Stress, anxiety, confusion, fear of failure: these are feelings that we all have had in our life at one point or another. Not long ago I found myself in a cross road having these exact feelings and not knowing how to deal with them. At this time I received an email I was expecting and surprisingly it contained bad news. You see previously to that I had been studying and preparing myself for a very important exam; the one that if I passed would help me further my career. Despite my hard work and dedication I did not get a positive result.
You might be asking yourself, what's so wrong with not passing an exam? People fail exams all the time and make up for them. Well let me explain my situation. I am a foreign medical doctor, which means I graduated medical school outside the United States. Thus far I had been very successful in all the projects I had set out to achieve, and one of my dreams was to practice medicine in the United States. In order to achieve this goal I have to pass a series of exams, and then get accepted in to a medical residency. This meant that I had to prepare myself studying for at least 10 to 12 hours daily, becoming a full time student all over again. Luckily I have the support of my wife, who has always looked out for my best interest and vice versa. I prepared myself for a year and a half -- sacrificing spending quality time with my wife, family events, birthday parties and outings with friends and love ones, all in order to reach this dream. I took the exam feeling ready and confident I would pass -- not expecting the outcome I received when I got my result.
I started questioning myself, "How is this possible?" "What went wrong?" "Why is this happening to me?" I couldn't believe it and for a period of time I was in a negative and sad mood. I didn't know how to cope with this situation; I mean I knew it wasn't the end of the world, but for me it felt like a big failure due to all the time and energy I had invested in this project and still ending up with nothing to show for it.
The support I received from my wife, family and friends during this time helped, but I still felt something was missing in order for me to move on, so I remained in my wound-licking mode. One day while having a heart-to-heart with my cousin, I asked her what was her secret for success. I have always admired her for having a positive and blissful attitude toward life, and for attaining every goal she has set out to achieve. She told me that her secret to success was practicing meditation. She later explained how this practice has helped her in a positive way in every aspect of her life, and highly recommended I give it a try assuring me that the benefit would be astonishing.
As you can imagine this was uncharted territory for me, and never before having done anything like this, I decided to give it a go. I remember my cousin telling me "Don't expect to be a meditation master from the beginning. You should start this practice little by little with baby steps," He meant I should start by being alone in a quiet place sitting in a comfortable position, making sure that I wouldn't be disturbed, closing my eyes and trying to concentrate on my breath for at least five minutes, and from there adding more minutes as I see it fit with practice. At the beginning it was not easy, due to the mental chatter and distractions I had on the back of my head. But little by little I learned to quiet my mind and started to enjoy the stillness. I also started listening to audio guided meditations, which I found to be handy and useful.
My cousin also recommended I read a book called Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda, considered by many one of the all time favorite spiritual books, including the late Steve Jobs. Reading this book helped me understand the philosophy behind meditation, yoga and self-realization. One of my favorite quotes from this author and teacher is: "Occupy your mind with inspiring ideas, do not waste time with negative thoughts." Without getting into too much detail on this book because I don't want to spoil it for you, I highly recommend reading it, and I guarantee that you won't regret reading it.
By now I have been practicing meditation for almost a year. I do a 20-minute session in the morning and sometimes I do a second session in the afternoon. After I am done with each session I feel peaceful, energized, mindful and ready for whatever the day might bring. I have also read more self-realization and personal growth books, which has helped me to open my eyes and discover a whole new world. Ever since I was introduce to this way of life I have never felt more enlighten, centered and focused as I do now. My relationship with my wife, family and friends have become more fruitful. Career-wise, I know the path I want to follow in order to be truly happy. After all, isn't happiness what we are all looking for? The stress, anxiety, confusion and fear of failure I felt before have gone away; I mean I still get my ups and downs like everyone else, but when it comes to the downs, I now know how to channel them and learn from them in order to have a positive outcome that will help me continue with this wonderful and enlighten journey.
I know that I am not a meditation master or an authority on the matter, but what I do know is that practicing meditation has helped me to find myself and understand my purpose. It has influence my life in a very positive and blissful way, and I know it could do the same for you. I am a true believer that everyone can benefit greatly by practicing meditation. It really isn't that hard once you get the hang of it, so I encourage you give it a try, after all you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. It just takes a little bit of practice, time and patience, but once you get started you will see life in a different perspective.