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Through Meditation, a Life Emerges From Isolation

Susan Quinn of San Clemente, a management consultant, is writing a book on religious and spiritual practices

My life, for many years, was a life of alienation. I felt dissatisfied with myself, my family, my friends, my work and my religious and spiritual practices.

Although many people may have seen me as a person of self-confidence and satisfaction, I often felt alone, disappointed and anxious. As I began to develop a religious and spiritual life, however, a new door opened for me. Alienation transformed into intimacy, little by little, day by day.

How has this happened? By living a life that includes prayer and meditation.

Taking the time to pray and meditate has allowed me to create the space for reflection; wisdom, compassion and love have continued to grow. Instead of desperately holding on to the illusion that life must always be perfect, that relationships and events should always be pleasant, rewarding and fun, I’ve gradually begun to embrace all of my life: the sorrow with the joy, the frustration with the satisfaction, the disappointment with the celebration.

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As I’ve sought to become more intimate with God and more intimate with my life, I’ve recognized how much of the pain I’ve experienced has been the result of demanding that I have the perfect life. I’d isolated myself out of fear that I would be disappointed by others or that I would disappoint them. As I continue to pursue a steady practice of prayer and meditation, I’m letting go of my demands for perfection, and a process that nurtures acceptance of, and intimacy with, my life has emerged.

What happens when I pray and meditate? An immediate benefit is the sense of peace and well-being; that result is not necessarily spiritual, but it creates a fertile environment for intimacy to emerge. As the thoughts and feelings of isolation begin to lessen, spaciousness begins to grow and allow for more openness and receptivity. I am less defensive of my positions, less judgmental of others’ points of view, more curious about how others think and feel, and more available to learning and growing.

As I’ve continued to meditate and pray, over time I’ve found that anxiety about what others think of me has begun to dissipate. My concerns over being liked and accepted still arise, but I’ve become a more dispassionate observer of my thoughts and feelings and from that perspective, they lose their stifling hold over me. I am able to recognize thoughts and emotions as transient and impermanent, rather than concrete and immutable.

Instead of pursuing a life that focuses on gaining the acceptance and love of others, I’ve been moved to become more loving, supportive and kind. As my love for life and for others blossoms, I’ve found that I feel less isolated and alone. I also have recognized that God is ever-present and available, and that I never have to feel alienated or lonely, because God never turns away.

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With that constant of unconditional love and presence, I’ve felt the desire to share my love with others, to become closer to those I care about, to help them experience more love and caring in their own lives.

Following a life of prayer and meditation is not all beauty and joy; in those quiet moments, I’ve had old issues and wounds start to emerge. At the same time, as those subconscious painful areas manifest, I have learned how to work with them as a spiritual practice; they provide me with opportunities to meet my life head on, to embrace all of my life, which includes old hurts, disappointments, embarrassments and fears.

A regular practice of prayer and meditation takes time, too. For me, however, a daily practice has allowed the chaos of my life to settle; it has created a calm within the storm of life, a spaciousness for wisdom and compassion to grow. It has allowed me to become more intimate with the Divine, more intimate with those I love and care about, and more intimate with my life.

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On Faith is a forum for Orange County clergy and others to offer their views on religious topics of general interest. Submissions, which will be published at the discretion of The Times and are subject to editing, should be delivered to Orange County religion page editor Jack Robinson.


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