How I came to meditate is a story that I never conveyed to any one person or body of work in its entirety. What’s out there so far are breadcrumbs in the form of scattered stories and social media snippets. I’ve been reluctant to write this story. This piece has been in drafts for months. But to the very core of my being, I know that it has to be told, because telling it is in the very essence of why I came to meditate. Here is the first complete telling of the series of events that broke me down to the point where I was given the choice of choicelessness: either change, or continue to suffer.
Like all stories that tell of a drastic transformation, mine had the typical elements that you would suspect: heartbreak, vices, art, and the realization that I was living an unprecedented new low. I never wanted it to happen that way. Most people usually never do. But there was no way that it couldn’t have played out in the way that it did considering who I was and how I went about my life at the time.
In retrospect, that theme played out throughout my whole life, but it reached a breaking point in a condensed, accelerated timeframe in the Fall/Winter of a few years past. I was in a very long distance relationship with someone in Tokyo. He was Jewish and born in Brooklyn. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that this Brooklyn girl met another Brooklyn boy all the way in Japan. It was almost a year of communicating at odd hours of the day. From travelling long distances for the seemingly not enough time we spent together to living completely different lives in different cultures on opposite sides of the world, the whole thing seemed destined to not work out from the onset. But, cupid’s arrow struck the moment we locked eyes in that Tokyo expat bar. He was intriguing and intoxicating in all the ways that I never expected, and the distance only fueled that tension, that yearning. I didn’t care though. At the time, I thought that there was no force on Earth that was greater than love and the will of a good-hearted person. Like the bright lights of Tokyo, I was dazzled and entranced by the potential and ignored the reality.
That tension, that self-deception eventually took a toll. I started waking up at odd hours of the night to immediately reach for my phone. It was like my subconscious knew that there was a message from him waiting for me. I would be sitting at work and, all of a sudden, have trouble breathing. It was like I literally forgot how to breathe. Sitting in that setting, I would try different mental exercises or breathing techniques in order to try to normalize my breath and racing mind. Sometimes it worked. Other times, the difficulty breathing and racing mind would go on through the night, and even linger when I laid in bed, trying to fall asleep. I didn’t know it at the time, but these were panic attacks I was regularly experiencing. I felt helpless in this spiral.
The dynamic was taking a toll on me, but I was too invested and needed the constant re-assurance through the communication. Even when the communication was steady, it was still not enough, because how could it be? He was on the other side of the world. I never ceased to feel helpless even when it was supposedly at its most solid. Things eventually ended, and it was tough. Really tough. I’ve gone through breakups, but this was unlike any that I’ve experienced. I literally felt my heart shatter the moment when I realized it was over. Despite the odds, it still took me by surprise – but I was the only one. None of my friends said it, but they weren’t surprised when it ended.
—–Six weeks later—–
I was at my company holiday party, and my work bestie at the time drank a few too many drinks and did some questionable things in plain view of, well, everybody. I didn’t see it, but heard about it immediately afterwards. As is typical for the day after the company holiday party, people rolled into work a few hours later than normal. And when they did, the gossip mill was at full speed. Everyone was talking about it. I felt embarrassed for her. I wondered if she even remembered what happened.
She came into the office, and I took a look at her and couldn’t tell. We started to chit chat, and it seemed like she wasn’t aware. I went back to my desk and agonized over whether or not I should tell her. Hours passed. I eventually figured that if I were in that situation, I would want my good friend to let me know. So I told her, and was met with avoidance, deflection, and a general non-responsiveness. I couldn’t understand her reaction. Wasn’t she grateful that I was looking out for her and being honest with her? That confusion quickly spiraled into hurt feelings. I couldn’t believe that she was acting this way. Didn’t she see that I cared enough to say these tough things to her? We could work on it and talk it out together.
I said these very things to her, or something like it, and was again met with avoidance and deflection. That’s when everything changed. I realized that she didn’t want the same things that I wanted in a friendship, and I was heartbroken. I thought, it was so hard for me to tell her the truth, but I did because I cared. Things were never the same. It was a sad realization, that my friend didn’t care in the same way that I did, and my efforts to look out for her were not recognized. It was like I presented my beating heart to her and she just brushed it aside while looking away.
—–Two weeks later—–
I’ve been feeling particularly emotional and fragile; for the past few months, I was at the mercy of the kindness of my friends and family. A friend suggested that we go away to a nearby city to celebrate New Year’s Eve. I thought it was a great idea, and so we went. For the first few days, we had a great time in the iconic winter wonderland of that city.
One night, we went out for dinner and drinks with one of her friends who also happened to be in town. What transpired was mostly alcohol-induced. I don’t remember all of the details, but what I do recall is that we were at a bar, and I said something to the other friend in a jocular manner. All of a sudden, he drank one last big gulp of his beer, and abruptly got up and left without saying a word. My friend who I travelled with did not witness the situation. I think she was talking to another person at the bar. When he left, everyone was surprised, including the people who we were talking to. I glanced at my friend with a puzzled look, but was met with a look of disgust and she about faced and left too. I chased after her, though the word “chase” is used figuratively since it was snowing, so it was really more so a trod. I had no choice but to go with her since I didn’t remember how to get back to the hotel. Alcohol or not, I was never that great with directions.
When we got back to the hotel, I asked her why she left so abruptly and why she didn’t ask what happened before storming off. The whole conversation was so charged from the onset, and continued to escalate. The words that were said and all of the details, I do not remember exactly, but what I do remember most prominently was how cruel she was being. I remember how I felt so unsupported and was genuinely confused about why she didn’t want to know what happened before reacting so abruptly. I just needed my friend to be a friend, to support me, to want to talk it out, and to want to work through what happened.
I felt alone, rejected, and confused as to what happened and what I did to potentially piss off these two people. It felt like a seemingly endless barrage of hurtful words that were being cast toward me. I remembered feeling increasingly more hurt as the argument went on. To this day, I can still describe my emotional state as being mortally wounded. I was sobbing uncontrollably and dry heaving. It was the deep, guttural type of crying that strikes you to the very core of your very being. She eventually realized how hurt I was and was more gentle in her approach, but at that point, I was so hurt. My heart was already broken. Again. I didn’t understand why she reacted that way when all I wanted to do was to talk it out.
I had another two nights in town, but all I wanted to do was to go home – to get away from everything and to be in a familiar, loving environment. The following day, I got up early, packed up my stuff, and went to the airport looking to get the next flight out. I was there for hours. Working with my airline, going to all of the codeshare partners’ counters, calling my brother back home. All flights were booked. I looked for buses and trains back to New York. All booked. It was the Sunday after New Year’s and the day before everyone went back to work. Of course everything, all modes of transportation, were fully booked. With hours passed and all avenues exhausted, I slowly and dejectedly made my way back to the hotel. I was still so hurt that I couldn’t bring myself to interact with her.
So, I went to a local café with my pens and notebook and started to write. I wrote down whatever came to mind. My heart kept on breaking over the past few months. At that moment all I wanted was to nurse it back to health through the familiarity of those back home. I thought of my friends and family, and why I loved them. Each and every single one of them. I don’t remember how much I wrote that day. Over the next few weeks, I daydreamed and wrote, and daydreamed and wrote.
I ended up writing 10 poems — one for each person. Valentine’s Day was coming up, and I actually didn’t feel bad for myself. I had all of this love to give, and wrote it all down. I wanted to surprise each of my friends with the poem that I wrote about them as a Valentine’s Day gift, so I made a creative project out of it. Over the weekend, I went to Kinokuniya, a Japanese bookstore across the street from Bryant Park, and bought parchment-like paper and a felt-tip marker to write the poems in my own handwriting so that they looked like hand-written love notes.
For 10 days straight after work, I went to a different NYC location and took a photo of each of the poems against that iconic New York backdrop. I went to TJ Maxx and bought 10 picture frames, meticulously measured each poem to fit the frame, and then bundled of them in wrapping paper and arranged dinner dates with each of my friend to surprise them with the gift. Their reactions were so heartfelt. In those moments, it was a replay of everything that I felt when I wrote that poem about them. Then that same night, I posted to social media the photo of that poem that I just gifted. This series of postings I titled, “Series of Love.” All of this occurred in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day.
It was during this whole writing / creative process that meditation came into my awareness. When I got back to New York, I told one of my coworkers about the New Year’s Eve situation, and about how heartbroken I’ve been over the past few months. She suggested that it may be a good idea for me to look into meditation. I knew that she meditated since she would talk about it and disappear for about 30 minutes every day during the late afternoon to go and meditate. It turned out that her teacher’s studio was right around the corner from the office, and she was holding a free info session that following week. I figured, why not. I was desperate to find a solution to my misery and had nothing to lose. And so I went, and was absolutely dazzled. She was the most radiant woman that I ever encountered, with this inner and outer beauty that I never before witnessed. What she said, I was absolutely dazzled by. I thought, “if meditation can give me even a tenth of the benefits that she spoke about, then I’d be happy.” My mind was made up then and there. I was going to learn to meditate with her. This was the answer to my suffering.
I was eagerly anticipating the course, feeling both excited and nervous; so ready for a transformation, but with no idea what to expect. My very first meditation was nothing short of profound. I knew that I had found something revolutionary yet familiar at the same time. From that first meditation on, I was hooked and deeply devoted to my practice. I knew that this thing was going to change my life. Yet at the time, I had no idea to what extent.
The next few years were the most transformative times of my life. I look back to that timeframe of when I consistently experienced heartbreak, and I realize that it was a critical inflection point. It was from that point that the transformation process began. It had to happen. I couldn’t bear to experience lower lows than what I’ve already gone through. It was more than what I thought I could’ve handled, but I didn’t run away from it. Well, I tried to in that winter wonderland of a city, but that didn’t work out. In retrospect, I am grateful that it didn’t because I don’t know if I would’ve brought myself to sit down and write. When I did though, I allowed myself to fully feel the pain. The different shades of it, the different layers, and the different waves. In this process, and with writing as the key, I unwittingly unleashed the process of transformation, of alchemizing those dark emotions to that of love. I do not find it to be coincidence that it was during this time that I learned to meditate, which further extended the duration and reach of that transformation process.
This was the first major lesson of many that I learned along my journey of meditation. I experienced it, but my Vedic / meditation teacher training was what gave it structure and meaning in the grander scheme of life. The law of transformation (in chemistry, is known as the law of conservation of energy and mass) says that nothing in the Universe can be created or destroyed. What exists has always been there and can only be transformed from one form to another. Just as water doesn’t come out of thin air, but rather changes form (from gaseous to liquid to solid) depending on environmental factors, those feelings of heartbreak didn’t just come out of nowhere. Those experiences were the result of a lifetime accumulation of thought patterns, expectations, and overarching constructs that I (mostly) unconsciously built and carried with me to every situation and relationship.
Those dark emotions, aka energy in motion, would not have gone away. If it didn’t get alchemized to love, it would’ve manifested in another form. Strong emotions are screaming for us to notice it so that we can address it, move it, and alchemize it. Otherwise, it will stagnate and lodge itself to us like a parasite. It is no wonder that many people are still affected by trauma that occurred years, even decades ago. We’ve all known it. We’ve all experienced it. That trauma has stationed itself in our very being, whether on a mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual level, becoming a part of our identities and creating self-injury every time it is conjured up. Whether or not the cause of that trauma was our fault, it is 100% up to us to confront it and alchemize it. It is the only way.
This is the inherent process of creation. One form changes to another, towards the direction of evolution. When we do this, our actions are in alignment with nature since this is the very modus operandi of nature. Otherwise, when we hold onto old patterns where its relevance to our lives has long expired, that energy pattern becomes parasitic and permeates into different aspects of our lives, however subtly or not. We all know or may have experienced moments when we were triggered and lashed out over something that seemingly didn’t seem like a big deal. It really wasn’t a big deal in that moment of lashing out, but, it was a big deal years ago, thereby bringing all of the traumas of the past into the present. It’s like we are carrying an invisible bag of all of our sorrows with us at all times.
Those moments of heartbreak were some of the worst moments of my life, yet they were also the best. Many stories of great transformation occur only when we have met the painful limits of our daily lives. The depth of that pain is necessary to create the momentum for a certain magnitude of transformation. Humans have an incredible threshold for pain, and an even more incredible gift for normalizing it in their lives. How bad is bad enough, and is an inflection point on the horizon? Just one moment, one decision can establish that point and set a whole new cycle in motion. Can it get any worse and is it worth it to find out? For me, that answer was ‘no,’ and from that ‘no’ came about a whole new life that I didn’t even know was possible to live and to love.