Mind matters

You might find a meditation program that works for you.

MV Times

Editor’s note: The 55-Plus section of The MV Times lists dozens of activities and opportunities for readers each month. In this issue, we start a new, occasional series that takes a deeper dive into a single listing. This time, we look at Ed Merck’s twice-weekly meditation sessions, delivered via Zoom. Friday’s 9:30 am sessions are sponsored by the Edgartown Council on Aging, the Anchors. Tuesday’s 9:30 Meditation Circle is sponsored by the Unitarian Church. 

The practice of meditation has exploded in recent years. According to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people practicing some form of meditation tripled between 2012 and 2015.

Meditation has been around for thousands of years, picking up along the way a number of different practices that identify as meditation. So people often arrive at a new-to-them meditation session not knowing what to expect. Will it be a lengthy sitting in silence, such as happens at the Martha’s Vineyard Bodhi Path Buddhist Center in West Tisbury? Or more like Shakti Gawain’s short guided creative visualization meditations, recordings of which have been improving my life for decades? What about chanting? Is sound meditation really true meditation? What about mantras?  

Finding “your kind” of meditation is arguably the most difficult aspect of becoming a meditator.

Illustrative of such a search is Kay Mayhew’s experience: “Several years ago I was dealing with my inability to be reasonable, and especially to being able to respond properly in dealing with my husband when he was going through an awful lot — damage from cancer treatment and a broken hip. I knew I needed to respond, not simply react, as I’d been doing, losing my temper for the most ridiculous things. I was going to counseling, which helped a great deal, and was advised to try meditation. I tried several different Island groups; none of it seemed to work for me. Then I found Ed Merck’s group; it was as if I found the sunrise. I had come home.”

To spare potential newcomers unhelpful surprises in their search for a meditation program, Ed Merck provided The Times with a description of what to expect at his hourlong mindful meditation sessions. The classes are experiential study groups composed of three parts: guided meditation, silence, and participant sharing to explore the principles.

“The guided meditation is typically an exploration of spiritual themes,” Merck recently told The Times. “Among such themes have been trusting in our own goodness; releasing judgment so that we may rest peacefully in stillness and limitless love; waking up to the fullness and magnificence of who we truly are; when perfection becomes the enemy of greatness, and learning how to nourish ourselves.” Occasionally the topic will veer from the philosophical to the practical, as in recent sessions that dealt with the development of one’s personal alone-at-home practice.

“At the end of each session, people are given the opportunity to share their experience that 

morning with the group, if so moved,” according to meditator Karen Sankey. “As a result, our group has become a warm, supportive community.” 

Merck calls the sharing opportunities “deeply personal,” and has worked to make the space safe with “no crosstalk, no judging.” 

Karon Hill wrote in an email, “The messages, wisdom, and insights are voluntarily shared with each other. In sharing these, it leaves me with the feeling that we are all interconnected. In experiencing this feeling of ‘connection,’ it helps me wake up to the truth that I am not alone. We are so much more than our physical form. There is a ‘unity consciousness’ which when felt, lends itself to a sense of humility, love, and gratitude.”

Another member, Allison McKinley, said, ”The group/class feels like a ‘refuge’ to me — a community of support that extends to any and all who are interested in learning what meditation is and exploring for themself the positive impact it can have on living their life.” 

Kay Mayhew also shared that “after my husband’s death, the group helped me to cope with the change in my life.”

Off-Islander Sharon Gleason, who commutes via Zoom, shared: “Meditation gives me internal peace, when all the external influences are running amok. It brings me back to my heart, and my breathing. It enables me to be quiet with thought. Meditation has given me wonderful friendships. I hope during the off-season to visit and meet some of these mediators.”

The benefits of Ed Merck’s meditation group are summed up by another meditator, Nancy Wood: “I’ve been part of Ed’s meditation group for at least three years, maybe four, and can’t imagine being anywhere else on Tuesday mornings. What amazes me is that I can arrive with my head filled with ‘ought to’s’ and swirling thoughts, and before the hour is over, it’s as if I’ve been through some kind of settling process that smooths all of it out, and prepares me for the next round. I’m not sure how it happens. I’m only sorry that I didn’t begin meditating long before I became 94.”

To try out this particular meditation, email Ed Merck at ejm646@gmail.com.