I began practicing yoga and meditation in 1970 when I was seventeen years old.
I practiced in my small bedroom at one end our family’s long New York City apartment. My room was next to the kitchen. My parents, brother, and sister had bedrooms on the other side of the apartment.
I’d get up early and move through a sequence of yoga asanas before sitting down to meditate.
I’d sit in meditation until I heard the kitchen noises as my mother and siblings began their breakfast routine.
That was the signal that it was time for me to move from my “cave” into my “world.” After bringing my palms together, I’d start my daily experiment.
My bedroom was separated from the kitchen by an eight-foot long hallway. And I’d observed, over the weeks of practicing, that the inner experience of peace and balance that had been cultivated in meditation would rapidly degrade as I made my way along that short hall.
Even though I wanted to maintain the yogic feeling, as I took each step my inner peace fragmented.
As I moved down the hall, my body would tighten. Shoulders and belly tensing instinctively as I approached the family breakfast table. Step-by-step, yogic equanimity was replaced with the persona of a moody, too-cool-for-school teenager.
Those states of balance and equanimity were no match for my reactive conditioning.
I didn’t have the capacity to sustain compassion and detachment while engaged in my family relationships. But I could develop it through daily deepening spiritual practice. And so can you.
Meditation practice does change your life. Through daily practice you literally rewire your brain and develop new relationship with your life.
Studies conducted by Harvard-affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) using magnet-imaging have shown that in as little as eight-weeks of practice new mediators can dramatically strengthen the brain structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.
It’s remarkable how a simple meditative practice can transform something as basic as brain structures.
But these brain structures won’t strengthen themselves. You need to do something to develop these new neural networks.
What you do and how you do it matters. Because you can’t force or bully your brain into transformation. Bullying isn’t a spiritual practice. It’s self-punishment.
The reactive patterns won’t transform under threat of punishment. Being hard on yourself, demanding change—all forms of self-punishment only strengthen the reactive patterns.
One part of your being—the part you may think of as “you”—demands change. The other part—which you may think of as “my anger” or “my confusion” or “my eating,” the list goes on—resists change.
The pattern that you’re trying to change won’t respond to strong-arm tactics.
Transformation isn’t a matter of will power.