Sometimes the answer is just waiting for you. All you have to do is let go.
I was a troubled child growing up…very troubled.
By age thirteen, I was out of control and angry at the world. I was thrown out of schools, I had gotten involved in racist, skinhead gangs, and I was using drugs pretty heavily.
My father, who I lived with at the time, didn’t know what to do with me. So he sent me to a psychiatric ward on the advice of a psychiatrist.
In the psych ward, I learned to suppress my emotions. And spent my teenage years and the better part of my twenties emotionally numb. When I say emotionally numb, what I really mean is that I had large amounts of repressed anger, sadness, and feelings of betrayal. For the most part, I felt a lot of emptiness.
It wasn’t until I was 26 when these emotions started really boiling up and coming out in ways that I could no longer ignore. I began to feel a calling to transform. I knew there had to be more to life than chasing after cars, clothes, and women.
What really makes life worth living? Where do I even start?
I decided to research anything that seemed mystical and magical.
I joined a psychic training group. I went to a bunch of different churches. I read all kinds of books, and went through inspirational training programs.
I tried anything that I thought might help me learn what life was really about. I learned a lot about myself and found that there are lots of unexplainable things going on in the world.
However, none of it gave me the answer I was looking for.
There seemed to be clues everywhere. But I knew there was something missing.
Eventually, the clues led me to Zen. I was wary about going to a Zen temple. I didn’t want another religion or philosophy confusing me anymore than I already was.But Zen was different than anything else I had ever experienced.
It wasn’t about philosophy. It wasn’t about theory. It wasn’t about religion. In fact, it wasn’t about anything. Nobody seemed to care who I was or where I came from. They didn’t even ask if I was Buddhist. In fact, they didn’t ask me anything at all.
I just sat there, on a cushion, meditating, for hours.
I met this monk there named Sokai. He said to me, “Don’t believe anything people tell you. Find the truth for yourself.”
Wow, what a contrast to what I had heard everywhere else!
So I sat. For days, I sat. I came in month after month to do full day meditation sittings.
The challenge of just sitting for hours kept me coming back.
Then came the beginning of my first three day retreat, which seemed intimidating. A day was a long time. Three days … well, that’s three times as long!
They brought in this incredibly short, 103 year old, Zen master. They called him the “Roshi.” He had a shaved head, a little cane, and spoke very broken English. If he would have been green, he could have easily passed for Yoda.
We were to see him four times a day. I went in to his room, bowed, and then sat in front of him.
He looked at me, put out his hand and said, “Gooooood mooooorrning. Where have you been up to the morning?”
I stared blankly at him. Maybe he didn’t realize it was the afternoon? Was I supposed to say something back? Is that all he wanted to know?
“I was sleeping this morning,” was muttered from my lips.
He smiled, chuckled and said, “Maybe you are still asleep.” Then he told me I wasn’t ready and needed to do some more meditation.
I walked out of the room completely confused.
Did I answer his question right? Did he want me to not come back because what I said was too stupid? Did I understand what he asked me? I wanted to run out of the retreat but I knew I needed to stay. I went back into the sitting room and sat.
But I couldn’t get what just happened out of my head. Did I hear his question right? Does he think I’m an idiot now? What just happened? My thoughts began racing. Should I go to see him again or not? Do I look like an idiot? Am I doing it right? Is this all just a joke?
I skipped the next two meetings with him. I was afraid that if I stood up I would run out of the retreat. How do I know when I’m ready? How does he know when I’m ready?
I began to rationalize why I needed to leave. I came up with every excuse imaginable to get out of there. My mind began telling me that I would die if I sat there any longer.
And then finally it happened. Like a Chinese finger trap, the only way out is through.
I let go.
It was like a dam broke. I felt like I had broken free from a chain that had been holding me to poisonous thoughts my entire life. I instantly felt bliss. I felt peace. I felt connected.
I chose to go back and see the Zen master. This time, with an open mind.
I sat in front of him. He held out his hand. I put my hand in his.
At the same time, we both said…
We sat, chuckled and looked at each other for a moment. It felt like there was some kind of energy surrounding us, connecting us.
He finally smiled and said, “I feel your heart is open to me. And my heart is open to you.”
It took about a week before I had a full breakthrough — a breakthrough that would change my entire life. For the first time since I was kid, I realized that I was an emotional being. I cried for days.
All the anger. All the sadness. All of my repressed feelings came pouring out.
Transformation isn’t about changing who you are. It’s about pulling a part of you out that is free, confident, and at peace with yourself. It’s like peeling back an onion to get closer to the center — closer to the part of you that is authentic and real.
Transformation is what gets you over the fear of failure, the fear of rejection, and your feelings of self-doubt. It’s what makes you feel connected to yourself, connected to others, and connected to the earth.
This authentic part of you isn’t afraid, it doesn’t believe that you aren’t good enough. It doesn’t settle for small dreams. It doesn’t bind itself to insecurities.
I had done some great things in my life. And I knew I was capable of so much more. But somehow, I got caught up in pretending like I was someone I wasn’t. A part of myself that I had hidden inside suddenly came out. Within the next couple of months, I wrote a book. I started a business. I got involved in the community. Things that used to bother and worry me, seemed so trivial, all of a sudden.
I was on fire. For the first time in years, I had the courage to do what was necessary to leave my mark on this planet and follow my own path in life. I felt alive. Everyone could see a dramatic change in the way I experienced the world. It was like I was floating on air. Things that used to stress me out became funny. Life had a renewed sense of meaning and purpose. I felt like I was a part of something bigger.
I had experienced transformation. It didn’t change me, I just began operating from a different place.
Just like me, there are different aspects inside of you. At times, you’re insecure. But at other times, you’re confident and bold. Transformation is about taking that part of you who is genuine, courageous, and powerful and allowing that part to take back control of your life.
This is transformation, and I am eager to experience more of it.
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