How I Achieved Serenity, One Breath at a Time

Attention deficit left me buzzing and in constant motion — but a regular practice of meditation taught me to be serene, composed, and "a much nicer person."

meditation David Moss-Cornett

My meditation practice changed my life. I was no longer late for meetings. I was more focused.

I first saw her when I was 20 years old. She was sitting in a back room at an art gallery, and I was immediately drawn to her. As I approached the terracotta sculpture, the expression on her face struck me. It was serene and composed, and I instantly recognized it — not as something I had experienced, but as something I wanted to experience. "That's what I need," I thought. "That is what I have been seeking for so long."

The piece was a reproduction of a 15th-century sculpture of a young girl kneeling, her hands folded within the sleeves of her kimono. Her appearance was simple, lovely, and powerful. I made arrangements with the gallery owner, left a small deposit, and began to set aside money every month toward the purchase. Eventually, she was mine.

Meditation Wasn't for Me

I placed her on a pedestal in one corner of my living room, and looked at her placid face, a contrast to my own furrowed brow. I'd tried meditating in the past, but sitting still was anathema to my undiagnosed ADHD. I was like a shark: I had to move or die — at least that's how it felt. From the time I was a child, it was as though I were plugged into a wall socket and had a current coursing through my body, keeping me buzzing and in motion. When you have a body and a mind that are always racing, succeeding at meditation seemed about as attainable as achieving world peace. Meditation became one more item on my list of failures.

Years later, when my friend Kathy told me about her Buddhist meditation practice, my life was chaotic. I asked to join her as she chanted, and I loved using the prayer beads. Kathy explained that the beads symbolized holding our lives in our hands. Any reminder that I might control my life was comforting.

I was drawn to the ritual of morning and evening prayers, which gave a rhythm and structure to my otherwise unstructured life. I was astonished to find that, with practice, I could sit for long stretches — at times up to three hours. To the child who often heard her mother yelling, "Can't you light somewhere?" as I ran from room to room, it seemed as though I had finally found a place to light.

Serenity Now

I'd been practicing this meditation for many years when, one evening, as I sat at my home altar, about to end my evening session, I found my eyes wandering to the corner where the statue stood. For the second time while gazing at her, I had a jolt of recognition. This time, though, I thought, "I have that. I actually have that!" My meditation practice had changed my life. I was no longer chronically late for meetings with clients. I was more productive, focused, and calm. I had inner strength, even amid challenges and tragedies. My newfound stability had sustained me through the loss of a close friend.

These changes were confirmed one weekend when I went home to visit my family. I was enjoying a conversation with my dad, when he suddenly remarked, "You're a much nicer person when you chant." This wasn't the kind of thing my father usually said, and his comment left me speechless. It also assured me that the changes I felt were observed by others, even someone as skeptical as my dad.

On the evening when I recognized myself in the face of the 15th-century Japanese girl, it occurred to me that perhaps she, too, had been a Buddhist in her time. Whether or not this was true was less important than what I now felt we shared: inner peace and serenity. I'd finally achieved my goal.

Excerpt from ADHD According to Zoë: The Real Deal on Relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys. Reprinted with permission: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., Copyright ©Zoë Kessler 2013.

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