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i’ve found a guide.

July 10, 2014

The wandering spirit continues to wander. Someday, maybe soon, I will write about why I chose that name. I’ve got chores yet to get to today, so won’t be writing much right now. By “writing much,” I mean posts that are over 2,000 words. Perhaps a post explaining this blog’s title won’t be that long, but anyway..

A friend and I were talking about spirituality and finding direction, and also discussing meditation and health. I was telling him how I felt depressed, directionless, spiritually frustrated, needing a spiritual life, thinking about getting more into meditation so as to calm my mind, and wanting to get physically healthy and lose weight. I’m over 20 pounds overweight right now, and NOT pleased about it. For awhile, I didn’t mind being overweight, but these days I really do mind. I need help.

This guy told me about a close friend of his who is not only a personal fitness trainer, but also a spiritual teacher as well. If I remember right (and my memory is a bit, or more than a bit faulty at times), he told me this woman was once heavily pagan, but got into Native American shamanism, and later took a major interest in Buddhism and other religions of the East. He also told me she is willing to help people who are too poor to pay her for help.. people like myself.

While we were talking, he asked if I had something to write on. He and I were with many others from the support group, at a restaurant. I handed him a napkin, and he wrote down this woman’s name and phone number.

It turns out that, after talking a little more, I realized I’d met this woman over a year ago. She works a few days a week at a large spiritual store, the sort of place that caters to people who are into Wicca or other pagan paths, New Agers, Unitarian-Universalists, and other spiritual cross-trainers. She was nice. I can’t guess her age.. younger than my mom, but older than me. I’ll put it that way.

Since I’d already met her and talked with her a bit, I felt a little better about calling her than I would have otherwise. I don’t like using the phone, have some serious social anxiety problems, and find it hard to contact people.

I did call, and she and I had a good conversation. I was told by my friend to tell the woman he referred me. I also told her right away that I had no money to pay her. She said she’d still help. We set up a time to meet.

The following week, I met her at her place. We met in her garage, which she had converted into a training studio. Not fancy, but pleasant and functional. Most of the garage floor was covered with rubber mats like those used in health clubs. On some of the mats were white rugs or other soft floor coverings. In the right side of the garage were a weight bench, some hand weights and a punching bag. In the middle of the garage, against the back wall, was a pagan altar with an earth goddess statue and decorative dagger. Daggers are used in Wicca.. not to stab anybody of course (Wicca is a non-violent religion, and not at all Satanic), but waved in the air at certain times, for certain purposes. The dagger, used in Wicca, is called an athame. Her athame was rather ornate compared to some I’ve seen in books, on TV, and in that spiritual store in town. Also on the altar, various small crystal balls, but not the sort of crystal balls people look into. Hard to explain the difference.. basically translucent crystal that has been carved into orbs.

One thing she did not have on the altar was an altar cloth with a pentagram. Wiccans are VERY fond of pentagrams, and pretty much always have them on their altar cloths, on their altars, around their necks. etc. I didn’t see one pentagram in the garage, so maybe this woman does not practice Wicca at all. I’m not sure.

Placed on the altar, behind the statue and dagger, were several Native American flutes. These sound really nice. There’s a local musician out here who is very good. He sells his cd’s in the spiritual store, and he and the woman I met know each other.

On the back wall behind the flutes was a tapestry. It had a wolf on it.  Next to the tapestry on the wall was another tapestry, with a mountain lion on it, and next to that, a frame drum, which is used in Shamanism. The frame drum had a drawing of a horse on it. With the frame drum was a beater stick to hit the drum with.

On the left side side of the garage, there was a fairly large statue of Buddha on another altar, and a large mala, a Buddhist necklace of made beads, which is used as a meditation tool. There was a stack of pillows against the wall, which could be used for sitting meditation. This was the most interesting garage I’ve ever been in.

It isn’t all that common for people to have two altars representing two faiths. Or, I should say, this is not common in the West. In China though, it might not be uncommon. The Chinese practice Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Maybe the Chinese have several altars of various kinds in their homes. The Japanese practice both Shinto and Buddhism. Japanese people might have a Shinto shrine and little Buddhist altar or statue in their homes.

But here in the west, more often than not, people tend to practice one religion. Christians have crosses and/or crucifixes in their homes, Jews have their decorations, Hindus have deity statues, Buddhists have Buddha statues, and etc. What do Muslims have? It’s against Muslim teachings to have any representation of their prophet or god. Point being.. most folks in America and other western countries, if they have any religious ceremonial wares or decorations in their homes, likely will have items that represent only one faith, not two or more. Yes, this woman’s garage was definitely unique.

The woman and I talked for awhile. I told her about what I was dealing with. I also told her that, in exchange for her help, I could do yardwork or other chores if she wanted me to. She said she didn’t need any help, and liked doing yard work. I thought a bit, and then told her I could teach her how to play the tinwhistle. I’m not especially great on tinwhistle (also called pennywhistle), and I am out of practice. Also, I’ve never taught anyone before. However, I do know more than a beginner, and figured I can teach what I know. She liked this idea.

She decided that the first thing I should do is bring some calm to my incredibly overly active and self-destructive mind (that’s how I would define my mind). She said I should meditate in such a way that I don’t try to change my breaths (don’t breathe deeper, faster or slower, for example) and don’t count my breaths (like I’d been taught to do in some Buddhist groups), but instead, just monitor my breath, take notice of my breathing, focus on it. When thoughts rampage through, she said to just label them as thoughts.

She told me the Hindus describe the mind as a tool that has gone bad. She gave me the example of how the mind is supposed to function much more simply. She had a red sports bottle nearby, and told me the mind, according to the Hindus, was to be used for such simple tasks as telling the rest of one’s consciousness that the object on the floor is a sports bottle, that it is red, etc. But not form opinions, not think for example.. oh, I don’t like red, I wish I had a blue water bottle. In other words, the mind is not supposed to form all these distracting opinions and judgements. The mind is supposed to be for survival, to function in a more basic and non-distracting way. I found that interesting.

I remember a Buddhist teaching.. non-attachment to views.. not getting to caught up in perspectives, opinions and so on. Attachment to views can bring suffering. There’s similar teachings in Taoism. What the woman said was like these teachings.

Another thing she said was that we are not our thoughts. I have read and heard this before. We don’t have to identify with our thoughts. Sometimes, we get really bad thoughts. I sure do. Everybody gets really bad thoughts sometimes. It’s part of being human. But we don’t have to be shocked and troubled by these thoughts, if we decide these thoughts are not us.

Who are we exactly? Ok, I won’t tackle that one right now, otherwise this could turn into a VERY long post. I’ll just say I liked being told we are not our thoughts. Thoughts come and thoughts go. Even thoughts that are not bad can still be very distracting. The trick is to not identify with them, not engage them, fight with them, or let them distract us. Not becoming attached to thoughts takes lots of practice, but can lead to peace within one’s self.

I certainly like the idea of having a less cluttered mind. Mediation, as I already know, is quite difficult, but she asked me to stick it out for just 15 minutes a day, for two weeks. She said even after just two weeks, I should be doing a little better. It’s been just over a week since our meeting, and I’ve only missed one day.

I wish I could say I’ve been doing great at monitoring my breath, but of course, this is not the case. So far, I’ve almost never paid attention to my breath while meditating. At least not this week. But that’s alright.

Meditation.. to be good at it.. takes persistence and time. She told me so, and also, I’d been told this by various Buddhists, and read this in various books. I’m going to stick it out.

I see the woman for our second session this coming Wednesday. She told me last week that she’d put together a flexibility program for me.. stretches, yoga poses and etc. I need this because I tense up a lot and deal with some physical pain.

I’m quite glad to find a personal trainer who takes a holistic approach to health. We are not just our bodies, we are not just our minds or spirits, we are all of these things. She addresses all of these things. It is my hope that this woman can really help me get better.


My teacher says it’s cool for me to post her name and website, so..

Susan L. Qualls , (Sorry, I can’t get the link to work here, so just cut and paste Susan’s website into your favorite search engine).



4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2014 3:50 PM

    Hi Tom – long time no write 🙂
    Sounds very …… looking for the right word …… well, just is. All is good. Just wanted to add another practice to your day which could help you with your meditation and fitness both. It’s called a walking meditation. Walk ever so slowly – no shoes out in nature is even better – and completely concentrate on every little nuance happening inside your body. Every little sinu, every muscle, every bone, your blood, your organs, where and how your feet touch the ground, slowly, slowly. So slow that a snail could easily pass you. This gives your mind something to focus on plus relax. You might like to stop occasionally and recentre. It’s a favourite of mine. Congrats on your find. Much love.

    • tomschronicles permalink
      July 14, 2014 5:19 PM

      I’ve done a bit of walking meditation, but not much. Thanks for bringing this up, I think it is a great idea. I will incorporate this into my practice. Hope you are well!

  2. July 10, 2014 5:01 PM

    Thank you so much for making this journey accessible to us..I really enjoyed this post. looking forward to reading more. =)

    • tomschronicles permalink
      July 14, 2014 5:18 PM

      Great! Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.

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