perhaps, even, it will become something I can draw on when I’m angry at an awful driver or feeling fear at the veiled future. Whatever comes, I am pleased already to have felt some of these feelings, and I am looking forward to feeling them again and gaining some facility with them.

I have always been a loving and grateful person. With time, I have also become wiser and more certain of myself. I hope that my future holds a place where I have both, and can share it with you.