Maybe you're like me. Maybe you're not, but for years I admired people who told me they meditated regularly. They seemed so solid, calm, and clear no matter what was happening. Plus, they were genuinely loving, confident, and happy people.
I wanted to be like them, but I just couldn't get into it. I tried several times over the years but my life was super busy and I struggled to sit still. I was always distracted and could never get my mind quiet while meditating. Wasn't that the whole point?
So I gave up on it pretty quickly, deciding that it just wasn't for me...until one day I signed up for a 4-day silent Vipassana retreat in a nearby town. Vipassana is a mindfulness meditation technique out of ancient India in which you practice observing your thoughts and emotions as they arise, without judging them or dwelling on them.
I'd heard people say how powerful of an experience vipassanas were for them, so I thought I'd give it a try. I had no idea what I was in for, and on the first day, I thought I might literally go mad. We spent the entire day in silence, not making eye contact with other participants, and moving in and out of 2-hour meditations. I almost got in my car and drove home, but didn't want to drive in the dark, so decided I'd leave the next morning.
But when morning came, the teacher gathered up all of us newbies after the sunrise meditation and took us to a private room for a dharma, or teaching. The first thing he said was that he knew we might be feeling absolutely crazy and overwhelmed, ready to bail and go home. It was as if he read my mind!
He went on to explain why that happens, and said not to panic. He assured us it would get better, and said we were just now in the middle of the battle with our mind. He added that he understood why we wanted to leave and it was entirely up to us if we did in fact leave, but encouraged us to stay.
I decided to stay. After the dharma, I went to my car and got my suitcase and bedding out again. Yep, I was that close. I was so ready to leave that I'd packed up my stuff and put it in my car. Then the teacher saw me and invited me to stay for the dharma. To this day I am immensely grateful to him for that.
The rest of day 2 was pretty tough, but I made it through. The food they provided was so good and the place so peaceful, I figured it was worth sticking around for. Plus, things were tense at home, and the break from that felt good.
Day 3 I actually awoke with a smile and sauntered into the sunrise meditation room feeling like my world had been covered in fairy dust. It was as though a switch had been flipped inside my head. I eagerly sat on my cushion and set myself for our meditation. I was calm and ready. For two hours we sat, and I was in heaven, smiling the entire time.
The rest of that day and all of day 4, I existed in a bubble of total bliss and calm. I felt genuinely at peace inside. I'd never experienced anything so amazing in my life! And I was astounded at the transformation.
Skip ahead several years to today. I've been meditating regularly since then. My practice of choice since 2000 is kundalini yoga and meditation, and I rarely miss a day. Friends and family ask me how I stay so calm and non-reactive during such trying times. Well, I can say without a doubt that it's a direct result of regular meditation.
What I know now that I didn't know then is that we have no idea how powerful of a hold our mind or psyche has on us until we stop and actively observe it. It's unrelenting and often unkind. It's overwhelmingly pushy and arrogant. It's tiresome in its sense of authority, and it runs the show of our lives until we learn how to put a stop to it...wihch is a good idea because the conditioned mind does not generate the best outcomes in our lives when it's behind the steering wheel of our car.
But we don't know any of this until and unless we stop to see it. Our lives are so busy and filled with distractions that few of us make space to do so. Yet for all the healing techniques I've practiced over the years, meditation is one of the simplest, easiest, and most powerful ones I know of to put things right inside and give us back our personal power. It's so amazing that I cannot imagine what my life would be like without it. And I'm grateful every day that there's no good reason for me to find out.