Indiana State Fair 2023: A Celebration of Interdependence August 31, 2023 13:02
If you prefer to listen to this month's blog article, please click HERE for the audio link (11 minute listen).
The Indiana State Fair is an annual, month-long summer event in Indianapolis that includes concerts, livestock, rides, games, an assortment of fried foods, and family fun.
I’m not going to lie, it’s not an event that typically appeals to me. I’m generally not jazzed about tractor pulls, midway rides, and large crowds in the unbearable summer heat and humidity of the Hoosier state.
This year, however, my daughter was working at the Newfields booth during an afternoon shift on the last Friday of this year’s fair schedule, so Jim and I decided to meet her there for dinner after her shift ended and to experience some family fun, first-hand.
Our first (and really only) obstacle was navigating rush hour traffic and finding a parking spot once we arrived. On our way there, a semi nearly missed plowing into our vehicle on I-65. The driver hadn’t been paying attention and didn’t notice that traffic was slowing.
Fortunately, we lived through that close call only to wait in line for 45 minutes as we inched our way toward a parking spot at the far end of the sandy infield of the fairgrounds.
We arrived just in time to see the fair parade, led by the famous Clydesdale horses and Budweiser carriage, followed by a marching band and several tractors pulling hordes of waving sponsors, farmers, and fair princesses with glittery pink sashes.
Elise had wandered into the parade line and met us near the grandstand. We waited in line for ears of fresh buttered sweet corn. Elise enjoyed deep fried Oreos, I chose chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick, and Jim selected pork riblets with a Lemon Shake-up.
The weather was perfect! It was breezy and slightly cool with very low humidity, which is extremely rare for this time of year.
After “dinner,” we wandered into various livestock buildings and visited sheep, goats, alpacas, horses, and pigs.
We sat in plastic Adirondack chairs and listened to an up-and-coming local band. The band members couldn’t have been any older than the high school students I currently tutor.
We circled around the fairgrounds on a shuttle pulled by a large tractor. The long bench seats allowed for easy access on and off during the various stops.
What does all of this have to do with meditation practice? Well, the old me (the version of myself before I dedicated time to a daily practice) would have been very anxious in a crowd full of strangers, disgusted by the mingled scents of exhaust fumes, fair food, and livestock manure. The old me would have worried about the time, even on a Friday night. Honestly, the old me would have never made it to the fair to begin with—she would have insisted that the near miss with the semi was “a sign from the Universe” to just go on home.
The present me, however, was just that—present.
Jim was a little antsy as we inched our way to the infield parking lot, but I was calm and content. We had the windows rolled down and could hear the sounds of cicadas along with the gleeful shrieks coming from people on the midway rides.
The present me wasn’t worried about being late—or the time at all. I enjoyed spending time with my family and taking in all the sights and sounds without judgment, worry, or fear.
I enjoyed interacting and connecting with the animals in the livestock barns. From patting the bellies of the milk-drunk piglets to stroking the soft noses of the sheep, goats, and horses, connecting with the animals was soothing, and being with my family was comforting.
The present me even found connecting with strangers to be enjoyable. I was relaxed and at ease in the crowd. At one point, as we were walking near the midway, I met eyes with an elderly woman in a wheelchair. I smiled, said, “Hello.” Her eyes were bright and welcoming. I didn’t know her, but I felt connected to her, nonetheless. I felt connected—and interconnected with the thousands of others who were milling all around us, sharing the sights and sounds and space of this beautiful summer night.
The present me appreciated the efforts of all the hearts and hands of all ages, races, and backgrounds who came together to make this event possible: from those directing traffic in the parking lot, those preparing and serving food, those maintaining and monitoring the grounds and rides, those driving the tractor shuttles, those making public announcements, those tending to animals, and, of course, the animals. This evening was a celebration of interdependence.
My practice has changed me for the better, and it’s events like these that most clearly reveal and showcase some of these positive changes:
- Remain open and receptive to new opportunities
- See the familiar with a fresh set of eyes
- Set aside past associations and perceptions
- Remain calm and relaxed—even under pressure
- Release tension after danger has passed
- Prevent unexpected obstacles from spoiling the rest of the evening
- Remain content and patient while waiting
- Enjoy the company of loved ones and strangers
- Feel genuine love, compassion, and joy for others
- Remain focused, alert, and present without expectations
- Cultivate gratitude for others’ skills, gifts, and efforts
This is what daily practice has done for me. Over time, it has enabled me to allow, appreciate, and enjoy this precious human life.
Do I feel this connected all the time? No. However, I do feel like this more frequently than I did a decade ago. My practice has improved the overall quality of my life, and, by proxy, it has improved the lives of others around me.
I’m reflecting on this topic at a time when yet another mass shooting has occurred in our country—this time, in Jacksonville, Florida. The contrast of these two events: an enjoyable evening with my family at the fair, and yet another tragic shooting motivated by hate, ignorance, and racism—is jarring and unsettling.
One of the biggest benefits of my personal practice is that it helps me to navigate this paradox—and it motivates me to continue to practice without being discouraged by the hatred and anger of others. I can’t change other people, and I won’t allow the destructive actions of others to deter and distract me from appreciating moments of connection and presence. Despite others’ choices and actions that intensify suffering and despair, compassion, connection, interdependence, and gratitude—these are the necessary antidotes that a daily practice fosters.
I firmly believe that when enough people cultivate compassion and connection for others, meaningful change can, and will, occur. However, it must begin with individuals before the ripple effects can reach, progress, and improve society.
The Indiana State Fair may have come and gone for this year, but there will be many more opportunities to celebrate and practice interdependence by this time next summer.
My hope is that this article inspires and supports you and your own practice in some way.
May you be well. May you be happy. And most importantly, may you continue to practice…
While you're here, don't forget to visit the Middle Moon Malas home page to view the current collection of hand-knotted malas and quarter malas.
Trigger Warning: How a Mantra Practice Can Help Manage Unsettling Emotions March 6, 2017 13:48
Triggers—we all have them. They can be situations, memories, specific sounds or smells, words and phrases, animals, or even certain individuals that can push us into a vortex of unpleasant emotions or mindsets. It’s easy, too easy, sometimes, to get caught up in this dizzying, unsettling flurry, and it can have a lasting impact, if we allow it.
Last week, I was chatting in the hall with colleagues after school. I like to laugh—a lot—unfortunately, I have a bold, loud laugh that can sometimes be misconstrued. At some point in our conversation, I let one of these bold laughs fly, and it triggered one of my colleagues. She had assumed that I was laughing at her, and that I was judging her, which was not my intention at all.
Even though I had apologized and explained to her that I was not criticizing or berating her in any way, I could tell that this did not completely pacify her. It still stung. She was triggered by my laughter—and I was triggered by her response. I felt awful about causing someone else pain, even though it was unintentional. Later on in the evening, it had an impact on my personal yoga practice. I couldn’t get that moment out of my head. I had trouble focusing, I didn’t enjoy my practice, and I started to second guess and berate myself as a result. What was the root of all of this turmoil?
Meditation can be an effective follow-up for my at-home yoga sessions, and it was perfect for managing the ripple effects of this particular situation. By incorporating the following steps, I was able to halt the negative self-talk, to recognize patterns, to answer lingering questions, and to offer compassion as an antidote.
Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted and sit so that you can be both relaxed and alert.
*Observe : Identify and name whatever reactions or emotions are associated with the situation. Where do you feel this reaction in the body? Are you holding tension anywhere? Notice what’s happening with the breath. Is your breathing ragged or smooth? Shallow or deep? Simply take time to identify, notice, and name what’s happening in the breath and body.
*Pause: Without judgment, and without taking these reactions personally, simply take some time to sit and acknowledge these reactions and feelings. They may be familiar to you—you may have felt this way before—and you may acknowledge patterns emerging. Whatever feelings or reactions that surface for you, be with them…without pushing them away….or looking for a distraction. Simply be still. Hold space for whatever you’re noticing.
*Reflect: Ask for guidance—what is this person, situation, etc. teaching me? What do I need to learn from this? What’s the message? Trust the information that you receive—and be patient—sometimes you won’t receive an immediate answer. This is usually the place where I begin a mantra recitation practice with a mala (japa practice). It’s kind of like waiting on hold and listening to music on the other end of the line—only the music doesn’t have to be annoying. Choose a mantra and a mala that resonate with you, and use this recitation practice to help you find clarity, direction, and calm. Again—without forcing an answer—without trying to manipulate or control your meditation session…simply allow…one bead, one recitation at a time.
*Release: Whether you choose to recite one round (108 repetitions) or multiple rounds with your mala and mantra, at the end of your recitation practice, offer yourself, the situation, and any other individuals involved compassion. Give yourself permission to release any fears, anger, frustrations, etc. that this situation may have stirred up for you. This part of the process allows for a sense of closure (at least for the time being), and it prevents this situation from hijacking the rest of your day.
Triggers in and of themselves can seem very small and insignificant, but they can explode into major disruptions if they aren’t dealt with or managed effectively. Using a mantra practice can help you notice patterns about yourself and be more mindful as you interact with others.
I still laugh—boldly, loudly—and although I may not be able to control how other people respond to my laughter, the more honest, clear, and compassionate that I can be in relating with others, the more we can laugh together.