How I Learned to Meditate

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How I Learned to Meditate

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Kauai
Apr 03, 2013

We all know Hawaii excites the senses. Travel writers galore have written about the comforting blanket of warmth that envelopes a body after stepping off a trans-Pacific flight. Even though they are only starting to blossom this spring, we can all pull the heady scent of gardenia from our memory bank and imagine the tapestry of bougainvillea draping a hillside. And the ocean. Her sounds run the scales, from kissing our toes in a frothy shoreline to droning her engine in a hard-pounding northwest winter swell.

What I’m talking about here is, at its simplest, is nature in full bloom.

The natural world, I have found is the perfect place to learn to meditate. And, in doing so, even though the objective may be to empty the mind of all thoughts, I made up a new word. At least, I think it’s new. 

The last time I created a new word, I later found it in the dictionary. The word—roiling—came to me as I as sitting seat four in an outrigger canoe on a particularly rough day on the water. My job—besides paddling like a bull—had been to ensure the boat didn’t huli—flip. If the ‘ama, outrigger, popped up, I would “give it a look” to settle it back down. But on this day, a mere shift in my weight generated by the turning of my head, didn’t settle the ‘ama. I was constantly swinging my arm and jerking my body to my left. The water was boiling. The Joy of Cooking may even have referred to it as a “rough boil,” and in that moment, I came up with a new word. At least, for me.

A couple months ago, my husband made up a word. A truly new word, as far as I know. He was talking about something he’d read in a letter to the editor, the source of all that’s really going on here on Kauai, and he said, “I read it in a leditor.” That day, that word—leditor—entered our lexicon for good. In fact, he just used it again last night.

This time, I think my new word really is a new word. Last week, as I was getting ready to settle into my morning routine on the lanai, in which I wait for my tea to steep by meditating for 10 minutes. Before I forced my eyes closed, I turned to my right to see two Shama thrushes sitting on a railing, and the thought that was supposed to go through my mind was: Hawaii is a great place to meditate in nature. But the thought that formed into words in my brain was: Hawaii is a great place to medinate. Med-i-nate.

I am a writer. My brain works in words. It continually wraps words around sights and sounds and experiences into sentences and paragraphs. I fall asleep “typing” them in the air, and I wake up crafting them in my mind. I use the Voice Memo app on my iPhone to record these thoughts as I walk my dogs on the beach, hike in the mountains and drive the short mile into town to retrieve my mail. I write words on index cards that I fish out of my pockets and backpacks and purses. I have even been known to craft a haiku on my calf using a Sharpie while hiking Sleeping Giant with my friend Pam.

In meditating, we are taught to empty our mind of thoughts. Me? Empty my mind of thoughts?  This is me guffawing. Me snorting tea through my nose. Thoughts are my lifeline. Thoughts provide me a paycheck.

I’ve meditated on and off for years, but I’ve only just discovered the key to emptying my mind of my river of thoughts--and that’s to focus my mind on sensual Hawaii. Instead of “going within,” as meditation practitioners might say, I am training my attention on the melodic Shama thrush. I am closing my eyes and opening my ears to the layers of sound at the ocean. I am drinking in the scent of plumeria and gardenia and puakenikeni. I am luxuriating in the sun’s touch on my skin and the trade winds’ dance around my body. 

And, so, I offer this word:


  [med-i-neyt] verb, med•i•nat•ed, med•i•nat•ing.

verb (used without object)
1. to engage in thought or contemplation in nature; to reflect while immersed in nature.

Now, I may just sit down and write a leditor about it for the local newspaper.


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