After a 30 year love affair with alcohol, I made the decision to live a sober life. Ironically, it was very easy for me to stop drinking. However, after a couple of years of sober living, I realized that I never addressed why I drank the way I did and decided it was time to start addressing this. I tried therapy on and off over those 30 years, and nothing clicked to make me want to stay sober. So I decided to start searching for the reason(s) why I had spent so much time hurting myself. I made up my mind to begin a journey and part of this journey included revisiting Yoga and Meditation.
I was familiar with Meditation via my Yoga practice and was introduced to Yoga and Meditation over 40 years ago. I have practiced a Yogic style of Meditation on and off since then.
The first step was for me to look into Meditation. Besides what I learned in my Yoga classes, I never took a “formal Meditation class” before. I signed up for a free Meditation class offered by the Sri Chimnoy Institute in Manhattan. It was a good class, but I didn’t feel that this organization was right for me.
I wanted to find other places offering Meditation classes and took a chance by calling an organization I had visited several months before that. I called the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art in Staten Island. As it turns out, they offered a Saturday morning Meditation class.
I visited the museum that Saturday and took my first Meditation class. I must admit that I was not convinced by this class that this was necessarily the best place to study Meditation, but I was interested enough in the class to return the following Saturday for a follow up.
In the first class, I was surrounded by a small group of people who had clearly attended these classes before and knew what to do. When the teacher entered the room, people stood up (a sign of respect as I later learned), the teacher sat on a Meditation cushion, the people in the class sat, they went silent, and the teacher began to give his guidance. I had no idea what to do and I had no idea what to experience.
In the second class, after the initial Meditation, we were invited to ask questions and I took advantage of this. I was able to gain a very basic understanding of what I was supposed to do and what I was supposed to experience.
This style of Meditation differed significantly from the Yogic style of Meditation I had learned many years earlier. In that style, most of the time, we performed the Yoga postures and then we laid on the floor, the teacher gave us some verbal guidance, and we went into the Meditative state (or what I had learned to that point was the Meditative state).
The Meditation that was (and still is) taught at the museum was a guided Meditation led by Venerable Thupten Phuntsok, an ordained Tibetan Buddhist Monk. The Meditation is routed in Tibetan Buddhism and Vipassana Meditation. The simplest way to describe the process is to say that you focus on a “motivation (i.e. the reason why you wish to meditate)”, you relax your body with the guided assistance of the teacher, you bring your mind to your breath and use the breath to quiet the mind and enter into the meditative state. Once in the meditative state, we work on the “motivation”.
Armed with this new knowledge of how to meditate using this new method, I started to read some books by Pema Chodron, Chogyam Trungpa and others. Each Saturday, I showed up for class and asked more questions. Shortly thereafter, I started to practice meditating at home. Then something miraculous happened.
What I had not realized up until that point in my life was that I was very angry at my parents and siblings and I was self-medicating myself because of the emotional pain that had been accumulating over the years. I am the product of two parents who had many unresolved issues. Instead of resolving these issues, their emotional and psychological pain was manifested as anger, emotional, psychological and physical abuse directed at each other and their children. I carried the scars from my upbringing for all of my life without understanding how much this was affecting me.
In one of Pema Chodron’s books, I read a chapter about “forgiveness”. Pema outlined a very simple practice for giving forgiveness to others, asking for forgiveness, and forgiving ourselves. I used this practice in my Meditation and this became my “motivation”.
At The Compassion Center, we emphasize bringing our focus to our “motivation”. The motivation is different for each person and for many, they don’t have a clear idea of what their motivation is. That is to say that the majority of people coming to our Meditation classes are there to reduce and remove anxiety and stress and “stop that constant chatter in their heads”. They have no idea why they have so much stress, anxiety and chatter, and they have no tools (healthy tools that is) that they can use to deal with these. As people start a Meditation practice, the chatter starts to reduce and their motivation starts to unfold.
The style of meditation that I learned from Venerable Thupten Phuntsok has radically changed my life forever and in fact saved my life. What was once a very unhappy person who directed all of his pain inwards has become a very happy, well-adjusted person. It is because of this Meditation practice that I radically changed careers, devoted myself to The Compassion Center, and devoted myself to helping others. I live to help others through the practice of Meditation and teach Meditation to groups, individuals, and in organizations. As Meditation has changed my life, so it can change your life. If you feel unhappy, troubled, anxious, depressed, angry, ill…if you’re going through a difficult period, possibly going through a divorce, going through substance recovery, have lost a job…if someone near and dear to you has just passed away and you’re feeling intense grief…please…feel free to reach out to me and allow me to show you how Meditation can help you. Simply e-mail me or call me at (347) 770-7096.