Peaceful Easter Weekend

My Easter weekend was relaxing and pleasant. The weather was nice, mostly, though Sunday and Monday were a bit cooler and a few (very few) drops of rain fell. That was good for walking with Curious Dog, because the hot weather of last week was already a bit too hot for longer walks in the full sunshine. People adhered to the social distancing rules and apart from a quick trip to the local backer’s on Saturday, I didn’t need to go shopping. It’s surreal how nice the weekend was for us, while in other places people are struggling so much. We are blessed.

Somebody wrote “Der Herr ist auferstanden” on the pavement in front of our driveway. “The Lord is risen” in English. A reminder of the reason for the lovely long weekend. I’m not particularly religious, but I didn’t mind the reminder. Wonder who it was, though. It was only in front of our driveway, nowhere else, so it must have been one of our neighbours. My guess is that it was the family with the two toddlers, as they have chalk (the kids did some other scribbles in our communal driveway). But it’s just a guess and anyway not important.

I meditated a lot. An hour in the mornings, at noon, and in the late afternoon on all four days of the long weekend. It made me mellow and good tempered and I even got a good deal of housework done without getting annoyed. I think this should be my new strategy. Meditation before housework. On Sunday morning I took about an hour to reorganize my spices. I had them in a cupboard above the cooker, but that was kind of awkward and it had got really messy. So now I’ve put some of the spices onto a little shelf in my kitchen and the rest into a different cupboard. Now it’s nice and tidy and I’ve got a good overview. For once I actually followed up on a plan.

I walked with Curious Dog each afternoon, while my partner did the morning walks. Currently Curious Dog is being weird about the noon walks. Half the time he doesn’t want to go, unless I take him, which I’m not doing. It’ll be enough for me when we are back in Bavaria. We hope to be able to go sometime end of April for a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks instead of just one week, as Mum wants to do some gardening. She really wanted to stay by herself for three weeks, but I’m not sure about it because of the Corona situation. There’s nobody to go shopping for her. I hope the small village shop hasn’t gone out of business. Although it shouldn’t have, since it’s a grocery.

Anyway, to get back to the Easter weekend, we also did a lot of cooking:

  • Potatoes with a yogurt-herb dip
    It’s a German tradition to have something green on that day Maundy Thursday. Hence the herbs.
  • Mushroom risotto cooked with white wine (on Good Friday)
  • Home-made pizza (on Saturday)
  • Clauliflower in a tomato-caper sauce with celeriac polenta (on Easter Sunday)
    This one sounds strange, but it’s very nice. The celeriac polenta is polenta with a bit of grated celeriac in it. The celeriac makes it very flavourful and the capers spice up the tomato sauce. My partner found the recipe on the Internet.
  • Potato salad in a yogurt-mustard sauce, with fried tofu (on Easter Monday)

A lovely vegan meal plan. Tasty and not too much work. I like cooking, but not if it’s too complicated and takes too much time in the kitchen. Although I have to admit that my partner did most of the cooking. Mum made the pizza dough and I made the soy-yogurt herb dip and the potato salad. The list will come in useful as a reminder if next year we can’t think of anything to cook. Although these dishes are staples that we cook quite often.

My mum also backed a traditional yeast raisin loaf on Thursday. On Saturday, I bought some cake at the bakery and Partner backed a lovely apple cake for Sunday and Monday (my contribution was the cashew cream that went on top of it).

We watched some films and serials: a few episodes of The Mandalorian on Disney+, the first two episodes of Doc Martin season 9 on DVD, The Spy Who Loved Me (James Bond, Roger Moore), Contagion. I also did a lot of reading, but not as much as I had planned, mostly because the meditation took up a good chunk of time. Nevertheless, I’m all caught up with my short stories and poetry reading, as well as with David Copperfield. I also started a new nonfiction book, Erebus (it’s about the voyages of the HMS Erebus and I got for my birthday from my partner). On Friday I also wrote up my review of Song of Solomon, but the rest of the weekend I didn’t get around to writing anything, what with all the other things I was doing.

My colleagues at work also seem to have had a relaxed weekend. Nobody on my team is sick, thankfully.

Keep safe, world.


Fair Pay

Today, I found the poem “My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is” by Sir Edward Dyer, published in 1588 (or maybe it was written by Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford).

My mind to me a kingdom is
Such present joys therein I find,
That it excels all other bliss
That earth affords or grows by kind,
Though much I want that most would have,
Yet still my mind forbids to crave.

No princely pomp, no wealthy store,
No force to win the victory,
No wily wit to salve a sore,
No shape to feed a loving eye;
To none of these I yield as thrall,
For why? my mind doth serve for all.

I see how plenty surfeits oft,
And hasty climbers soon do fall;
I see that those which are aloft
Mishap doth threaten most of all;
They get with toil, they keep with fear;
Such cares my mind could never bear.

Content I live, this is my stay,
I seek no more than may suffice,
I press to bear no haughty sway;
Look, what I lack my mind supplies.
Lo, thus I triumph like a king,
Content with that my mind doth bring.

Some have too much, yet still do crave,
I little have, and seek no more:
They are but poor, though much they have,
And I am rich with little store:
They poor, I rich; they beg, I give;
They lack, I leave; they pine, I live.

I laugh not at another’s loss,
I grudge not at another’s gain;
No worldly waves my mind can toss,
My state at one doth still remain.
I fear no foe, I fawn no friend;
I loathe not life, nor dread my end.

Some weigh their pleasure by their lust,
Their wisdom by their rage of will;
Their treasure is their only trust,
A cloaked craft their store of skill:
But all the pleasure that I find
Is to maintain a quiet mind.

My wealth is health and perfect ease,
My conscience clear my chief defence;
I neither seek by bribes to please,
Nor by deceit to breed offence.
Thus do I live, thus will I die;
Would all did so as well as I!

The last line is a bit sanctimonious, but otherwise it is amazing how relevant this poem is still today. It reminds me of my meditation practice, working on my mind and mindset.

I do realize that in order to live a life as described in the poem, one needs to have at least a safe income, safe home, a job. There are so many people who have so many worries that I’m sure it’s hard to impossible to keep a calm mind. All the people who lost their jobs in this horrible Corona crisis come to mind, but there are also all the people who struggle to make ends meet even in normal times; who live in areas ravaged by war, corporate exploitation, political oppression, or natural disasters. We need to keep these fellow humans in our hearts and do our best to help – without being sanctimonious. For instance, it’s not fair to shame people working low-paying jobs for not managing build an emergency fund on their meagre wages to help tide them over when times are bad. If you just make enough to make ends meet each month, how are you supposed to save anything?

I’ve read articles and seen YouTube videos in which we are told to look on the bright side of things and to see the disruption of our lives as a chance to become more mindful or build better societies in the aftermath. I feel that this is a good and hopeful stand to take, if you are able to do so, but if you are battling adversity I fear that these instructions can appear like outright mockery.

I am a middle class person living in Germany and I gladly pay taxes on my wages to pay for things like our health-care system, our infrastructure, our schools, our social security system. I don’t think that everybody needs to earn the same wage for whatever job they do, but I do think that everybody needs to have a basic income to cover basic needs. I do believe that with the wealth in our society, it should be doable and still leave enough for the wealthy. At the moment, people are calling for more pay for the people working as nurses or cashiers in the supermarkets, but why does it take a crisis to come to the obvious conclusion that some of the jobs that keep our society running should pay more? And will people remember this after the crisis?

I guess, humankind has been struggling with this and similar questions for a long time. Will we ever come to a good solution?

Keep safe, world.


Mindfulness Notes

I’m not a Buddhist but I find some Buddhist teachings very interesting and applicable for my meditation practice – no wonder, since Buddhists have been practicing meditation for centuries. Meditation can, however, be practiced by anyone, without reference to Buddhism, for example, as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), of which Jon Kabat-Zinn was the founder.

Recently I read Kabat-Zinn’s book Meditation Is Not What You Think: Mindfulness and Why It Is So Important. In the chapter on Dharma (the Buddha’s teachings), Kabat-Zinn explained the Four Noble Truths (which are the basis of the Buddha’s teachings) in medical terms. I find this to be a very useful mnemonic:

  1. Diagnosis:
    The First Noble Truth: the existence of dukkha (Pali, sometimes translated as “suffering”), the fundamental disease of the human condition.
  2. Etiology:
    The Second Noble Truth: the causes of dukkha which are attachment, clinging, and unexamined desire.
  3. Prognosis
    The Third Noble Truth: dukkha can be cured.
  4. Treatment Plan
    The Fourth Noble Truth: a systematic approach to healing dukkha (through the Noble Eightfold Path, of which mindfulness is one practice, and maybe the most important one, as all the others grow from it).

Ever since I’ve read this medical interpretation, it’s stuck in my memory and I don’t confuse or forget the Four Noble Truths anymore. Very helpful.

The Eightfold Path (also from the Dharma chapter in Kabat-Zinn’s book):

  • Wise (or right) view
  • Wise thinking 
  • Wise speech
  • Wise action
  • Wise livelihood
  • Wise effort
  • Wise mindfulness
  • Wise concentration

If anyone is interested in MBSR, I recommend Full Catastrophe Living by the same author. It’s the classic on the subject by the founder and excellent. It was the first book by Kabat-Zinn I read and one of the reasons that I started my meditation practice a couple of years ago.

First violet I’ve seen this year:



Mindfulness & Weather

The second day of training was intense. We learned a lot about how to cultivate empathy and compassion and did exercises on how to apply this in our work life. We also looked into what motivates us and where we want to be in a few years. The last one was quite difficult for me. I’m more of a wait-and-see-what-comes-up and less of a planner, especially regarding work. I find that this attitude has served me well. I’m at a place professionally that suits me, and I’m open to new opportunities if they come up. And I’m pretty sure they will. My job is subject to continuous change and something always comes up. So, I’m not worried about my work life (it might be different if I were aiming for some kind of leadership career, but I’m not interested in that, I prefer staying on the expert, non-management track).

Anyway, as I already mentioned in yesterday’s post, the real benefit from this training will come from keeping up the meditation habit. I’m optimistic about that; as I’ve already been meditating for a couple of years and am seeing that it’s good for me, I’m unlikely to stop. Also, for me meditation has a spiritual aspect that fills a need for me.

I took Curious Dog for his walk later than usual today, because it was still hot outside when I got home at around 5:30 p.m. and so we had dinner first: Spinach with tofu and mashed potatoes, very good. Then I took CD on the usual week-day track through the fields and back through town. Well, all the time we were walking, dark clouds were coming up from the West and suddenly, it turned windy, with strong gusts just like at the beginning of a thunderstorm. CD didn’t like that at all, and dragged me quickly all the way back home, just stopping to greet one of his dog friends. The wind whipped up lose stuff, mostly blossom petal from all the flowering trees and a lot of dust. It got in my eyes and between my teeth. It’s very worrying that rain in summer is so often accompanied by storms in recent years. And they always seem to rise up so suddenly. I’m also worried about the drought. There’s rain forecast for the weekend and I hope it rains a lot, and continues to rain frequently, so that we don’t have another horrid hot dry Summer as last year.

During meditation, I heard the wind blowing all around the house. The worst of the storm passed us by, and we only got a few drops of rain.

Mindfulness Training

The course on mindfulness today at work was fun. Most of it wasn’t new to me, but it was nice meeting lots of people also interested in mindfulness and hear about their experiences and expectations. There were all sorts of people from beginners to meditators who have been doing it for years. We learned a few tricks about being mindful for short moments at work (in addition to a formal meditation practice). Those are quite interesting – I may copy them out and stick them to my monitor at work, to remind me to do them every now and again.

The real habit to create, is, however, a regular meditation practice. That automatically carries over into daily life after some time. At least that’s my experience. Quite often, I spontaneously notice that my mind is not in the moment, but off ruminating or fantasizing. I’m hoping that these realizations will happen more often.

On my commute today, I saw a small herd of shaggy brown cattle on a hilly meadow. They weren’t there last week. It was early, and they were huddled in a corner, resting. And I also saw them on the way home. A tiny moment of joy.

Curious Dog and I heard the cuckoo call again on our evening walk, although I don’t know if CD pays attention to bird calls.

My meditation practice was good. I guess it’s always good; it doesn’t matter if one is distracted as long as one sticks with it with self-compassion and loving kindness. This is probably the best habit I’ve ever started, and I hope I never drop it.

Holiday Activities

Last night, I dreamt that at work we had such huge parking lots around our office buildings that helicopters were used to shuttle the employees to their office buildings. The helicopters had a kind of cage around the cockpits where people, exposed to the elements, hung on while the pilots flew them where they needed to go. I was the last one to be dropped off on one shuttle trip. The pilot forgot I was still hanging on, and started doing aerobatics, looping the loop and such things, until I knocked on the cockpit roof to let him know I was still there. Then I woke up. Very odd.

In contrast to my usual laziness on holidays, I was amazingly effective in the morning. I baked muffins while my partner and Curious Dog were off walking, and then cleaned all the floors on the ground floor: kitchen, loo, hall, and living-room. All of that before lunch.

For lunch my partner cooked cream of pumpkin soup (one of his specialties), which was perfect. Probably it’ll be the last one until Autumn. We like pumpkin soup, but not usually in Summer. It was a fitting soup finale!

In the afternoon, we watched The Shape of Water, which we have on blu-ray. It was ok but I kind of expected something else. I thought the water person was really made of water, not some man with gills. But the relationship between the water person and the mute cleaner was very touching.

I also had a lot of time for reading (currently reading The Overstory, by Richard Powers). I walked with Curious Dog, a fairly long route, uphill, over a bridge, through fields, and then back down to the town through the woods. They’ve done a lot of logging recently. When we returned, an Italian ice-cream van was just stopping right in front of our driveway. We all had the first Italian ice-cream of the year. I had yoghurt and blueberry. Sadly, the blueberry wasn’t as good as the ice-cream we used to get at our last place. The van was from one of the neighbouring villages, but there’s an ice-cream parlour here in town, too. We’ll be trying that out soon.

After dinner, we started watching the second season of The Bridge, a Danish/Swedish co-produced TV crime series. The second season seems to be about eco-terrorism, but who knows what other ramifications will occur. One of the main characters is an autistic police detective. It’s riveting.

I was so busy all day, with house-cleaning and more pleasant occupations that I almost didn’t have time for my meditation practice, but I managed half-an-hour. One would think it’d be easier to find time to sit on holidays, but in reality they disrupt normal habits. I shall try to do better tomorrow. But 30 minutes are better than 5, or none at all!

I enjoyed getting so much done early in the day, while still having time to hang around reading and watching series. Hopefully, I will remember this, and repeat it on other weekends.

Half-Day Friday

Worked only half the day today, in home office to make up for the Thursday afternoon travel day. I meant to get something substantial done on one of my three outstanding documents but was derailed with a lot of error messages and other nitty-gritty annoying time-consuming tasks. At least one big technical error was solved (by support) and maybe I’ll remember the fix if it ever occurs again. It was, however, a weird error manually introduced and I’m not sure how the person managed to do it, so hopefully no-one else will reproduce it.

In the afternoon we went grocery shopping and otherwise I did nothing except take Curious Dog on his three daily walks, morning, noon, and afternoon. In the morning there was fog drip (not enough to soak us, but enough to coat my glasses). It stayed fairly overcast before noon but got progressively nicer in the afternoon. Mutti even spend some time gardening and moaned about the state of the garden.

Before getting up out of bed, I read a section in Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn today. It is, of course, a classic, by the inventor of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). I came to meditation via a regular short session hosted at work, by someone also trained in MBSR. I’ve had the book for a longish time, even before I started meditating at work and later at home, but I never got around to reading it. It’s great – it has really good explanations on how meditation works to enhance health and help one to cope with stress. It points out that meditation is being instead of doing. This is probably completely clear to experienced meditation practitioners, but it was a bit of an eye-opener for me, being self-taught and not very experienced yet. It’s giving me a lot of useful background. Anyway, I read a section about time that really resonated with me. Here’s a quote:

…well-being, inner balance, and peacefulness exist outside time. If you commit yourself to spending some time each day in inner stillness, even if it is for two minutes, or five, or ten, for those moments you are stepping out of the flow of time altogether. The stillness and calm, the sense of well-being and wakeful presence that come from letting go of time transform your experience of time when you move back into it. (p 453)

It’s about the passage of time being a subjective experience – we all know that, but I hadn’t thought about it in the terms described in the book.

I’m almost through the book, but I think I just go back and start again from the beginning when I’m done. There’s no way I can remember all the useful info in just one reading.

Mindfulness & Dogs

Work was uneventful today. The day was cooler and overcast and a lot cooler than the days before, only about 10°C. It didn’t rain much (or at least I didn’t notice it at the office), but as soon as I got home the drops started falling. Checking the clouds, I decided that with any luck the rain wouldn’t get any stronger, so I put on my light rain jacket (not useful against hard rain), leashed up Curious Dog and took him for the evening walk.

Well, of course the rain did get a lot stronger and we got soaked. Half way on our usual route, I decided to turn back, but by that point I might as well have continued on, as we were already quite wet. I was starting to get quite annoyed about the wet clothes, cold wind, the anticipation of the mess in the hallway when we’d get home, toweling the dog off, hanging up my wet stuff — such a pain. But then I remembered to be mindful and I remembered that I like rain. I listened into my body and thought “It’s not that unpleasant.” I managed to turn my growing annoyance off and be in the moment. Being mindful in daily life doesn’t happen all the time for me (far from it), but it’s happening more often of late. I’ve been meditating regularly for more than a year and I’ve noticed that it’s really starting to have an impact on my life. An effective incentive to keep on doing it!

Curious Dog doesn’t mind rain. His fur is so thick that only the top layer gets wet and I think he quite likes being toweled dry. He also likes to dry himself on my jeans — weaving around my legs like a cat, except with a lot more heft. Bit naughty, that. But funny.

After dinner we watched the stop-motion animated movie Isle of Dogs, which is visually very striking. I really like the body-language of the dogs in the movie, it’s very evocative of real dogs. It’s set in a future dystopian Japan and is about dogs being banished to an island to quarantine and eventually euthanize them. A young boy, Atari, goes on a quest to save his dog. The dogs are all talking German, and the people are all talking Japanese (we watched the German version). Some of the Japanese bits are translated, but not all. The dogs also don’t understand the humans (at one point one of them says “It would be nice if someone could speak his [Atari’s] language.” That created a really interesting effect for me, reminding me how Curious Dog may hear my nattering at him as a lot of noise with just a few intelligible words and that a lot or our communication is via emotion and body language. This can, of course, also be true in the communication between humans if they don’t speak a common language. I wonder how this movie would work for viewers who speak Japanese, as they can understand both the humans and the dogs. There are also thought-provoking bits about ownership and loyalty. The fictional politics are evocative of real history, and, sadly, of current events. I found it a thought-provoking, enjoyable film! I’m sure we’ll watch it again.

Quiet Day

Today, I turned 51.

I felt quietly happy all day long. We slept in in the morning, just a bit, because I had the day off. Porridge as usual for breakfast and the sun was shining. Afterwards, my partner took Curious Dog for a walk and I went to the grocery store to pick up some food. We’d just returned on Sunday, so were out of fresh vegetables. And my partner wanted to bake a cake for me and needed some ingredients.

The cake was delicious. A sponge cake with an apple topping covered with a thin layer of cashew cream. Very yum and light. For lunch I made a leek and potato cream soup. It’s an easy recipe, so I didn’t spend much time in the kitchen, for who wants to spend their birthday cooking?

Sometime around lunch, there was a shower of sleet and the carport roof was still dripping meltwater when my partner took CD out again. We ought to attach a rain gutter, so that we can catch the rainwater for the garden.


I hung up a load of washing and I unpacked my birthday present. My partner gave me season 10 of Doctor Who (the last one with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor). We watched the Christmas Special after lunch, then had cake and coffee. Afterwards, I got myself all ready (raincoat, boots, dog treats, poop bags, the lot) and Curious Dog in his harness, and then the weather turned again. A clap of thunder and some flashes of lightening, so I postponed the walk. There followed a short hailstorm, some rain, and twenty minutes later the sun was out again, and we could proceed with our walk. It was crisp and sunny outside, and I saw the dark clouds receding in the distance.

We met a jogger with a dog running loose. A brown hunting-type dog, just as big as CD, also male, who stood nose-to-nose with CD, softly growling. The jogger walked away, but the dog didn’t follow. I got a bit anxious as the growling got louder and the jogger didn’t show any inclination to do anything. Now, I know the notion is that if you keep on walking, likely as not, your dog will follow. But what do you do if that doesn’t happen? I called out to the guy to get his dog and he came back a few steps and then his dog did return to him. But it was a bit scary and I could have done with an apology. “Sorry about this…” would have done it, but no luck.

But nothing happened so it wasn’t a big deal. When I was younger and out walking with the family dog situations like that really used to upset me. I still think it’s pretty inconsiderate not to make sure that your dog isn’t bothering or scaring others. I would have let CD off the leash if the jogger had said something, but since he didn’t, I wasn’t sure if it would have been a good idea. Still, I didn’t let it spoil my walk.

Regarding walking: I’m getting some expensive zero elevation walking boots from Mutti. I still have to order them, though.

While I wasn’t shopping, cooking, hanging up the washing, eating cake, watching Doctor Who, or walking CD, I did some reading: Ursula K. Le Guin: The Wave in the Mind. Very interesting essays. I found out that she likes The Lord of the Rings. One of my favourite authors liked one of my other favourite authors. Inconsequential but somehow affirming.

The day was so full of lovely moments that I almost didn’t find time for my meditation practice, but I managed to sit and breathe for half an hour. I always think that I will do longer meditations on days off, but often find the opposite happens. The structure of a regular working day, with its fixed schedule makes it easier to take the time to meditate at the usual time.

Meditation Practice

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a regular meditation practice for years, but I hadn’t done anything about it until a couple of years ago. My first semi-regular meditation experience was with a few minutes at the end of Yoga practice. Unfortunately, I stopped doing Yoga when we got Curious Dog, as I don’t have time for it anymore what with dog walks, work, house-keeping, and whatever. I keep meaning to take it up again, but so far haven’t managed it, as it just doesn’t fit into my daily schedule. I did, however, manage to start a regular meditation practice instead.

At first, I just did meditation once a week through a program offered at my office. We meet one morning a week and do a twenty-minute meditation session. I think I started with that early 2017. Then I came across the book Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment, by Robert Wright. It motivated me to try and start a real meditation practice, which I did in the fall of 2017.

I got the free version of the app Insight Timer to help me with the timing – it has a nice feature that allows you to set different gongs at different times in one’s meditation. I usually try to sit for 45 minutes and have a gong every 15 minutes (1 to start, one after 15 and 30 minutes and 3 gongs at the end). I managed to meditate almost every day in 2018, but sometimes my sittings were only a few minutes. Still, it helped enormously to keep me sane during my stressful move last year. I like the app a lot, because it tracks the time I spent meditating and because it offers a huge selection of free guided meditations. I also once bought a course, 10 sittings for a reasonable $4.95.

This year I’ve made a resolution to deepen my practice. It’s going well so far. I’ve not missed a day yet (since January 1). I do my 45 minutes timed meditation (usually after dinner) and on some days (at least three days per week) a guided meditation – I’m planning on doing the weekly MIDL mindfulness trainings (52, one for each week of the year) by Stephen Procter: I find these to be helpful for my non-guided meditation sessions, too. I usually do the guided sessions early in the morning or late at night, both times while lying in bed. Early is better. I have fallen asleep during some of the late ones (but that’s also an acceptable outcome). Sleep is good!

Stephen Procter also has his own website with the MIDL trainings (Meditation in Daily Life) and other information:

Since I’ve been doing meditation for about a year daily, I’ve found that I’m getting better at it. I don’t get bored so quickly (or if I do, I try to investigate the bored feeling). While my mind still wanders all the time, I do experience fleeting periods when the thoughts seem to recede into the background while I concentrate on breathing and being embodied in the moment. I’m not sure if “recede into the background” is the right description, though. It’s hard to describe. It’s a journey, I’m open to see how it will develop.

The practice has also helped me to become slightly more mindful in daily life. The MIDL trainings also have this goal, which is why I like them so much. When I walk with Curious Dog, I often notice that my mind is wandering all over the place. And then I try to stop doing that and instead enjoy being with CD in nature. This is just an example, it happens in other situations as well. I’m trying to increase these moments of being in the moment. I don’t beat myself up if it doesn’t work, I just notice it and try again. Well, at least sometimes. Mostly I go through my day without being mindful, but those few moments when I aspire to mindfulness spur me on in my practice.

Meditation can be a spiritual practice for someone who’s not religious. My inner skeptic approves of it.