People often ask me when I started on the path to teaching meditation. It’s hard to pinpoint, as with everything, one thing is what leads to the next, but there are benchmarks for sure. One of the earliest is around 1994 or 95. I was barely a teenager and it was a beautiful Easter Sunday, yet I was in the depths of a depression that would grip me for years. I can still remember sitting on our living room couch, the perfume of lilies in their shiny lavender plastic wrapped pots making my eyes water, and watching the dancing dust in a sun beam.
In that moment, I felt the contrast between the beauty of the outer experience and the darkness of my inner experience. I realized it didn’t matter what was happening on the outside. It was the inner experience that mattered. My stress was devouring my present, it was eating up time in which I was engaging in activity, yet not fully living. In that moment I swore to myself I would find a way to not let that happen.
We can live almost our whole lives in a half-alive state, reaching for this or that to put a blip on the Richter scale of our existence. We can be so lost to our own being that our most profound experiences are lived vicariously, like through a movie or imagined futures that will never happen. We can be so consumed with trying to control outcomes that we miss the whole show.
There are some students who come to me in their later years. These are people who have seen war after war, watched children grow and leave, lost partners after living together for decades. At an age when most are set in the ways they will take to the end, these students surrender to their inner selves with a humbleness and gratitude that only having looked life in the face can bring. Some are brought to their knees when they start to gain in awareness, and for the first time behold how much was lost to the endless pursuit of whatever in the wrong direction.
But the truth is, nothing is ever lost. There are no wrong directions. And it is never too late. All that has happened led us to right here, right now. That is the top of the mountain we are striving for–to be here, now, fully, fingertip to fingertip, head to toes, heart to horizon.
From that vantage point, it’s all just been stepping stones to there, and it doesn’t matter how many steps it took, or what age we are when we get there. From there, it’s all beautiful. Even the mistakes, the addictions, the bickering, the losses. Especially the losses.
I recently had an older student ask me if he was too late to reach enlightenment. What he couldn’t see that I could was the light was already in his eyes, and the wish to find it meant he was already almost there. It’s never too late to make amends, to find forgiveness, to find yourself, to run out of the house like you’re in a Dickens novel giving love to every person you see. It’s never too late to simply be.