From a Wall St. home to fulfillment through the path of OM
I get it... “the thoughts” about meditation
If you’re anything like me and so so many people, your thoughts on meditation might sound something like: “I know it’s supposed to be good for you, so I want to try it but I don’t know where to begin. I mean, I have tried it and well, I’m honestly just not good at it. My mind really just keeps thinking and I couldn’t find a comfortable place to settle into it; my back was hurting and then there were itches and I know you’re supposed to ignore them but I couldn’t help but to scratch them, seriously, they were bad. Also, my life is crazy busy from the time I wake until I’m laying back in bed on the daily; so, honestly I actually truly don’t have time for it.”
My path leading up to meditation
For nearly 10 years my enterprise software sales executive job brought me from living in New England to Miami, then Chicago; and it brought me to losing jobs through merger acquisitions and various layoffs and then to considering a new degree in a less tumultuous field. After a year of treading water in the pool of what next, afraid to try something knew, afraid to leave a career that paid “the big bucks” and afraid my skills wouldn’t lend themselves to a career path that I couldn’t begin to really feel sure of wanting to begin anyhow, I panicked. I signed on to a position selling anti-money laundering software with a company located adjacent the infamous Wall St. of NYC. I knew I was choosing the devil that I at least knew and at least knew paid really well. I had that ‘dream’ glass office overlooking the statue of Liberty, the cute apartment in the heart of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and a salary that so many believe affords fulfillment. The intensity of my career coupled with a traditional busy life outside of work had me rushing home to hit the gym, throw down dinner, take care of a few work related & personal matters before passing out, exhausted, yet full up with a mind of to-do’s on a slow spin as I fell asleep, only to wake up to the same experience for years. There was always a not quite content with myself feeling no matter how much I had or how much I was doing; although, for most of those years an understanding of this feeling escaped me. The seductive and romantic high of a life on the go, with things to do and places to be is something I didn’t realize had it’s hold on me. In the brief periods of downtime I felt an anxious craving that I’d somehow decided the way I was living was going to somehow eventually satisfy.
Divorcing my career, trying yoga & engaging possibility
When I lost my job, in the same way people describe the ‘knowing’ feeling in meeting the person they’re going to marry, I knew - in that wanted to leave that life behind. With a heavy load of fear and tremendous uncertainty and doubt rattling my faith that somehow, someway things would work out I rallied and leaned on my courage. Letting go of my former career path coupled with sincere vulnerability created the space for a willingness in me to consider all sorts of possibilities.
From this vulnerable and open space I finally agreed to join my sister for heated power yoga classes. Initially I felt at home in the familiarity of challenge and effort and so I kept showing up. And then, less than a month in, amidst a grueling class, sweat pouring, my body and inner dialogue trembling while holding side plank for ages, my attention jolted to Carlos Rodriguez’s deep resounding voice which echoed loudly, “feeeeeeeeeel the Nooooow”…. The class ended along with the layers of struggle. I was biking home when I felt it... all of it… the wind cooling my hot face, this buzzing yet calm energy within me despite the whir of cars, the honking traffic and the chaos of the fast paced streets of NYC in full force around me. I began to feel “it” every time I walked away from yoga and it was easy to know I wanted to engage “that” feeling as part of my walk in life.
The power of moving meditation literally “moved” me
Within a few months of consistent practice, my conditioned way to push forward for what I wanted started to release it’s paralyzing force on the genuine strength of trust in the process despite uncertainty and a lack of clarity throughout it. I moved my life back to New England to be closer to family while exploring in earnest how to fulfill my longing to create a life with purpose that involved putting my gifts and skills to work in a career with deep meaning. Given my waitstaff experience enhanced by my fine dining life while in corporate I started working nights at a local high-end steakhouse. And by day, given my degree in English and years of feedback about my gift of self expression through writing I began “just getting words down” as I was told would help me work past the where to start and not good enough thoughts that were typical to surface. It wasn’t a conscious trigger to alleviate my feelings brought on by my ego that was questioning my decisions necessarily; but I did notice it, the longing for the feeling that practicing yoga gave me.
At the helm of creating my experiences I decided to take my feelings of uncertainty to the mat at South Boston Yoga. The very first class I took taught by the owner, David Vendetti I laughed, I sweat through the physical challenge, I was moved by the music of the harmonium David played while singing a blend of sanskrit modernized with a U2 song when joy, uncertainty, fear and gratitude rolled down my cheeks and a warmth washed over me softening my edges. I walked away from that class feeling certain I wanted to understand how or why practicing yoga seemed to enable me to walk with my fear, doubt and uncertainty on my shoulders while feeling a powerful essence of calm, ease and heightened awareness in my walk. The residue of yoga seemed to empower me to put one foot in front of the other despite my uncertainty and not even financial means to buy pseudo comforts; a gift whose value became clear as my walk forward slowly rubbed the tarnishing of fear away.
I committed to deepening my yoga practice and understanding of that residue yoga left within me through a 200 hour teacher training program. The path felt right and I walked through an advanced 500 hour training amidst the transition of my writing and waitstaff life to that of teaching the practice that had moved me in so many ways. The chat room of fear in my mind quieted enough that my feelings about yoga, the buzz of it and lure of it finally had the time and space to begin building a new foundation.
Being in the NOW
In the process of my experience of hot power yoga classes in NYC I realized my constant thinking mind, the Chitta Vritti had been stilled by the feeling of being “in the now” which came at that time through a practice that harnessed my physical strength and mental strength to just get me through it. Later I understood it was being ‘in it‘ that gave me the feelings I was after. My fears tied to being enough in my career, my relationships, my goals and future and my guarded self tied to past experiences had no place in this space of ‘now’. Having connected to this awareness I saw the unnamed yet intense craving for satiation in myself and the world around me with a new perspective. I started to see that my old path had me me trying to satisfy through means of elation, joy and passion when peace is not actually synonymous with those emotions.
So what about meditation?!
Meditation is most often thought of as turning our thoughts off to be in complete silent stillness… for what purpose really though? Our inner dialogue, a wild mix of feelings and thoughts within the blender of our mind are often on high separating us from a longing of the foreign yet sought after feeling that is peace. In the process of practicing yoga I began to see for me, like many this moving meditation called my focus on the alignment of my body, synching movement to breath so intently that my thoughts about life as it was and as I have been planning, hoping and working for dissipated like fog that the sun burns off from the sea and I felt steady and calm despite the uncertainty, my thoughts in this meditative state of NOW.
Why sit still if moving “works”?
As my awareness vision sharpened through my moving meditations I then began observing my lack of presence in the studio of my life. Reading the same page in a book three times over trying to get myself to stay ‘present’ in absorbing the words I was just ‘reading’ in a quasi genuine action to appreciate learning in the space of slow and steady that reading is. I saw and felt my very real resistance to sitting still with a to-do and to-accomplish list that I’d empowered with tenacious skill at luring me from the anxiety I associated with being in silence. In my ignorance I “knew” sitting still wasn’t getting anything crossed off my list, in fact it was just holding back from doing what needed to get done.
What we resist persists
My ego, invigorated by challenge was up for ‘getting to the other side’ of sitting still and so I began the process with a run to get out the wiley energy first. In the process of ‘getting to the other side’ my resistance showed up in my efforts to find ‘just the right place, ‘just the right way, time of day, and just the right posture in which I’d sit etc… etc… I sat with ‘nothing’ on my mind for a millisecond before following a thought and then coming back to ‘nothing - no thinking’ before soon enough another thought sparkled like a lure and my mind followed until I came back to ‘no thinking’ for a moment ... then came judgements about why I couldn’t manage to just be without thoughts for a mere two minutes before my inner voice said “no thoughts Leah” and no thoughts came… until they did and I followed and then stopped in my tracks etc and on and on until my heart leaped at the relief of the 30 minute timer… Determined to defeat my thoughts I committed to a daily practice.
What I “won” in meditation
The earnest desire to truly feel and experience peace and balance, the practice of sitting still regardless of how many thoughts need to be reigned back into a space of ‘no thoughts’ and ‘be here now’ began to have me understand what enough means in a new way. My ego thought winning was ‘getting to the other side’ and within the first weeks of a 30 minute daily practice I began to see that I was yielding far more than a finish line. I began to let go of judging my human condition of thinking by staying with seated silent stillness even if or when my mind was/is active. Finally I started to see it... “the prize was in the process” and as I let go of ideas of what ‘real’ meditation was/is there was space in which the strength of calm and ease surfaced. Stillness builds our connection to the power of space, of peace and of calm that lay dormant within us waiting to be awakened through our commitment in holding silence and returning countless times back to the space of ‘no thoughts’ again and again. The felt experience of meditation is the calling from within that success, careers, financial wins, vacations and fanfare will never satiate in a comparable way. Today this is what meditation means to me and I am open to watching my experience evolve and perhaps mean something totally new.
Meditation for you
Yesterday you said you would start tomorrow. Take the first step forward to what you’ve wanted from within but could’t articulate for a long long time. Start the journey - if you wait until you’re ready you’ll be waiting your whole life. It’s worth it!