Jake Ermolovich is a Class of 2024 medical student at the UVM Larner College of Medicine. Below, he writes about the positive impact of meditation
I recently heard something that inspired me to write a meditative piece. Paraphrased, it is: take the Golden Rule and flip it; do unto yourself as you would do unto others because if you can’t care for yourself, then how do you expect to truly give it back?
For me, meditation is a way to work through the ongoing turmoil I’ve felt throughout these opening months of my medical education, particularly in the context of the multiple life stressors that have provided background to my daily life: the pandemic, the social/political climate in our country, caring for close family members with recent hospitalizations, a battle with recurring depression and identity, to name some. In order to break these down, I look to meditation as a necessary form of relief. It allows me a positive outlet for what sometimes feels like a flood of emotion and brings me back to my own center where all of my responsibilities are balanced. This form of wellness allows me to tread these, at times, dangerous waters.
By writing this piece I hoped to inspire the goodness within myself that could be reflected in how I respond to the world around me. I aimed to lay it out in a way that mirrors the fluidity of my own thoughts when entering the reflective period that is meditation; these aren’t the words that echo in my head, but rather the abstracted feelings that surround them. As I’m telling myself to dive deeper into a relaxed concentration, I try to separate my mind from the rush of constant activity that plagues our everyday lives. Each of us is greater than the sum of our parts—physical sensations, feelings, fears, neuroses—so sometimes these need to be parsed out for better evaluation through a practice that calms the mind, that allows it to bend like soft metal, then clay, then mud, then water, until it flows freely and clear.
By starting with a focus on your breathing, you can eliminate the other surrounding stimuli. Every now and then a thought will slip in, but that’s okay: grab that thought and turn it over until it slides out of your mind, then return to the breath. With enough practice, you find yourself emerge entirely in the present and with a new clarity of the world around you. With even more practice, you find you can reach these periods of mindfulness briefly throughout your day, punctuating any stressor with the simple fortitude of your own focus. And that’s powerful all on its own.
Soft air. Trickling over, spilling down, tickling the trachea to fill the pool of breath beneath the center of my chest; rhythmic beating, a rhyme of sound and body, the heart shakes the reservoir of my reservations as I hold the meditation against the sounds around me. Drip, drip, drip, dripping ripple across the surface within my chest, bringing the world around me crashing down to nothing as my breath fills with its atmosphere. Here I am, alone in my thoughts, excepting the tickle behind my ear that I long to reach for, forgetting for an instant to never break the circle of focus held in my hands. Dhyana mudra, my dear. Ego death. These both cradled between the silent chasms of my thoughtless thoughts.
Breaking with reality, with myself, with the self, I feel a rising swell ready to break its own elation, ceding there to my own recognition. A balancing act is played between the mind and its peace. We feel our ways blindly through hedged second guesses, seeking the center within us, a center sought for its enlightenment. Yet with each turn of thought, or phrase, or blind eye, we seemingly escape that which we were looking for. “Try to find the space between thoughts,” I think to myself, ever too loudly to find the space at all. Deafening is the roar of the ego, at times low in waiting, at times loud and drowning—kick as we may against the tide, we are swept away from our moorings.
Morning comes over the hills in waves, sunlight sluiced between peaks. Shining hands dipped in sands, reaching towards the sinking earth where I stand. Enlightened hands dipped in shadow, seeking mine. Mindfully aware of the space that separates us, I meditate on how that space can give, like the ground before me as I seep further down within. But where am I sinking to? Or from, if anywhere at all? Do my reflections age with me, or are they born from something else, anew with each breath? With each breath borne from my throat, I feel the soured carbon climb. And with one final note, anticipation builds, waiting for the next inspired inspiration.