Since opening the MOMENT Meditation Studio, I’ve had a quite a few people ask me how I’ve personally found meditation life-changing (or not).
Until now, there hasn’t really been a way to put it to words. Yes, I feel more clarity—and, yes, it helps me manage my emotions and thoughts—but the enormity of its impact isn’t properly conveyed with perfectly neat sound bites. What feels appropriate is a story.
A few weekends ago, I went to a friend’s birthday gathering with my significant other of just over a year. It had been a long day, and I was already exhausted when we were driving to the party, but I didn’t want to cancel last minute.
Once in, we chatted with the birthday girl. My partner was doing what he does best—telling a hilarious story. The birthday girl was laughing. I noticed at one point in the story he touched her hand lightly. At another point, she touched his arm lightly. I began to observe every moment, every interaction, with extra intensity, analyzing quietly.
I noticed familiar sensations bubble up inside. Jealousy and possessiveness—my good friends—we meet again. After the conversation, I quelled what I was feeling and let it pass, telling myself I was being crazy.
We proceeded to have a wonderful evening of chatting and meeting new faces. When it came time to leave, everyone hugged, and I couldn’t help but ask myself if their hug had been extra long. As we lingered to chat, I noticed that they touched each other’s arms again. By this point, whatever uncomfortable emotion was within me was at a full boil.
I was exhausted, I noticed my ears hot with rage and anger, and my heart felt stony. All I could think about was how before my partner and I dated, when we were just friends, he mentioned that the first thing men do when they like a woman is to break the touch barrier—touch her as discretely and as often as they can while talking. An arm, a hand, a thigh, are all examples, he had explained almost two years prior.
We left, and I noticed how unimpressed I was with the evening. I noticed I felt like I had an iron-cast armor up and how I felt hurt and afraid to lose him. I noticed these feelings and noticed how the more I tried to rationalize, the more I tried to tell myself I was being silly, the more hurt I felt.
On the ride home, I made a comment about how I hated being the girlfriend. Quoting Napoleon, I said, “It’s more difficult to protect the land you have from potential invasion than to conquer new land.” What I was trying to allude to (discretely slash not so discretely) was that being the girlfriend felt like I always had to have my defenses up, whereas being single felt like the world was my oyster. In hindsight, I don’t think anything that I said made sense.
As we got ready for bed, I considered asking him what was going on with him and our friend. I decided against it. I wanted to wait until the tumultuous feelings settled. We went to bed intertwined and the next day I woke up with a clear mind. I confessed what I felt the night before, how I knew deep down that I trusted him, but the doubtful thoughts, the hurt feelings, still came up. He gave me a big squeeze of a hug and reassured me that he loved me.
There is, very viscerally, a version of myself that is “pre-meditation.”
She is struggling to swim—flailing, almost drowning—in a turbulent sea of emotions, self-doubt and negativity.
Then there is Anita, myself, now—post-meditation. Or I guess I should say meditating Anita: Still riding the tumultuous sea but equipped with a sturdy ship and able to set course for safer lands or anchor down in rocky weather.
In the past, I would have handled the situation completely differently. We would have left the party and I would have exploded accusingly at my partner at the time, “What the f*ck was with all the touching?!” We would have fought viciously.
Today, I notice.
I recognize that not all itches need to be scratched. That feelings will come up, and while they aren’t wrong to feel, it doesn’t mean that they’re right or true either.
I used to believe everything I thought and years of practicing meditation in both good times and bad times has taught me to hit pause for just enough time to sieve through the thoughts and emotions to pick out the truth. Through things that have happened in the past, we are conditioned to think a certain way, to hurt a certain way, to have our buttons pushed a certain way.
Meditation allows me the freedom to step outside of my conditioning and forge a new path.
Author: Anita Cheung
Image: Giuseppe Chirico/Flickr , elephant archives
Volunteer Editor: Pavita Singh/Editor: Travis May