I Meditated for the First Time in a Year…by Leading One at Work

Here’s how it felt getting back to my old ways

Anyone who knows me even remotely well knows that I like to talk about meditation. It was a huge part of my self-discovery journey in college and something I tried to get anyone I talked to to try out. For context, I started meditating the Fall of my Sophomore Year (which now feels like 2 lifetimes ago), a habit which I built and built over nearly 2 years of committment and dedication. I meditated every weekday and most weekends, always at my college’s meditation center, either as a participant or leader of a session, straight from that Fall in 2017 until the beginning of 2020. Needless to say, it didn’t take long before I became the “meditation guy” at Georgetown and bore the torch of the “mindfulness/self-awareness/mental health” poster child within the business school. It did me a lot of personal good to have a positive reputation to uphold as I embraced more leadership-heavy positions in clubs and programming, and I believe it helped bring a bit of a culture shift within the University that’s hopefully continued since I’ve left.

As much as I loved my ability to bring attention to those topics by personally representing them, I always felt a bit disingenuous whenever I was praised as the gold standard for being in tune with yourself, especially when it came to meditation. I basically stopped meditating once 2020 came around, only leading once a week and barely ever going to the center outside of that. In hindsight, it’s crazy how much convenience played a factor. By my Senior Year, I was living much farther away (about a 15 minute walk) from campus, even farther from the center, which was tucked away near the back-end of it. I also didn’t have a chair or desk in my room, so I couldn’t replicate any of my physical setup there. In the Fall (2019), I was still taking a full course load and recruiting for jobs, so I was plenty stressed and still made my weekday visits to the center regularly. However, by the Spring, I was down a class with a job secured and beyond ready to get on with my life. I thought that I didn’t need meditation anymore because it had served its purpose of helping me avoid any breakdowns or burnout. Without stress, I didn’t see its point. As I got closer to graduation, I actively tried to distance myself from meditation and the center, thinking I wouldn’t be able to escape my self-branded reputation otherwise.

Welp, I was wrong. Life has a funny way of throwing things back at you when you least expect it. The pandemic came, and my senior spring complacency was ratcheted up from an 8 to a 10 on the “oh my god I have nothing to do” scale. My school and career stress was gone, as was any pressure to maintain a social life, but with my newfound time and mental space, I started to focus on other areas of my life I wanted to prioritize, namely my relationships with technology, books, and food. More on those journeys below.

Anyway, meditation continued to lose its place in my life until 2 weeks ago, when I volunteered to lead one at my job’s company-wide meetings. We’d been doing a “show and tell” style presentation about something we’re passionate about, and I made a little deck with pictures of memories from my time at the center. It was a huge nostalgia bomb and a big reminder of how much I have to be grateful for, but what was even more impactful was the actual meditation. It was only 5 minutes (a far cry from the 20 I could easily do in my prime), but the headspace I got into as I guided everyone through the breathing and posture techniques I learned so long ago took me back to the days when meditating would be something I look forward to instead of a chore I had to make time for. Thankfully, it went extremely well, better than I expected given how rusty I was. However, for a while after that, I beat myself up for letting meditation slip out of my daily routine. Even in the 1 and a half weeks since I led, I’ve only meditated twice.

Although I’m undoubtedly more composed and zen than I was when I started meditating, I hate the feeling that I “used” the practice for a particular means, then abandoned it. As someone who’s been on the other end of being used, I know that’s not how any healthy relationship works.

I’m still reconciling with these emotions now as I try to make meditation a more regular part of my life again — it’s a weird place that I’m in. How I currently see things is that above all, meditation taught me the importance of silence, stillness, and presence — something I now intentionally incorporate as key pillars of my life so I don’t need to “make time” to channel it, like I did in school. A lot of my bigger lifestyle changes have come on the back of the realizations I had while meditation. Hell, even this blog is the result of that time spent with myself. It’s definitely subtle, but meditation’s influence is clear in all that I do and a core driver of a lot of my posts — minimalizing my technology use, toying with my eating habits, trying yoga, reflecting on my privilege.

In a way, meditation was my first spiritual love, and part of the healing process is moving on without trying to escape or blur out my past. I know that no matter where I go or what I do, meditation will always be a part of me and at the heart of my continued journey to live mindfully and purposefully.

For that I say: thank you.

Maranatha,
Carter

I never actually took a pic of the center while I was in there (bummer but also expected given I would turn my phone off or hide it in my shoes), but this is perhaps the most present I’ve ever felt: sharing tea and conversation with a friend at a Chinese tea house.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Carter Owen

Carter Owen

Aspiring author and humble observer of human behavior writing from NYC — sharing my journey and what I’m learning along the way. Think more, feel better.