A Peaceful Place

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Two decades ago, in my fifties, life brought a curve ball so profound that it took most of the decade to work through. My children were grown, I was single, and I ached for a place to find peace.

It took a long time to find it, that sweet, singular place where I could go at any time to release all my tension, stress, and anxiety and where a gentle peace washed over and renewed my spirit.

I used to think my best place was near water, for when I sat on the warm granules of ocean sand, my hand shielding my eyes from brilliant sun, watching waves ebb and flow, I felt deeply serene and part of a timeless process. The waves that either fiercely crashed or gently lapped onto shore reminded me of Mother Nature’s vast contrasts, her ferocious, crushing power that could also be both gentle and kind. Yet the salty, sandy seashore was frequently not available to me.

Then I thought my quiet place was in the mountains, where I have lived most of my adult life. Countless times I have gazed at majestic mountains, their swelling contours suggesting to me that profound symbol of nurturance, a woman’s breast, and heard these words silently arise within: I will lift mine eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help.

Another time I thought I’d found my perfect place in a beautiful magazine picture:

A thirty-ish woman sits cross-legged, eyes closed with a radiant serene look on her perfect skin, her lovely face tilted upward. No wonder: she is surrounded by lavish, large-leafed greenery centering around a large boulder where a stream of water trickles down into a small pool. Nearby are objects sacred to her: a candle, a picture, and a few small shells.

“There must be a way to devise something like that in the corner of my bedroom,” I thought. Then I pondered finding a boulder and moving it, then creating a waterfall that would not spill water all over the rug, flood the entire first floor before it streamed out the door and into the yard. Well, it was a nice thought.

I tried body massages, long walks with Mother Nature, biking beneath sunshine and clouds of all seasons, quilting in a well-lit corner of my homey living room, kayaking alone on a still, tree-surrounded lake, the trees beautifully reflected in clear glistening water. I’d been in sacred church sanctuaries of many denominations and listened to stunning symphonies. All had refreshed and restored me, yet most were places where I needed to travel.

Then, quite unexpectedly, my quiet place came to me in the midst of my catastrophic fifties. I sat on a hard chair, one of a therapeutic circle of women. The facilitator placed a yards- long piece of soft fabric across all our laps.

I knit my eyebrows in puzzlement as she softly instructed, “Now place both hands, palm down, over the fabric and loosely grasp it.”

We did.

“Close your eyes,” she said.

With my eyes closed, I noticed the gentleness of her voice. “Now take a few deep breaths and then think only about the feel of the fabric you are holding.”

A shallow breather all my life, I always welcomed a reminder to breathe deeply. Within seconds of following her instructions, I began to experience a change within I’d never known before. My body’s constant internal churning began to subside and a new peacefulness, ever so slowly, flowed throughout my body.

I felt my forehead broaden as tension melted away over my eyes. My mouth softened and felt like it spread into a small smile. My head slowly drooped as my neck muscles relaxed, my shoulders dropped, my chest lightened, my abdomen relaxed, and my legs felt so loose I wasn’t sure they could support me if I stood up.

I had just had my first meditation experience. I’d discovered a peace-filled place I had with me always, within myself.

 

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About Mary Jo Doig

At the turn of the millennium, I arrived at a cross-road that brought me to a splendid, if unforeseen place, almost as if I were a traveler on Robert Frost's The Road Less Traveled. I was single again, my three children were grown and building their lives, I'd experienced a health issue and was working on an improved lifestyle. I also ached to do two other things: (1) change my long human services career in upstate New York's Catskill Mountains, where winter seemed to be at least seven months out of every year, and (2) move to a warmer place in the universe. My decision: did I want to continue on the path I'd been following pretty much all my life, or could I gather my then-fragile courage and start life brand new somewhere else? These were scary thoughts for a single woman in her late 50s. Five hundred miles away, though, I fell in love with a new mountain range, Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, where I knew not a soul except my daughter who was attending college in the Shenandoah Valley, and I moved. I rented a tiny cabin on a mountain in the woods and lived there in solitude for two years, working in a new career by day and, when home, communing with the incredible natural beauty that surrounded me. There I also began to write my life stories, which were aching for release. I joined the Story Circle Network in early 2001, a rich place in cyberspace for women life writers, where I strengthened my written voice and began sharing my stories. I found so many opportunities to grow: 10 year facilitator for an online writing circle of women writers across the country; thirteen year editor of the "True Words from Real Women" section of the quarterly Journal; a reader and reviewer of women's memoirs for the SCN Book Review site; program chair for two Stories from the Heart national conferences in Austin, T. Presently I'm teaching Women's Life-Writing and Older Women's Legacy workshops in my part of the world in Central Virginia and facilitating the ongoing Circle of Memories Writing Circle (formerly an OWL workshop that continued on) at the Crozet Public Library. I am blessed with three wonderful children, a son and two daughters; a small, huge-hearted family; dear friends; my beagle Addie and cat Button. My hobbies include reading, writing, editing, cooking, gardening, quilting, knitting, biking, and simply being with the profound beauty of the mountains that embrace my small two acres in the Blue Ridge. The life stories I began writing in 2001 have grown deeper with time, re-writes, and personal growth. All these years later, I'm scheduled to publish my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life, in 2018.
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7 Responses to A Peaceful Place

  1. Linda Hoye says:

    How beautiful, Mary Jo. I’m so happy you found that place of peace. I’ve always had a sense of serenity when I’m around you–you carry it well, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful, Mary Jo. Beautifully written, sincerely felt. A great lesson for us all. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jan Golden says:

    Beautifully said, you could have been describing me.

    Like

  4. This is so beautifully presented! I love the image, which took me into meditative state before I began reading (I just sat here staring at the purple scarf sensing how it would feel between my fingers … I dunno, maybe two minutes?) and after reading I went back to the image with an even deeper appreciation. Thank you so much. You’ve given my day a truly good kick-start.

    Like

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