Find­ing Zen: A For­mer Wor­ry­wart Speaks Out

Reader's Digest (Canada) - - Cover Story - BY ALEXIS CLARFIELD-HENRY AS TOLD TO JILL BUCHNER

FIVE YEARS AGO, I was 30 years old, liv­ing in Lon­don, Eng­land, and work­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing. My job re­quired long hours, and my co-work­ers of­ten told me that I looked stressed out. I was in my head a lot, ru­mi­nat­ing over con­ver­sa­tions, wish­ing I’d said some­thing dif­fer­ently and won­der­ing what oth­ers thought of me.

It was a com­plete stranger who in­spired me to change. A visi­tor from Aus­tralia came to stay with my room­mate for a cou­ple of weeks. She had this amaz­ingly calm en­ergy. I asked her what her se­cret was, and she told me that she prac­tised Vedic med­i­ta­tion, a type of silent tran­scen­den­tal med­i­ta­tion rooted in Ayurvedic tra­di­tion in which you re­peat a mantra in your mind.

A few months later, when life be­came even more over­whelm­ing, I started think­ing about our Aus­tralian guest and her med­i­ta­tion. Coin­ci­den­tally, she sent me a mes­sage out of the blue and asked if I’d ended up try­ing it. She rec­om­mended a lo­cal teacher, and I signed up for a week­end course, where I was given a mantra and prac­tised med­i­tat­ing in a group set­ting.

It took a while to see the ef­fects. In my first med­i­ta­tion, time dragged on as I re­peated my mantra. When I opened my eyes, the in­struc­tor asked how I felt, but I didn’t no­tice any change. I stuck with it, prac­tis­ing daily, 20 min­utes in the morn­ing and again in the even­ing. And a few months later, when I vis­ited my fam­ily and friends back in Canada, they com­mented on how much calmer I was.

To­day I’m liv­ing in Toronto, work­ing in tech and still med­i­tat­ing twice a day. I’ve made other healthy changes, like drink­ing less al­co­hol and work­ing out a few times a week. Now time flies when I’m med­i­tat­ing, and I sleep much bet­ter than I used to. If I miss a prac­tice, I’m not as alert and I can feel my ru­mi­na­tions re­turn­ing. My wor­ries aren’t gone, but when I med­i­tate, they seem much more man­age­able.

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