Once, after giving a presentation at a bookstore in Rome, I purchased a number of books to take back home to America with me, as it used to be difficult to find Italian language books back in the States. Later, on the train towards Napoli, I pulled out a book written by one of Italy’s most treasured authors in the area of psychospirituality. The book was Come Attraversare La Sofferenza e Uscirne Più Forti, by psychoanalyst and professor Dr. Valerio Albisetti. As I thumbed through the pages, one passage stood out, and unbeknownst to me, would have a profound life-affirming effect when I would soon be called upon to face one of the most difficult challenges I would ever have to confront: the sudden death of my beloved husband. The passage went like this:
Quando ti senti dolore
Quando ti senti ferito
Quando ti senti deluso
Quando ti senti confuso
Quando ti senti tradito
Quando ti senti perseguitato
Quando ti senti usato
Quando ti senti sfruttato
Quando ti senti manipolato
Quando ti senti deriso
Entra nel profondo del tuo CUORE.
Lì vi troverai l’energia, la Luce per poter continuare il tuo viaggio seppur faticoso, ma affascinante, unico e irrepetible, su questa terra.
When you suffer
When you feel sorrow
When you feel hurt
When you feel disappointed
When you feel confused
When you feel betrayed
When you feel persecuted
When you feel used
When you feel taken advantage of
When you feel manipulated
When you feel derided
Enter into the depths of your HEART.
There you will find the energy, the Light to be able to continue your journey– albeit tiring, but fascinating, unique, and unrepeatable—on this earth.
Science has confirmed the benefits of meditation as a method to reduce stress and improve both mental and physical well-being. In fact, I once taught meditation as a way to reduce negative emotions in cardiac patients who were participating in a large research study at Yale University. Meditation, which is meant to train attention and awareness, clear the mind and produce calm, can take a number of forms—visualization, prayer, repetition of a mantra or sacred word, –even a mindful walk in nature. Lesser known is the powerful effect of meditating on an inspirational passage, which can come from a spiritual source such as the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi, or from the wisdom of ancient Roman philosophers, like Marcus Aurelius.
“Passage meditation”, as it is called, can provide a powerful tool for inner peace and spiritual meaning, whether you ascribe to a particular religion or not. You simply start with a passage that holds meaning for you; one which holds the values or concepts you wish to embrace and assimilate into your own daily life. After you have chosen a passage that inspires you, memorize it, then sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, relax then contemplate the passage word by word, slowly so the meaning of each word will deepen your awareness and understanding. Visualize the words as you repeat them to yourself, without letting your mind get distracted by word associations. Just keep to the passage. As with mantra (one word) meditation, you would similarly bring your mind back to the passage when it attempts to stray; ignoring the distraction from the noise around you, etc.
Researchers believe we become what we give our attention to. Albert Bandura, renowned for his theory on social modeling, knew that there was more to learning than just trial-and-error from direct experience. Each of us has a limited environment. We travel in narrow circles and within the confines of daily routines. Thus, much of our learning about “how to be in the world” comes vicariously—including from the materials we choose to read. In addition to reducing stress and cementing our moral guidelines, passage meditation can also help us to strengthen our spirituality.
Over the years I have chosen various passages upon which I meditate regularly for inner peace and inspiration; one of which is that of the aforementioned Dr. Albisetti, who is now a dear friend and colleague and who eventually bestowed me the honor of writing the preface to one of my books, Lemons into Limoncello.
If we do indeed become what we give our attention to, now may be the perfect time to bookmark some passages that inspire you, that give you courage, and that help you go to travel inwards to the depths of your own heart and rekindle that Light that shines from within you.
Albisetti, Valerio (2005). Come Attraversare la Sofferenza e Uscirne Più Forti. Paoline Editoriale Libri, Milano http://www.valerioalbisetti.it