In Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive, she tells about a turning point in her life. By many measures, she was extremely successful – fame, money, and extraordinary achievement. Then one day, she woke up in a pool of her blood after taking a fall precipitated by overwhelm and exhaustion. In that dazed moment, she wondered, is this success? The answer changed her life.
I too had such a moment, a wake-up call; mine was at the age of 26. One dark evening, I totaled my sports car driving recklessly, way too fast, to a party. My precious car spun off the road and rolled into a field. I’d been driving like a lunatic for months. Racing around curves on winding country roads, and for what? An adrenaline high?
Two weeks later, I was sitting in my bedroom meditating after a long work day. In the middle of meditation, my life flashed before my eyes. I saw the foolishness of my behavior on the evening of my accident. It was a revelation. I wanted to live, not throw my life away challenging myself to go faster. How did this fuzzy thinking happen?
The search for happiness and meaning:an inside job
As a teenager and young adult, I was led to believe that a college degree brought happiness. It was a ticket to success. I had gotten the degree three years earlier and had what many thought was a good job. Yet, I certainly didn’t feel successful or happy. Was something wrong?
In those days, it was customary for me to come home from work tired and tense. Then make some dinner and quietly ask myself, is this all there is? I was frustrated, bored, and weary. Life was difficult. However, there was a glimmer of light on the horizon.
A few months earlier, I took a meditation course and began a daily practice. I now looked forward to coming home from work to meditate. Each 15 – 20 minutes of sitting quietly in meditation brought relief from the tension of the day and recharged my batteries for the activity ahead. After meditation, I was at peace and happier. There were lots of changes.
At some point in our development, like Arianna Huffington, many of us question life’s teachings and values. For example, during this period of introspection, my earliest mentor, my dear father tried to set me straight. He said, “you’ve got to get it out of your head that you’ll find work that you enjoy doing. People do not enjoy working.” Sadly, I had to tell him that I didn’t believe that. Some big changes were afoot.
Approximately six months after my car accident, someone at the local meditation center asked me a provocative question. Had I ever considered becoming a meditation teacher? What? I was stunned that someone would suggest that I could teach others something as important as meditation. I knew how to be an engineer, but a teacher? Could I do that?
After months of ruminating on this idea, I acted on those words and gave my life a new direction. Leaving a secure job, enrolling in a long training program, and becoming a teacher of meditation took courage. Stepping out of a comfort zone usually isn’t easy, however it’s a part of the growth process.
Perhaps this has challenged you to take a look inside yourself. If so, here’s steps for progress that’s worked for me and others: Pay attention to what is really important to you. Quiet your mind with meditation, or whatever works. Listen to your heart for those things you value. Be with what’s coming to your awareness, there’s no rush. However if you want positive change, you need to act. Get moving.
It’s OK to start small, one step at a time. Perhaps it’s as simple as sit down today and meditate, or play with your kids. Lean toward progress, and enjoy the journey.