I am doing a totally weird, new-agey thing. The counseling services center at my school is offering an eight-week "Meditation-Based Stress Reduction" seminar for graduate students, and I signed up.
I probably would have been too self-conscious to participated, but the email announcing the workshop arrived at a serendipitous time. A month before the semester started, my maternal grandmother died unexpectedly. I wasn't that close to my grandmother - I last saw her when I was six, although we were called to the phone to sing her happy birthday once a year - but it was a hard hit. I went to my grandmother's memorial service and saw my slew of maternal aunts and uncles for the first time since my mother's memorial service, a year and a half ago. I spent the entire weekend being struck by childhood pictures of my mom, family resemblance between my mom and my aunts, and generally trying to figure out why my mother wasn't there. The semester got off to a rocky start.
The email notice of the stress-reduction seminar arrived on a morning I was feeling particularly stressed, for reasons which escape me but which can no doubt be accurately summarized as "research, comps, teaching, and classwork". I didn't care how hokey meditation sounded, I felt the need for some way to relieve stress beyond going to the dojo or raquetball court and taking out frustration on inanimate objects.
Some of the seminar is - let's not say hokey; let's say of dubious quality to an extreme cynic such as myself. On the other hand, some of it is interesting. Yesterday we were handed raisins, but we weren't allowed to acknowledge that they were raisins. Ten minutes evaluating small objects as if you had never seen them before was entertaining - and it was an excuse to play with food. It was two hours that could have been spent on comps reading, but definitely made the reading I got to later more managable.