Reflections on 30 Years of Meditating

I started meditating at 17, using weekly lessons of instruction that came in the mail, not quite sure if I was doing it “right”

by Susan Stiffelman
meditation, Parenting Without Power Struggles

Not long ago, I spent  hours in front of a microphone, recording audio for a parenting webinar I was developing. I had an unexpected experience each time I listened to the playbacks; there was a calmness in my voice that repeatedly surprised me. The project had been massive, with weeks of preparation and many challenges organizing the material and getting the recording right. But there it was—an unmistakable peacefulness permeating the audio track, and it made me smile.

I am a busy person, with a full life. I'm in the midst of launching a book, preparing for a major media tour, redoing a website, seeing counseling clients and keeping up with the normal stuff of everyday life. Sometimes I feel like I'm anything but calm as I hustle through the activities of my day. But listening to myself on audio, I realized yet again that a lifetime of meditation has impacted me in ways I can't imagine.

It began when I was 17 years old, and read a book about an Indian yogi that somehow made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I started meditating using weekly lessons of instruction that came in the mail, not quite sure if I was doing it “right”, but compelled to turn within to find something that seemed to be calling to me...loudly. This was in the 70's, in Kansas; there weren't mindfulness classes at the local gym (very few local gyms, as a matter of fact) and you certainly couldn't go “online” to “stream” a “live chat” for a meditation class. A stream was a gentle flow of water and...well, you get the idea. My resources for learning to meditate were limited, but the call to find an inner sense of peace and stillness was insistent.

And thus began a lifelong practice of spending time each day for what I have come to call drinking from the well within. I'm not a great meditator; my mind still wanders, I'm routinely distracted by the tasks ahead or in replaying things that happened in the past with so and so or such and such. But I move through my day anchored to something deep and beautiful, and I can see—or perhaps more accurately, hear in my voice—that it has made an enormous difference.

These days, meditating is as ubiquitous as being a vegetarian or gardening without pesticides. But it wasn't always that way. When I began, there were a handful of people scattered across the country, dipping their toe into a kind of practice that seemed foreign and exotic; meditation was something monks did in monasteries, or Indians did with their gurus. It has been heartening to watch the meditation and mindfulness movement take hold across the globe, making its way into mainstream life. Because if we sit and take the time to turn within and make contact with whatever we choose to call it—spirit, stillness, spaciousness or God—the payoffs are immeasurable. Not only do I feel it as I move through my day with more stability, serenity and sanity, I can hear it in my voice. It works.

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Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected. Pre-order the book now (link below) and visit <>  to sign up for Susan's free parenting newsletter.

Share Your Thoughts!


Carol Crismond04.05.2013

I understand the dilemma of meditation. For years my reading material kept nearby my favorite chair is Meditation Solutions. I read, learn and try to experience the world of meditation. To date after fifteen years I am still less than a novice. My mind wanders to the ridiculous like what am I making for dinner meat loaf, or scampi. I have also been gifted with living near the ocean and still manage to see myself surfing or sailing. Perhaps that discipline is not for me. As I said I understand your dilemma and enjoyed your writing.

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