I am often asked by my students how I came to practice meditation. It didn't come easy to me at first, but now it's the most important thing that I do to keep myself happy in my daily life. I call it my superpower. Here's my story.
I was brought up in a Catholic religious home. The idea that there was more to life than I could see intrigued me from a young age. By the age of 12, I had read all of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's books on death and dying. It was a topic that really intrigued me. I felt there must be something beyond what we saw and experienced in the physical world.
When I was ten years old, my grandfather died. To the horror of my family, I insisted on seeing his body. They couldn't talk me out of it. I really wanted to know what a dead person looked like. My family tried to warn me that when I saw him, he would not look like the person I was used to seeing, but I was still determined to do it, and they eventually gave in. When I looked into the coffin, the legend goes that I passed out. I can't entirely remember. I just remember that I had nightmares about my grandfather's dead body for most of my childhood after that. So, it probably wasn't the healthiest exploration for me at that time. Still, it was a good indication of my fascination with life beyond what I could see.
Then, as you may know, if you know my story, I went through a challenging time around the age of 19. I was unbelievably depressed, to the point that I tried to take my own life. I had to take stock of myself. I began to ask a lot of questions of myself to try to understand what was going on.
Why was it that I was so miserable and some people weren't? What was the difference between these two ways of being? Was it luck? Was it where you were born? Was it wealth? Was it the circumstances?
These questions were fascinating to me. All I wanted was to be happier. I wanted to try and understand whether happiness levels were moveable. If they were, I wanted to see if I could discover how to move mine. This determination to change my life took me on a journey all over the world.
I started to read and study everything I could about happiness. A couple of times, I tried to learn meditation. I didn't find it easy. One of the biggest reasons it wasn't working for me was that I was initially taught closed-eye meditation, and I would start meditating and fall asleep. I also found that closing my eyes brought me to kind of a dark place inside of myself. I didn't like it. It made me scared. I knew that meditation was good and healthy, but I didn't know how to learn it in a way that felt good for me. (Now, I practice open-eye meditation, which you can read more about in this article.)
The trouble with closing my eyes wasn't the only factor. I believed that meditation held the key to what I was looking for, but I just couldn't make it work. I tried several different ways without success.
Then, finally, I discovered techniques that taught me how to work with my mind, emotions, and thoughts.
I learned that meditation is the most important practice. This is because our happiness and our suffering are created in our minds. So working with our minds is vital if we want to change our lives.
I'm a Taurus, which you know is an earth sign if you're into astrology. You can tell me all of the theories in the world, but I need to know for myself that something is going to work. Learning open-eye meditation cleared the block I had with closing my eyes, falling asleep, and going to that uncomfortable place.
That is when my meditation practise really began. I found it incredibly powerful and liberating. If you know me personally, you know that I'm highly rebellious. I'm rebellious in the way that if everyone's doing something, I'll do something different. You can never tell me that just because lots of people are doing something, it's the right thing. I've always been about finding my own way.
Before I learned meditation, I would wake up in the morning, and I could go through about six different emotional states throughout the day. I often felt as though the day was a roller coaster of emotions. Meditation changed all of that. It grounded me and gave me a deep confidence in myself as I started to understand my own mind. I began to see where my mind went to habitually, and over time I was able to consciously choose whether I wanted to go there or not.
The ability to control my mind was a game-changer for me because my mind was completely out of control before that. My mind was like an out-of-control car on a freeway. And sometimes the freeway was great and fun, and sometimes I was driving off the road.
My meditation practice allowed me to get to a place of emotional stability. I still had ups and downs throughout the day, but they were more gentle sways than wild mood swings. Those emotional swings were, of course, affecting other people and myself, so my relationships began to improve as well.
By nature, I am fiery and feisty, and I'm excitable and passionate, which often led me to be highly reactive. I can still occasionally be reactive, but getting me riled up takes a lot more and rarely happens.
There's an overwhelming stability to my life that I did not have before. The great thing about that is that the more you sit in the stability and groundedness, the more you can open yourself up to love because you're not so afraid. You're not as self-protective. You can handle everything better.
From this one practice, your whole life changes.