I worked for many years in the worlds of finance and business amid the wild corporate swirl of New York City. I had even worked for a time on one of the higher floors of Tower Two, at what is now referred to as Ground Zero. But one day I realized—as my life was spinning out of physical and emotional balance—I had stopped meditating. I had replaced my 5 a.m. meditation ritual with an early morning train ride into the bowels of the World Trade Center, and I had replaced my evening meditation with a double scotch. And like that . . . poof . . . my practice had disappeared.
Also gone were the balance and deep fulfillment I had felt during my meditation days. I was living to work, to fill an empty part of me that I had forgotten. It had been a decade since I had slept through the night. Instead, I often awoke at 2 a.m. with a painful knot in my stomach that stayed there through the day and into the evening. I brought it to bed with me every night. I ate my lunch at my desk while texting on my “crackberry,” chatting on my cell phone, typing e-mails, and wolfing down a sandwich . . . all in five minutes. And I realized I had been doing that for almost fifteen years.
Non-stop, overwhelming thoughts relentlessly raced through my head as I attempted to juggle so many different pieces of my life and finding unfulfillment at every turn. I craved peace of my mind. I craved a job with a purpose. I craved the depth of feeling I had known so well in my youth. I was light years from that moment.
I was sleepwalking through my life.
My personal and work relationships were stressed and strained. I was waking up, burning through the day, performing my “job,” coming home, eating dinner, reading a book or watching TV, and passing out. My personal and home lives had been taken over by my career. And my career had been taken over by a zombielike autopilot of an existence. I felt empty, adrift from any guiding principle, deeply in pain, purposeless, and unenlightened about what my life had become and where it was headed. I started to question my accomplishments and the value I contributed to those in my life.
And so one day in SoHo, as I walked past a row of cardboard boxes in which homeless people were living, a grizzled hand reached out and grabbed my pant leg, and a curious, soot-covered face peered up at me and asked, “What’s gonna be on your tombstone?” I stopped in my tracks (as my aimless gaze narrowed to a pinpoint, zeroing in on the man’s crystalline blue eyes) and reflected on my life as his tender hand slowly slid down my ankle and dropped to my shoe. Face to face, soul to soul—connected in a transcendent, cosmic moment, it took my breath away. I was staring into the face of God. Oh my God! Tears came to my eyes. We locked gazes for what seemed like eternity, and I mouthed the words to him, “I don’t know.” My mind was a tsunami of thoughts, memories, and desires. My gaze then passed through him. . .through everything until there was nothing. I wandered aimlessly for hours after that, his pointed words reverberating through every cell in my body.
What was going to be on my tombstone? What was my purpose? I felt like a prisoner living eternally on death row, stuck in a painful purgatory with no reason for being.
My mind was overflowing with smoke-filled images of the collapse of Tower Two, just blocks south of the downtown office building, where my staff and I had stood on the roof and watched in horror on that fateful day. So many we knew and loved and so many more we’d never get to know. For me, the psychological fallout from 9/11 drifted somewhere between emptiness, a profound sense of emotional grief, and a primal wake-up call—the deep need to live a purpose-driven life. But I was light years from knowing what that purpose was or having it actualized in my current trajectory.
That night, as I shared my day’s story with my wife over dinner, she encouraged me to follow my heart. A work colleague advised me, “Jump and the net will appear.” One of my yoga teachers suggested, “Quit your job today. The universe will provide.”
I followed my heart and jumped. One week later, I learned my meditation mantra; one month later, my job evaporated into the ether; and two months later, I began the journey of learning about the concept of dharma—my purpose in life. I learned that the word guru is a Sanskrit term for “remover of darkness,” essentially one who teaches enlightenment.
They can help you to open and awaken to what already rests within, essentially giving you permission to access aspects of yourself you had previously not given yourself permission to awaken.
Maybe you didn’t know they were there. Maybe you did but were unsure how to access them. But once you do awaken to the stillness and silence that rest beneath the layers of activity in your daily life, you will know it’s there and forever available to you. Like a choppy, turbulent, stormy sea that surrenders to the calming, tranquility of a still, serene pond, in meditation, the active mind progressively slows to more subtle levels of quietude. Each day, when your meditation is over, you will be able to “listen” to life with greater appreciation and understanding and to live your life with greater grace and ease.
davidji is a certified Vedic Master and a teacher of stress management, emotional healing, and conscious choice-making. He is the author of the best-selling Secrets of Meditation: A Practical Guide to Inner Peace & Personal Transformation and the creator of the award-winning guided meditation CD Fill What is Empty; Empty What is Full. Visit davidji.com for free tools, tips, and techniques to take your practice to the next level and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Jenny Downing.