This didn’t change much as I got older.
My family moved from New York City to Harrison, New York in Westchester County when I started seventh grade. I remember that year I didn’t attend a single birthday party I was invited to for any of my new friends.
In high school and college, the prospect of taking a test or playing in important game would bring about intense anxiety…and it would start days before the actual exam or athletic contest.
My school attendance was problematic as I often stayed home sick on test days and game days. And I was sick, in the bathroom, when I should have been getting out the door to school.
I would compensate for my anxiety by working really hard both academically and athletically. And although my performance didn’t reflect my level of preparation, I was able to do OK when I actually showed up.
Yet, whatever successes I achieved did little curb my anxiety.
Socially, I learned to compensate too.
In high school, like many kids, I discovered alcohol and marijuana. This came by way of the weekend house party scene. I soon found that this was way to gain the acceptance of my peers, but smoking pot and getting drunk also made me feel better. When I caught a buzz, I would worry less. But more often than not, I lost control, getting too drunk or too high. And the repercussions of my overindulgence made my anxiety spike for days.
As you can imagine, I wasn’t a very confident person. The picture I had of myself was not a good one. I often felt undeserving of success or happiness.
The fear of rejection kept me from dating. My first real relationship didn’t come about until after I graduated from college.
I wanted to change.
I spent years in therapy and on medication. It helped. I remained functional enough to get through school and show up to work. I also gained a deep understanding of why I felt the way I did. But I wasn’t who I wanted to be…
You see, everyday we are being programed by experience. Our past leaves its legacy. Despite our intellect telling us that there might be a better way of thinking and acting, our default mode of operating is based on all of our yesterdays.
Everything changed when I discovered meditation.
Everyday I sat down to meditate, my mind settled down effortlessly and my body entered into a deep state of rest and relaxation automatically and spontaneously. This daily experience literally reprogrammed my mind and body. My life changed immediately.
Let me give you one very telling personal example.
It’s a common that when surveyed, most people rank public speaking as their biggest fear, outranking death. You could have put me in that group.
In the year prior to learning to meditate, my anxiety became so bad that I would need to take beta blockers before meetings at work or even before going out to dinner with friends. I couldn’t communicate without them.
Since learning to meditate, I’ve become an accidental professional public speaker, regularly getting up in front of large audiences to discuss meditation and its benefits. I’ve even appeared on live television. I say “accidental” because when I learned to meditate, I had no intentions of becoming a public speaker let alone a meditation teacher.