As the summer draws to a close, so, too, does my six-part series on mindfulness and meditation. I have enjoyed putting my thoughts about meditation into words, and I hope you have found my posts to be thought provoking and inspiring. Moving forward, I’ll be blogging once a month, a “Monthly Meditation,” so this last post will be in two parts to transition to the new schedule. This is the last of the bi-weekly blogs, and tomorrow’s post will be the first of the monthly blogs.
To be clear, I am not a monk. I have a job, a spouse, and two children. I practice meditation to improve myself, and, in turn, my life, my relationships, and my work. I’m not happy all the time, but I’m better equipped to deal with life’s twists and turns than I was before I started a regular meditation practice. Meditation is the practice; life is the performance.
I had great plans for this past summer in each of the various areas of my life. As a conductor and musician, I planned to take a break from church for a few months before I started my seventh year as choir director at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in September. As you have undoubtedly experienced in your own lives, the past two years have been rough. Somehow, I’ve managed to keep my choir floating through various formats (with lots of help from my organist, volunteer, and paid singers), but all the effort it took to lead a choir during COVID-19 finally caught up with me. I was tired by Easter of this year and wanted to take a step back to recuperate.
Speaking of the pandemic, I began making bagels during COVID and what started as a new hobby became a nice side hustle. I started “Steve’s NY-Style Bagels” in February 2021, and by July 2021 I was making and selling about 250 handmade bagels each week at the local Farmers Market. This season, I paid my fee in March and was ready to do business at the market from May through October. Making bagels brings me great joy (and I make some extra money).
In the meditation sphere, I planned to write my six blogs, do a weekly podcast, and attend my first silent retreat at the end of the summer. I found a retreat that appealed to me, paid my registration fee, and looked forward to deepening my practice in a concentrated way. In addition to navigating life better, my meditation practice has helped me to clarify who I want to be and how I choose to show up in the world each day. I’m by no means perfect, but I’ve tried to nurture wisdom, love, kindness, and compassion, and in doing so, learn to become more resilient and optimistic. After a period of introspection, I learned that I love teaching and would like to teach full-time at a college or university again. I’ve gained a more realistic perspective of myself and my relationship to the profession. With my son entering his senior year of high school, I intended to do one more academic search and, hopefully, land a teaching job for the Fall 2023 semester.
These were just my plans, by the way, just one part of the equation. My wife had her own plans, ambitions, and professional aspirations. My daughter would be home following her first year at college, and my son would be working and planning some college visits. We made a master schedule for the summer and attempted to get everyone where they needed to be when they needed to be there.
For the first few months of the summer, everything was going as planned. I finished up with my church choir at the end of May, developed a realistic schedule for baking my bagels, mapped out the topics for my blogs, and after recording a few of them, decided to put the podcast on the back burner. I would check the job ads – some institutions were looking for Fall 2022 while others were already advertising for Fall 2023, and I would apply to any job that I was qualified for. Despite applying for numerous academic jobs during the past few years, I was here in Lincoln, Nebraska, working at a church, baking bagels, meditating, and writing about meditation. And you know what? I was content doing these things for another year, or longer. Slowly, I’ve learned to let go of any regret I had about things that had occurred in my past, and, at the same time, stopped the future-oriented striving that defined much of my early career. I started to slow down and tried to enjoy every second of my present life without expectations of what I should or should not be doing. Most of the time, I do exactly that.
Then, about a month ago, in late July, I applied for a one-year visiting position at a small university in West Virginia. Two weeks after I submitted that application, I was driving across the country to start that job as Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Wait…what?
Coming tomorrow: Part II: The best laid plans…
Steve Grives, D.M.A., is a choral conductor and certified meditation teacher currently living in Lincoln, Nebraska. He can be reached with questions or comments through his email, . For further thoughts on mindfulness listen to “Midweek Meditation” on “The Steve Grives Podcast” available on your preferred podcast platform or at https://anchor.fm/steve-grives
well said and experience, meditation in like medicine for soul.