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What, Me Worry?!

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.”

Lilly pads floating on lake

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.

[Keep Calm and Breathe Om]

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.

[7 Ways to Meditate with a Busy Brain]

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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