Why I Came Out of the (Meditating) Closet
When I was a young girl, I had a secret.
Well, I had a number of average, teen, angsty secrets I kept squirreled away. Like: I am terrified of getting a bad grade… I am terrified boys won’t like me…. Ugh, why am I suddenly sweating so much… etc. etc. Cue continuation of confidence-lacking, worrywart, shy, introvert script.
But the really unique secret… the one no one except my family and a few close friends knew about…
I meditated. Every day.
I was something of a freak of nature child. At age ten, I saw my parents practicing TM (Transcendental Meditation), and I announced I wanted to do that. To this day, I don’t really know where that impulse came from. But the really freakish thing was that not only did I do it, but I did it every day from that point on. Sure, I missed here and there, but mostly I faithfully sat in my little bed and meditated each morning and afternoon.
But truth be told, I was kind of embarrassed to tell anyone. I felt fine about the fact I did it, and I was absolutely lucky to have a father who neither pushed it nor pressured me, but was a model and support who practiced himself. (Thanks, Dad. Best gift ever right there.)
But, well… it was a different time. (And I was an embarrass-able teenager.) This was the nineties, and pretty much nobody was talking meditation in the cultural conversation. I felt like a weirdo. And when you’re thirteen and petrified/shy… you don’t want to be a weirdo. You want to be invisible.
The thing is, that closeted meditating persisted. Even as recently as a couple of years ago, I was still reticent about talking to people about my daily meditation practice. Those close to me knew I practiced daily and supported me in that. But as a general topic of conversation, I didn’t really share much. Maybe I shared about my meditation practice as a manner of revealing more to someone as I got to know them. It tended to remain separate from my other “selves”: teacher, co-worker, friend, dancer.
The funny part is, I have always viewed my meditation practice as a cornerstone of my life, one of the most influential things for me, and certainly one of the most important parts of who I am.
Why wasn’t I sharing that more openly?
Something shifted recently.
At some point in re-evaluating nearly everything about my life and work, I decided that my meditating self was worthy of coming out. There wasn’t some sort of dramatic reveal moment. It’s just that I made an internal decision to be open, to be “out” about it. If my middle school class was sharing “One Sentence Weekend,” I would share if I had gone to a meditation retreat. I shared about it openly in conversation with strangers.
I also decided that whatever my work would continue to be in the future, it would not be in a place where I felt I had to secretly steal ten minutes and try (with difficulty) to find somewhere to sit quietly if I needed a little refresher during the day.
Witness this interaction:
Me, pulling up a theatre cube in the gymnasium on a break, crossing my legs and closing my eyes.
Another teacher passing through who, shall we say, was not cut from quite the same cloth as I: “You know the teacher’s lounge is open, right?”
Me, opening eyes: “Oh…yes. It’s just, I’m an introvert and sometimes I actually just want to be alone.”
Introverts hate the teacher’s lounge.
Meditation became a topic of conversation that I am proud to share about. It became a central theme of this blog. It became something that I now know needs to be a part of my work and the values it espouses. As if to make my own point: I designed a custom sticker that says MEDITATE and stuck it on my Klean Kanteen bottle for the world to see.
It was very interesting to note the difference in myself. Suddenly, over dinner with an old friend whom I don’t live near anymore, I turned the topic of conversation to my meditation. After knowing me well for a number of years a while back, she didn’t even know I had a meditation practice.
While staying at an Airbnb on my travels recently, I was chatting with my host. The conversation turned to spiritual topics. There was the distinct moment in my awareness: here is where I would have held back from saying anything about my meditation. Now I chose to bring it up. And do you know what happened? He said, “Oh, what kind of meditation do you do? TM?” And I said, “Uh, yes…” “Oh, me too!” And we proceeded to have one of those beautiful, rare conversations about our own spiritual paths and development that happen between kindred spirits.
I think there is power in owning who we are openly. When the most important inner parts of ourselves live in alignment with the outer, we’re in harmony. I am immensely proud of my 24-year practice. It is one of the keys to the very best parts of myself. If I have been a teacher who has been able to maintain calm under fire, it is because of my meditation. If I was able to connect deeply with students, help them feel seen and heard, and leave some lasting impact beyond the answers to a test, it is because of the gifts my meditation has given me. Imagine my pleasure when an eighth grade girl came up to me after our semester together and said, “I miss your class. Being in your class is like meditation.” If I bring an exceptional depth and heart to my relationships, it is at least in part because of my meditation. If I have abilities of deep perception and intuition, they have been aided by my meditation practice. And if I have been able to access a strength and equanimity during times of great difficulty in my life, it is most certainly made possible by the sense of grounded-ness I have developed in those years of meditating.
All of this is certainly to say: it is a marvelous practice I wholeheartedly recommend. But more than that, I urge you to ask yourself: What do I stand for? If the values and lifestyle you hold dear are relegated only to a small slice of your life, how can you own them more fully and bring them forward?
I believe we live in a world where the divisions in our lives are shrinking. Or, at least we want them to. We are no longer content to show up from 8 to 5 and be our “work selves,” different from our selves at home, different with some friends than others, somehow feeling that our lives demand an intolerable fragmentation from us. We want to bring our whole selves to all the important areas of our lives, authentically and fully. If our work feels out of alignment with our values or lifestyle, then we need to seriously ask the question: is this where I want to be?
It has taken 35 years for me to really begin to feel like I can just stick my neck out and be who I am, to feel comfortable and confident owning my truths and declaring the weirdness that my 13-year-old self was so nervous about. With meditation, it helps that I now come across posts like this on social media:
“How to stay centered during the holiday season” —
face mask and golden milk
find moments of gratitude
connect with an old friend
The thing about owning all the parts of yourself is: you don’t have to trumpet it. You don’t have to wear it on your sleeve, or hit everyone over the head with it. True confidence is actually very quiet. It just is. It’s comfortable, and joyful in who it is.
Of course, sometimes owning it for ourselves requires Herculean levels of courage, and life change.
Here on this Winter Solstice, as we move slowly toward more light, and the New Year, it’s a profound exercise. What are the most important values and practices you hold? Are you in alignment with them in your life? How might you make change to bring them more in alignment? And what have you found to be the most helpful on that journey? As always, I love to hear your stories and experiences.
Photo: yours truly, by moontorrent.com