How To Stop Worrying And Start Living

Every once in a while it gives you an idea or a suggestion, but as soon as you’re faced with a real decision—a choice between action, inaction or inaction and inaction—it’s hard to not think about whether its right or wrong.

In the spring of 1999, for the hundred and first time, I attended a meditation class. It was the first I had been to in several years, and I was pretty nervous about it.

It was a Saturday, with the days filled with work and other obligations, but there had been enough talk during the week that I decided to attend. I was going to meditate, but just for half an hour, so I could focus on my breathing as I walked to my car to go to work.

I arrived at the parking lot, got out of my car, and opened the door to the meditation room with my usual briskness. It was about 6:30 in the morning, and the place was filled with about ten families, some with small children, others with a few adults. Most of them looked stressed, or upset, or maybe just plain out of it. Some were smoking and drinking coffee or wine. There was no furniture or décor, only a few chairs and mats in the room. The teacher began the class with some breathing exercises: hands and knees, head and chest. I’d been doing that for years. So far at this class, the class was good. They were very mindful. I felt like I was being helpful. The teacher seemed to be on the same page as I was. In any case, I was feeling good. I wanted to check out the rest of the classes.

The rest of the classes were pretty usual for me at that time. I loved taking them, because they seemed to be teaching me a lot of things. I didn’t actually think anything was happening.

The next day was Sunday, so I attended a meditation class. It was the first I’d been to since the previous week on Sunday, so I was trying to be more aware of my daily life. I was very nervous to go, but the teacher was great so far. I felt that I was getting along pretty good and she was definitely the right person to talk to for that. 

The teacher told me that the reason many people do not do their meditation practice is because they have some fear or hesitation. So she told me that I should do a lot of breathing exercises and think about those little things. Then I should get rid of those fears. I was going to be mindful of my breath, trying to keep it straight, as if I were doing it right now, but with the idea of how I know how to make my meditation practice more effective. At the same time, she told me that there was a reason the breath is so important and that she would help me keep it straight.

The first thing I noticed is that I had no anxiety about meditation. I had a lot to say about the benefits of meditation, how it was going to help me stay calm, but I was not anxious.

Then the next thing I noticed was that I noticed a lot of little things that I normally would struggle with: keeping my hands in place, breathing in slowly and deeply, and how the mind and breathing stayed in check as I tried to focus on the other activities in my life. 

This meditation class really was changing everything. It showed me how easy it is to be more mindful, it taught me how to breathe like a meditator so that I can get into my “zone” better, and it made the whole practice more effective.

I also began to see that I could see what the mind was doing. This is something that I had not been aware that I had been doing in the past, and something that I was struggling with at times. I could see when that thought came—I used to tell myself “it’s going to come,” and that’s what I expected would happen, but something would come instead of it and I would have to deal with that. 

The last thing I noticed as I entered the zone was that the thoughts and thoughts and thoughts would go to my stomach, but that didn’t bother me at all. It was not a problem. I still felt good inside. It was almost like a trance state.

I was very grateful for that meditation day.

I want to do this with you now: What I want to tell you—all the time—is that the best meditation teachers give you a lot. They have all the answers and everything. You just have to ask and ask until you get your answers.

They let you discover for yourself. They let you do the breathing exercises and make them your own. They don’t force anything on you.