Ten years ago I embarked on what would become the first leg of my personal ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ quest to find myself. Once I was on the path, I tried anything and everything that showed itself to me. Some things, like yoga, made me feel better temporarily, while others, like meditation, didn’t seem to do much for me at all.
I learned how to sit and stare at a candle. How to sit and stare at a wall. How to sit and stare at water. I got really good at sitting and staring–for about five, painfully long minutes, and then I had had enough.
That inner peace, the calming of the chatter in my mind, a sense of happiness and fulfillment still eluded me. The lack consumed me. It was the one thing I wanted more than anything and I knew if I could crack it everything else would fall into place.
One day while I was still living in Bali, I had the serendipitous good fortune to meet a lovely family from LA. As I got to telling them my life story–the calling card of the soul seeker–they told me that the answer I was looking for was in the practice they had been doing for years.
Vedic Meditation was going to be my spiritual salvation!
From the moment I received my mantra a year later I knew everything was going to be different. I no longer had to sit and stare at anything to find peace. I could just sit back, close my eyes, effortlessly think of my mantra, and after 20 minutes go about my day!
I could write a book about all the ways my life began to change after that point, but in a nutshell I like to tell people that it changed the way I interacted with the world and the way the world interacted with me. I attributed this change solely to my VM practice. I became dogmatic about it. I moved to LA (again) so I could surround myself with a community of people who had the kind of lives I wanted. I spent countless hours and a lot of money diving into the teachings, the advanced courses and the group meditations. It became my life. It was all I talked about and all anyone I met wanted to talk to me about. I would go on dates that ended up being meditation talks!
I was easily convinced that it was the only way. I insisted as much to everyone who asked, and pushed it onto those who didn’t. Let’s just say I wasn’t a big hit at parties in those days, that is, unless they were meditation parties.
I began to meet people who had tried it and then let go of their practices, who talked down about my teachers, who poo-pooed the technique and the lofty price of admission.
I often went to seek counsel from Jeff Kober, a man I refer to as The Dude of Meditation. He has been through the trenches and back, and walks the walk in an authentic way I felt I could trust, and still do. Plus, he made great chai and he’s a tv star on the side–bonus!
I would often ask him why, with all this awareness I had garnered, was I still feeling unsatisfied and unhappy? Instead of finding answers in my practice all I was getting were more questions.
He said to me, “Michelle, if I gave you the choice of going from A to Z in one step or running through the entire alphabet, taking time to explore where each letter would take you and what you could learn from it, which would you chose?” I smiled. I knew, that he knew, what my answer would be. “I know I should say the whole alphabet, but obviously I would chose A to Z,” I responded.
Alas, I became a teacher. I told all my potential students this technique was the only way. For many it was, for some it wasn’t. And increasingly I was realizing it wasn’t for myself either.
I knew I had to get back on the path, start listening again, searching, trying new things. It was a very humbling experience to find myself at the beginning of yet another long, open road with so many options and so little direction. But this time I had amassed awareness and expansion of consciousness. It was easier to discern what I wanted and what wanted a piece of me. In Vedic speak we call this “following charm,” a term I still use because it is, well, charming. It led me to become a teacher in Kundalini as well. Now when I do get asked to teach VM I always incorporate my other teachings into the courses I give to my students as a bonus.
Over the years I have learned that there are indeed other ways. It was a hard pill to swallow at first, but I am the better for it now and so are the people that I help. I can integrate the teachings from all the paths I walk along; past, present and future. I feel fortunate to see now that the universe has provided us so many paths and ways to get to where we want to go.
Jeff, my dubbed Dude of Meditation says, “If you want to get from LA to SF there are many ways to travel. Some are easier and faster, but you miss the journey. Some are long and arduous and may not be entirely relevant to where you are in life, but there is always some takeaway. In the end, it’s about getting on YOUR path and moving towards YOUR destination.” So keep your eyes open.
Artwork by Michelle Favin of Whys LA for Poppy & Seed. Connect with her @whyslosangeles.