#HeartToHeart: The Boomerang
Over the last couple of days, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with and interview many meditators from all over the globe; some are here for week-long seminars, while others are here for a period of time to depend their meditation practice. As they’ve opened up their hearts and shared their stories, I realized that I haven’t shared my own journey to meditation.
Meditation was the foundation of my life growing up. As a trainer, my dad would host group meditation in our home every Wednesday and Sunday: for years, I watched a smattering of familiar faces and dozens of newbies walk in and out of my childhood as they learned the various techniques of the Heartfulness practice from my dad and devoured Sunday brunch made lovingly by my mom. Not yet old enough to meditate, my brother and I would quietly hide upstairs watching TV in our parents’ room with our dog, only to bound down the steps as soon as we heard voices to greet the people who had become a part of our extended family.
A few times a year, we would travel as a family to a meditation retreat somewhere in the world; in Atlanta, Georgia; in Cleveland, Ohio; in Chennai, India. There, I would reconnect with the myriad of friends I had collected over the years — in a pre-cell phone era, we would roll around in the dirt and sand; beg our parents for tickets to purchase Flavor-Ice popsicles and candy from the snack bar; sought salvage in an air-conditioned dorm room as we broke out the Uno cards and coloring books; and do everything we could to distract our parents from the inevitability of departure so that we could squeeze in just five more minutes of precious time with one another. To this day, some of my very best friends are people that I met at meditation gatherings when I was a little girl.
I was always asking my mom questions about meditation. Did we believe in God? What happens when you meditate? Why do you meditate? Do you ever fall asleep when you meditate? She patiently and honestly answered all of my questions, always expressing how beneficial meditation had been for her, but never making me feel like it was something I had to do. Up until the age of sixteen, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to meditate. Aside from being the cool adult thing to do, it was also all I had ever known growing up in terms of spirituality. It seemed inevitable that I was eventually going to begin practicing.
But, in the most cliche story of all time, just as I was starting my senior year of high school, I fell ‘head over heels’ for a guy. Everything — my grades, my friendships, my relationship with my family, my personal goals — all took a back burner as I lifted this boy up on a pedestal and made him the central focus of my world. I was smitten, so deeply consumed by infatuation that I was blind to everything else. And when our relationship inevitably crumbled at the start of my freshman year of college, I crumbled right along with it — I was boyfriend-less/friend-less/purpose-less, stuck in a major that I hadn’t chosen for myself with expectations that I hadn’t set for myself. I slipped into a depression so deep that I failed nearly every class during that first semester of my freshman year, and seriously considered what on earth I was doing on this planet.
In retrospect, I recognize how childish and immature I was. In the moment, it felt like the world was ending. Out of spite and anger toward my parents, I wanted nothing to do with meditation. How could I believe in something higher than myself when it felt like the entire universe had conspired to prevent me from having what I wanted?
In March 2011, my dad told me that there was going to be another meditation retreat in Atlanta, Georgia, at the same retreat center that I had grown up going to. From Facebook, I knew that a few of my old friends were going to be at the retreat, and for no other reason, I chose to make the drive down with my dad.
Walking into the retreat center was like being enveloped by a warm blanket. As I breathed in the deep haze of the Georgia heat and peered up at a beautiful black sky dotted by millions of stars, I felt the weight of my worries immediately disappearing; I felt like I had come home.
Reconnecting with old friends at that retreat was one of the best things that had ever happened to me. They, too, were experiencing many of the same stresses that I had been experiencing: struggling in college, arguing with their parents, wanting to meditate but not sure where to start. The more we chatted, the quicker I understood the silliness of my resistance. I meditated for the first time in a long time during that weekend retreat, and when I did, I finally felt at peace.
I wish I could say my journey with meditation since that gathering has been smooth sailing, but instead, it’s been like a roller coaster ride. I’ve experienced ups and downs, long stretches of time where I don’t meditate, periods when I question my faith and dedication to the practice. Overall, I have spent a lot of my adult life resisting meditation, arrogantly believing that I could grow both materially and spiritually without any force except my own ego to guide me along. I would briefly adopt meditation into my routine, only to cut it out completely when I wrongly believed something external, like a crush, an incredible internship, or some other priority could fortify me.
But meditation has been a metaphorical boomerang in my life: no matter how hard I try to resist it or throw it away, it always comes back. It’s my guiding force, the tool that allows me to stay centered and work on being the best version of myself, even when that work feels unachievable. For me, that is enough to keep going on this perpetual journey of meditation, always understanding that I will be better because of it in the end.