Of course I remember “the first time.” I am not sure I knew at the time that it was life-changing, but I knew I would never be the same.
I had just moved to the coastline of New Jersey from Hoboken, New Jersey. It was a time in my life when I was ready for a change. It was right after Super Storm Sandy, which was a very challenging time for so many. Homes were destroyed, towns were wiped out … no one knew what the future of the Jersey shore would be like. Suddenly, the shore felt like a distant cry from the fist-pumping, beach-going, good-life vibe that came to define it.
I grew up by the beaches, on Long Island. Going to the beach was what summer was all about: simple, fun, and endless sunny days. I lost that connection when I moved to the city. Like any young professional, I thought the city was the natural place to be—the easy commute, restaurants on every block, working out six days a week! Those were the priorities!
When I moved to the shore after Sandy, the vibe was somber. So much was up in the air. People were displaced not only from their homes but also from their businesses.
In that place and time, a thought popped into my head: “I want to meditate.”
I was working in the city and traveling internationally on a frequent basis; my brain was not turning off. I was in a constant state of “go, go, go.”
I saw definite patterns in myself. If I saw something that made me feel good, I wanted more of it. If I saw something that made me feel more diseased in my mind and body, I tried to avoid it. More and more, I wanted to find a path to a healthier way of living.
I started off by reading some books, including The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, which made me feel great for a week, until the pattern came back and brought me back to a not-so-good feeling.
Then I explored different meditation workshops. In a group meditation, I found comfort at first in not feeling alone in this process. Then I went to a private teacher in Soho. I thought a private guru would help me reach the center of peace. For about 10 minutes, I experienced blissful meditations. There was a time I even felt connected to the divine mother Mary. In that moment, her presence was so real that I could feel her loving energy fill my heart. But then I walked right out onto New York’s busy Prince Street, and that moment of serenity was gone in a minute.
Not long after, I was living at the Jersey shore and going to a yoga class on a regular basis. Yoga helped to quiet my mind, but I was still holding on to certain past experiences as if they were still happening in the moment. They continued to play in my mind and in my heart.
I can recall a day when I was driving around to explore the area, and I passed a building that had the word “meditation” spelled out in large letters. I made a note to myself to return.
A few months passed. I received a meet-up invitation to join a crystal bowl meditation. Crystal bowl, what’s a crystal bowl? I was intrigued. I always loved music and how it could make me feel good or sad in an instant.
As I pulled up to the building where the crystal bowl meditation was held, I realized I was at the same place I had driven by a few months prior. I entered a place of smiles and laughter, with joy on everyone’s faces. I still felt nervous and timid, not sure what to do and where to sit. There was a full house that night, with people mat to mat. I curled up on my yoga mat …. with one blanket … and waited for the meditation to begin.
The instructor, Donna Sica, created a presence of pure happiness, which filled the room with love and compassion that was truly authentic.
As Donna spoke, I absorbed each word that came out of her mouth like a sponge soaking up every drop of water. Her very first words, “My intent is living in the present moment,” invited me to experience everyday experiences in a new way. She spoke of eating a salad as a truly joyful experience, enjoying every bite. The grapes—so filled with life—made her scream with pleasure. I was mesmerized. How could a woman be so awakened by a salad, so happy and fulfilled by food?
Just as I was thinking, “I like how she thinks,” the bowls began to play. My perception of meditation was that it meant stillness, that having no thoughts or movement could bring you to enlightenment.
As I listened to the sounds, I felt myself getting nauseated and dizzy. I was way in the back of the room, yet it felt like I was right in front. The sounds were moving around me and throughout my body. I wanted to move but worried that it would mess up the meditation. I thought I was not a good meditator at all. I wasn’t in a state of bliss but a state of chaos.
I loved it. Somehow I knew, deep inside, exactly what I was missing. It was home.
My first “aha moment” with the bowls came at the end of the session. Tears started to fall down my face as the words “I love you” popped into my head. Why had I stopped saying “I love you?” Living a busy life, and always on the go, I didn’t even realize how long it had been since I said those words to my friends and family.
The best part of the session was the shares—when the class would describe their experiences. I listened to everything from very trippy experiences to real hardships. There was no judgment on anyone’s experience.
Afterward, I went up to Donna to say I didn’t feel well. I was holding back the tears. She held my hand with a nurturing expression and said, “Lovebug, this is a beautiful community … go home and take an Epsom salt bath … and get a good night’s sleep.”
I left quickly so no one would see my tears, and I did exactly what Donna suggested. The next morning, I felt a sense of lightness.
There began my journey to the bowls and to spiritual awakenings beyond my awareness of knowing.
Donna Sica’s Soulful Awakenings is a beautiful, safe, loving and nurturing community that allows one’s soul to be authentic. She has created a center that awakens your mind, your body and your soul.