Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Meditation, not medication

Even before I became a stay-at-home mom, I often felt out of sync with the rest of the world. I don't think I'm alone in preferring life to come at me in slow, long waves instead of the hectic pace so many people are following, or trying to follow.

My eighteen-year-old son has always been great at wiggling, Houdini-like, out of stuff he'd prefer not to do, in favor of doing precisely what he wants to do--play. I mean it when I tell him I hope he can figure out a way to earn a living by playing. Others have. Why couldn't he?

Similarly, I've set my life up to be slower than the average bear's. Everything, rewards and stress alike, have arrived at a slower pace. Everything has its price.

My grandparents had stopped working their ranch near Bozeman, Montana, almost twenty years before I came to live with my grandma and finish my degree at Montana State. She had a pasture full of alfalfa that neighboring farmers cut. The most memorable of the bunch was a guy who used two draft horses instead of a tractor to cut the hay. You didn't much see draft horses in Montana. He made quite a spectacle of himself.

Grandma was a sweet gal, but she had a tendency to be a little judgmental. That must be where I get it from.

"I don't why he doesn't just use a tractor, like everybody else," she'd say. "He must be plumb crazy."

Still, her natural frugality always took over. A lifetime of ranching, the Depression and World War II had carved it into her soul. Grandma never liked anything to go to waste. Besides, he may have been crazy, but he was paying good money for that hay!

He came by with his team on a hot, dusty July afternoon. I decided to see for myself just how crazy he was. I took some ice water out to him.

He seemed surprised. "People don't usually offer me anything when I'm out here." Which meant to me that he wasn't crazy, because truly crazy people don't even notice that others think they're crazy.

After he drank the water, we chatted and I petted the horses. They were much calmer than the quarter horses and painted ponies most common around there, who usually jerked their heads and snorted at the touch of strange hands. He explained that he'd been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and his doctor had casually suggested that he slow down. That's what they all say, as they're writing a prescription for hypertension medication. But this guy really took that to heart. One of the ideas that grew out of his journey toward taking life easier was to do some of his farm work by draft horse.

"Haven't had trouble with my blood pressure since."

A few years ago I took a six-week meditation course. At the first class, one of the other students said she was taking the class because she had high blood pressure, and she'd heard that meditation could help lower her numbers. She came to every class, and by the last class she reported that her doctor had suggested a little experiment: reducing her medication and keep going with the meditation.

Sometimes when you're behind, you're actually ahead. Kind of sounds like something Ricky Bobby's dad ("If you're not first, you're last") would say. I'll take my chances with less stress and low blood pressure.

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