I first started meditating in 1999.
At the time I was a Financial Advisor with Merrill Lynch.
I was stressed a lot and experienced constant anxiety that would eventually spill into bouts of depression.
But back then people didn’t meditate.
Or at least people I knew didn’t meditate.
In the ’90s Deepak Chopra had a meditation center in La Jolla, California – it was two blocks from my office. So while meditation wasn’t common then I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in there.
Many times I walked down there with the intent of going in and many times I walked away.
Until one time I went inside.
That single decision to walk through the door changed everything for me. To this day it was the most important decision of my entire life.
While I came to meditation because of stress, anxiety, and depression – I have continued to meditate for a reason, that back then, I never even knew existed.
Having taught meditation for many years now, what I’ve found is the most common reason people begin a meditation practice is because of stress.
Meditation is an excellent practice to help us reduce stress. There is zero doubt about its effectiveness.
But stress comes and goes in our lives, so when the stress is gone, whether it’s due to our meditation practice or just the conditions of stress having changed, meditation often falls off with it.
Because that’s not the reason most people stay meditating.
While stress is a huge problem in our society there is an even greater one that is rarely ever talked about.
Not only have we completely lost our connection to who we are, we 100% wrongly believe we are something else.
In our minds, we carry with us an image of who we think we are.
The keyword here is think.
This image of who we think we are is created only through our thoughts. Thoughts that are constantly changing, fickle, and spend most of their time anticipating worst-case scenarios.
Because our thoughts are always changing, the way we feel about our image is always changing too, which means the way we feel about ourselves is always changing.
One minute we’re happy and we feel safe because we perceive things are going well, maybe someone complimented us, we just got an unexpected upgrade, or maybe our candidate was elected President.
In those pleasant conditions we feel good, our image feels good and we feel safe and secure.
But it doesn’t take long before another thought pops into our head changing the way we are perceiving our image.
Maybe we recall a conversation where someone criticized or disagreed with us, we remember an embarrassing situation where we made a mistake, or there’s a problem with the car and potentially a big bill is coming.
In an instant, our image shifts, and so does the way we feel.
One minute we’re on top of the moon, the next we feel like the lions are circling.
And all of this is happening simply because our thoughts are changing, and because we believe the image that is the result of those thoughts is real.
But this image of who we think we are is no more real than a rainbow.
I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, just that it only arises and passes away through specific causes and conditions.
The rainbow comes into being because of light and water – take one of those conditions away and the rainbow goes away.
This image of who we think we are can only come into being through thinking about ourselves – take that condition away and the image no longer exists.
It’s not that it hides or becomes dormant when we’re not thinking about ourselves, it doesn’t exist.
And yet we’re still here.
The only difference is we aren’t fretting anymore, worrying about what’s going to happen to us, and what everyone else thinks about us!
Learning to see through the illusion of this thought created image is not easy, it’s so compelling to get lost in it. And yet it is still just an illusion.
Meditation helps us see through this illusion because it brings us back to who we really are and with that frame of reference we start to believe less and less in the thought created “me.”
So there are two halves to this problem.
We need to learn to keep coming back to who we are, to touch the inner stillness and tranquility inside where we feel safe, connected, and whole again – meditation brings us here.
The other half is learning to see how our thoughts create this image, how fickle and distorted our thoughts are, and that without the thoughts there is no image, and therefore no problem – meditation helps us see this.
One path makes us whole, the other splits us in half.
This is why, 21 years after I first started meditating, I continue.
Because every day I check-in and connect with who I really am, I become more confident in what’s real and what isn’t and this makes my life infinitely more enjoyable.
This doesn’t mean I don’t ever think about what I need to do, correct a mistake, or apologize to someone – it means I don’t get lost in an image of “me” that’s in danger when it’s obvious the real me is perfectly safe sitting in my living room.