Me and my husband with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in Melbourne, 2009
I guess you can say that I’m addicted to feeling good.
I understand that doing anything extracurricular for 15 years every day, sounds freakish and unattainable. Although… I never actually set out to ‘achieve‘ anything other than peace of mind.
I was 19 years old, and in my second year at Salisbury University, living on campus. Everyone kept talking about this cute guy who taught the yoga club every week and that I ought to come and try it. A few months later, and I was DATING the yoga instructor and also going to his classes. He told me that in a few weeks, someone named Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, was coming to New York City, and that we needed to go see him. It wasn’t hard to convince me to go on a road trip to NYC, so I skipped my afternoon classes, and we drove from Maryland to New Jersey and hopped on the train into the city.
It was January, 2002, and Sri Sri was giving the talk somewhere in a hall in midtown Manhattan (?). I forget where exactly. We arrived late, but the lady at the door said it didn’t matter, as long as we got there in time for the meditation. There were a few hundred people there and we squeezed into some empty seats way up in the second floor balcony seating. From where I was sitting, I noticed that Sri Sri was Indian and dressed in a white robe. He had this sing-song voice and people were all bowing down to him. All I could think was, “What the HELL is going on?!” Keep in mind, I came from a small town in New Jersey. Very white. Very ‘normal‘. Nothing exotic. Ever. Sri Sri was giving a talk, of which, I recall not a single word, when he asked everyone to close their eyes for a meditation.
I tried it.
It was amazing.
I had never experienced anything like it in my whole entire life! All at once, I could ‘feel‘ everyone in the world. Everyone’s joy. Everyone’s suffering. Everyone’s everything… It was surreal. It was like the biggest drug trip ever… except, there were no drugs. I had found something! And, I hadn’t even been looking for anything to begin with.
All was quiet and I sort of forgot about the meditation thing, until a few months later, my boyfriend told me he was organising this program called the Art of Living course (now called the Happiness Program), a course that was designed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. It cost money. I didn’t want to do it. To make matters complicated, my boyfriend’s ex-girlfried was helping to organise the course. Awkward… So, I came up with every excuse I could find to not do the course. Not enough time. Not enough money… But, eventually, I ran out of excuses and decided to just sign up.
I can’t remember much from the course, except that the teacher who came, was from somewhere out west, and he was really good looking, and that, most importantly, we learned this breathing technique and meditaiton that was out of this world. It was something that I could do every day, by myself.
The day after the course was over, I found a secluded spot in this secret garden part of the campus, early in the morning, and did my breathing. I was too embarrassed to do it in my dorm room with my roommates watching. You may not recall, but 15 years ago, not everyone was doing yoga and meditation. It was still something for the nutters. I felt really self conscious out there, like someone was going to catch me! But, I was willing to take my chances because that breathing and meditation had just been too good. For six months, I did my breathing and meditation every day. I found lots of new places to do it and that summer, I went to Washington state to teach at a summer sailing camp on this beautiful island in the Puget Sound.
The place was magical where I was staying, there were no people around, only me, in this this huge empty house, in the middle of nowhere, overlooking the water (the owners had gone cruising for the summer). I spent the summer this way, meditating before and after work. Doing lots of yoga too. This was also the summer that I stopped drinking alcohol and smoking pot. After so many months of purifying, I had a beer… it made me feel like total crap. I decided I would never drink again. The same happened when someone offered me a joint. Never again.
That autumn, I was back at uni. I didn’t have time to do my breathing and meditation one morning. The morning rolled on, and by lunch time, I was feeling a little… fuzzy… I couldn’t think so clearly. Then it hit me that I hadn’t done that breathing and meditation thingo and decided to go straight home before lunch so that I could do it. After I was finished, I felt so fresh again. It was then that I realised that I had learned something REALLY precious and that I needed to keep doing this. Every day. No matter what.
And, that was pretty much all it took. I’ve never missed a day since the day I learned how to do it. That includes days I’ve been too sick to leave bed. Days I’ve had to wake up at 3am to travel. Days I’ve done NOTHING but travel (planes are great places to meditate). Days of boyfriend break ups and days of enormous stress (the yoga instructor and I never worked out). Graduations. Days I’ve worked from dawn til dusk. Days I’ve given BIRTH. And, all seven + years of me being a mother. I’ve never missed a day.
Nobody told me to not miss a day. It became sort of like taking a shower and brushing my teeth. Mental hygiene. Although… I’m pretty sure I’ve skipped some showers in the past 15 years… but never skipped my meditation. Priorities folks.
Do I still get angry?
Do I worry?
But, the anger doesn’t last as long. The stress is less intense. The mistakes are less stupid. The worry quickly dissolves.
The biggest thing I’ve noticed, especially after having three kids, is that I tire less easily and experience less burn out. I’m able to relax more easily and be more in tune with my kids. My intuition works better because when the mind is less clouded by stress, your thought process is more clear. I have more patience. I have less fear. I’m happier.
As the years have gone by, I feel my meditation practice is the one thing that I own. Anywhere. Any time. (ok, almost anywhere and anytime) I can close my eyes, and I’m there. I don’t need anything to do it. In fact, quite the opposite. I can literally drop EVERYTHING and do it.
Even if it’s 10 minutes before bed. Or, if right in the middle of my meditation, a voice yells out “Mom, I’m done, will you wipe me?!” It’s still worth it. Even if it cuts into my time of doing other things, it’s always worth it. Even if all it seems like I’m doing is ‘thinking‘ while I close my eyes, it’s worth it. Yes, even 15 years later, I still have meditations that seem to suck… although in reality, no meditation sucks. You can’t judge how good your meditation was by the experience you had. When people say they can’t meditate because they can’t stop thinking… well… it happens to the best of us some days, so don’t worry.
Daily meditation is like an umbrella. What ever garbage comes flying down around me, I’m safe. Sure, I have days, weeks, maybe even months when I might be down in the dumps, but in general, with daily meditation, I have less days like that. I have more days of fun. Less days of worry. More days of health. Less days of stress. It’s something I hope to be doing for the next 15 years of my life.