Before choosing to live a life dedicated to discovering the truth about who I am, I was a medical device sales rep, making lucrative deals with spine surgeons and hospitals. I drove a slick German sedan, owned a brick and timber loft in the city, traveled, and spent money freely on whatever, and whomever I wanted. For most of my 20s it seemed I was living the dream. It was the life that society had told me to live — go to college, get a job, accumulate wealth, and get ready to settle down.
The idea of self-improvement and growth boiled down to whether my W-2 was larger than it was the year before. If the answer was yes, all was copacetic.
First off, guys, I am not advocating that you quit your job or feel guilty about making money. Practicing mindfulness and discovering our true Self is something that can, and should, be done everyday, including the days we work. In fact, the practice will help us in our day-to-day engagements with other people, intricate tasks, and goal-oriented achievement in a world where multitasking is seen as a point of pride.
But let's slow down.
Before we understand how to practice mindfulness, let's start by asking a simple question, because honestly, we're just not the ones doing it. Without generalizing too much, the fact remains that most women are looking for answers and finding more ways to grow than we are. They're going to retreats, yoga classes, and spiritual speaking engagements. They're finding ways to be healthy and aware of their mind and body, even as they continue to close the gap on living career-oriented lifestyles similar to men.
The question to ask is: "What's missing in my life?"
I was raised Catholic, and with this experience, a lot of questions were left unanswered. Not that I blame anyone, especially my parents or the church. After I left my parents' house at 18, the thought of going to church had completely vanished. I was no longer forced to go, so I chose to exercise this freedom by sleeping in on Sundays and watching football, instead of reciting prayers at the altar. When I asked myself what was missing, it seemed initially seemed like this might be it — religion. I went back to church, but still the question lingered, and even evolved.
Eventually I stumbled into a Buddhist temple. I attended a five-week course on meditation, and attended to services each week at the temple. It was a Zen Buddhist temple, so they taught a method of concentration meditation that simply asks the practitioner to count as he breathes. It was simple and accessible, and it worked. I found something — I wouldn't call it inner peace, Zen, or Nirvana — but rather a way to have a conversation with my Self.
This was a revelation — though I wasn't yet aware of how big an impact it would have. To answer the question of what was missing, I only had to go within. The method taught by the Buddhists helped me open doors, but ultimately, all the answers were inside, all I had to do was go in there and get them.
Answering the question of what was missing and learning that I needed to have a conversation with my Self was only the tip of the iceberg. This opened up a whole new galaxy of insights, wisdom, truth, and ultimately, more questions.
While there are many reasons everyone — and men in particular — should try mindfulness, for now, ponder the question, "What's missing in my life?" Let me know what your answers are!