How Meditation Helped Me Return to Myself
By: Jennifer Prokhorov
Fourteen was a torturous age.
I had just entered high school, and had been “let go” by my best friend circle. My biggest fear was not finding someone to sit with at lunch, and on the days it came true, I would bury myself in a corner of the library so nobody would see me alone. During passing periods I would swim through the crowds of students, wondering which of them would become my new best friend; who would take me into their group. I remember writing pages and pages in my journal each night, mulling everything over in my mind, and processing it on paper.
It was during those early years of deep self-reflection that an e.e. cummings quote I found spoke to me so much, it became my mantra:
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
Those four years in high school, which began, socially, from square one, and ended with being voted Best Personality senior year, involved an excruciating process of not only figuring out who I was and how I fit in, but also of turning outward. I remember my mom telling me on more than one occasion “the world doesn’t revolve around you, Jen” --undoubtedly in some of my finer teenage moments of expecting everyone and everything to cater to my wants and needs. In some ways, she was right. I needed to learn to care about others, to befriend others, to make others feel important, instead of waiting around for others to do this for me. Such an integral part of finding our place in the world during adolescence and blossoming into mature, successful adults is learning that the world doesn’t revolve around us, as we’re born believing, after all. But instead, we are all full of gifts to give. And a fulfilled life is to learn to give those gifts away--to make a significant contribution to the world.
Turning outward is an essential part of human development. Empathy, compassion, and benevolence are the bonds that create interpersonal relationships, families, friendships, communities, and a functioning world. But in all our outward focus, is it possible that we, at times, lose touch with ourselves? We make sure to teach our young ones to share, to sympathize, to be kind. . . but are we teaching them to get to know themselves?
I certainly spent a lot of time in introspection during my youth. I probably was not your average teenager, but I’ve got volumes of journals of beautifully hand-scripted pages documenting my journey of self-discovery. I devoured personality tests, inspirational quotes, even palm reading and handwriting analysis. But as I gained a secure enough grasp of myself to be a confident, achieving, self-actualizing twenty-something, much of that interest fell by the wayside, as the responsibilities of life only increased, and have never really leveled out. Work, then marriage, then children, and then all three at once had thoroughly squeezed out those quiet moments of self-reflection, as the demands of life had taken over and convinced me there’s no time for that.
Then, mindfulness and meditation fell into my life.
From the very beginning, I could see that this was going to be something powerful. Because, virtually, at no other time of the day was I taking a moment to pause. Modern life doesn’t really allow for that. Pausing, for most of us, looks a little more like catching up on some texts while sitting in the bathroom (because, multi-tasking!). Meditation taught me to stop. To go back into myself. To check in. To pay closer attention. To see where I was at. To find out what I needed. To keep myself and my own well-being a critical part of the puzzle of life.
A mindfulness practice can serve us in many ways. But first and foremost, it helps us return to our center. To our spirit. It helps us to think less, and feel more. It teaches us to judge less, and love more (most importantly, ourselves!). When we go within, we learn to trust ourselves and our intuition. We connect with our spirit. We connect with our higher purpose, and our entire life perspective can shift.
It’s unfortunate that many of us are having to learn this practice as an adult--I hope our children can be taught some of these skills earlier than we were. But it’s never too late to return to yourself.
Find a spiritual practice that takes you within yourself. Let the world revolve around you for a few minutes a day. Become a spiritually-empowered person wholly connected with who you are and where you want your trajectory to go. Don’t let the world or the demands of your day eclipse the spirit inside of you. Get in touch with it.
Let it lead you.