Life has a way of becoming mechanical. For most of us, we focus the majority of our attention on those five days out of each week that we call ourselves, “earning a living.” Not trying to be happier people, or wiser people, or people that enjoy each moment we have with those we love since life is short and unpredictable... Instead some of us work day after day not because our job brings us joy, but because we must earn a check in order to survive. We've become earners of livings when living doesn't actually have to be earned, if one is already alive.
Now money does have to be made in order to afford basic living necessities, but the pursuit of happiness should not be confined to the standard forty-eight hours provided by the weekend. What if more people chose to make money doing what made them happy? Bills, ups and downs, joy and sorrow, love and misery are all inevitable in this thing called life. However, if from day-to-day our main focus was instead what made the passionate fire within our belly burn the brightest, wouldn't that prove to be much more fulfilling in the long run?
When I overheard rumors of how my nephews would tell stories to their parents of their incredible uncle that they so vividly recalled from past interactions I was ashamed, for I was no longer the gentleman that they spoke of. He no longer stood before me in the mirror. His little voice in my head had long been drowned out by the loud cries of everything that always had to be done, and I couldn't even recall when I last heard him. The rumors of my old self from those that still bordered the line of purity and innocence brought me to my knees for I too admired who they spoke of, but was mortified that he had become a distant memory. It was at that moment I realized I had lost the good fight, because I had lost myself. My pure nature had been covered underneath so many layers of drudgery and experience that I no longer knew who I was. The burning passion within me no longer twinkled in my eye; my fire had been extinguished: my restless soul no longer wrestled with my rationale, it had finally given-up on me altogether.
At that point, I wondered if it was already too late. The thoughts that rushed to my head were, “Can I still save myself? Do I still have a chance? Does hope still remain?” This wasn't some cliché soul-search, it was a desperate attempt at its revival. But how can one undo the hands of time? How does one reach deep down through an existence of learned behavior and conditioned habits to pull out a person that is pure yet still all the wiser? Being so lost in my own thoughts, I found myself in a bookstore scrolling through books on meditation. The idea of inner-peace had been something that interested me for so long; the time had finally come for me to stop talking about it, in order to be about it.
In 2011, there was a clinical study done at the University of Massachusetts that proved meditation can transform the physical structure of the brain. According to Davidji's Secrets of Meditation, during an eight week trial using MRI brain scans on sixteen subjects at the beginning and ending of the trial – each subject's scan displayed an increase in the gray matter in the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory), and a reduction in gray matter in their amygdala (the anxiety, fear and stress center of the brain). Eureka! This was it! This was something solid, factual and scientifically based that would guarantee a pessimist like myself, progress. It seemed there was hope for me yet.
Through life's disappointments, mishaps, unfortunate circumstances, embarrassments, relocations, epiphanies, degrees, significant others, joys, accomplishments, triumphs, failures and everything in-between; we groom ourselves accordingly, toward one direction or another. It only makes sense to do so, right? We live then we learn, not the other way around. During all of this living, we mold ourselves into what might be appreciated the most by those people or entities that we, “answer to.” Whether it's our parents, peers, society, a certain industry, family or friends; we shape ourselves to hide or protect what creates vulnerability and inflate what we believe makes us strong or powerful or immune to pain. “We all wear masks,” and occasionally forget our own faces.
Ever since the day I purchased that book on meditation (along with a few others since then) I've been practicing an appreciation for who I am instead of who I think the world wants me to be. Perfect, I am far from but astounding in my own ways nonetheless – we all are in our own ways, shapes, and forms. Everyday I sit in silence once or twice for a few moments to just breathe. I let my mind settle and relax only to be reawakened that much better, guaranteed. Each day I feel less rattled by any worldly impending force, and more comforted by my own movement. My decisions are no longer made in fear of what might go wrong, I now make decisions on the faith I have in my abilities, and the abilities of those I can count on. Becoming aware of the numerous kinds of meditation currently in practice, convinced me to believe there is a suitable method for each and every one of us that is willing to put forth the effort. But I'm no guru – I'm simply present, and even more so each and every day.
By: Andrew Williams