From rebellious teenager to a mature meditation practitionar
Why this Story?
From a Spiritual-Storytelling perspective, everybody has a beautiful story to tell. We can grow and learn from listening to each other's stories and cultivate more love, understanding and compassion for ourselves and others.
I want to share the spiritual journey of Linde. It may be that her journey reminds you of yourself, a certain phase in your life, or how much you have grown emotionally or spiritually. Or it may be that this story reminds you of your child, grandchild or another teenager or young adult.
Feel free to write down what you recognize or what touches your heart in this story. (Re)connect with this beautiful journey you are on. Enjoy!
The spiritual journey of Linde (31) began as a teenager. She is glowing when she shares her journey and search for her own identity. Linde starts her story by looking back at puberty: ‘I was the type of teenager who smoked weed and climbed out the window at night to go to the disco. I was unhappy, and could not find my place within my family, at school and in society in general. I experienced difficulties with coping with the amount of violence in the world and I struggled with questions like, 'Who am I?' and 'What am I doing here on earth?’
Linde's parents saw her struggle with life and were concerned. At the age of seventeen her mother asked her if she wanted to spend some time with 'Peter', a Dutch psychotherapist and Buddhist practitioner who owned a retreat farm in France. ‘My mother asked, 'Do you want to go there?' As rebellious as I was, I strangely replied 'yes'.'
The only teenager on a retreat farm
‘Once I arrived at the farm, there seemed to be a condition attached to my stay; every morning at six o'clock I had to meditate with a group of grown-ups. Horrific! So there I sat on one of the cushions with hippy like people, all in their sixties. My mind was like a crazy monkey's. My thoughts were all muddled and jumbled and my body wanted to bounce around in the same way. But on the other hand, during my stay with Peter I had nice conversations with him and the other adults. They were thrilled that I was interested in spirituality at such a young age.
Peter had thangkas (Tibetan Buddhist paintings used as an object of focus in meditation or spiritual ceremonies) hanging on the wall. In the beginning I said: 'Seriously, why are these awful things hanging on the wall?’ But to be honest I was very curious, and later on, I asked many questions about this spiritual art form. He kept silent and did not want to reply any of my questions. The only answer I got was, ‘One day you will find a spiritual teacher who will explain it all to you.’
Linde enjoyed her time at the farm. She explains why, 'There was a pleaseant and relaxed atmosphere at the retreate farm, a very different energy than in my hometown with fewer stimuli and much less stress. That was exactly what I needed! When I was fifteen I was diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), because I had trouble concentrating and was quite impulsive. For five years I took ritalin on schooldays. The days I did not medicate myself, like on holidays, I ended up being sad, low-spirited and heavy hearted. It was a dark state of mind. Life should not feel like this! That's why I stopped taking ritalin when I was twenty years of age. It may be that because of the retreats at the farm I got to know myself better, so I realized that the diagnosis of ADD and taking Ritalin did not match with who I really am. And that meditation was a better cure for me than any medication.’
Experimenting with meditation
In the beginning Linde found meditating unpleasant. Therefore, I wonder when the turning point came that she started liking it. She says, ‘During those retreats I had to sit on that cushion, and meditate for thirty minutes every morning. Slowly I began to feel that if you keep on practicing, automatically you connect with the spaciousness within your own mind. And space was exactly what I was looking for. I experienced within that space an 'everything is ok' feeling; everything is good. It was a peaceful experience. So although I found the long meditation sessions awful, at some point I became aware that it was a chance to experience space, happiness and peace. That thought motivated me to keep on coming back to the retreat farm. In total, I have meditated five consecutive years during the summer holiday on the farm, sometimes I even went twice in one year.
At one point I got curious about the philosophy of meditation. I experienced things that I could not place. I read several books, including those of the Dalai Lama, but I did not understand certain theories, for instance about the self, and emptiness. I wondered what they were talking about? Yet, I continued to read and experiment at home with meditation. I felt that I was on a journey where I was collecting different pieces of a puzzle although I had no idea what the puzzle looked like, and how to make the puzzle. In the meantime I attended drama school. Isn’t it peculiar how I chose to go to drama school where I learned how to identify with and play different characters? It might not come as a surprise to you that I was very unhappy at that school.’
A legacy of her time on the retreat farm was a love for the Tibetan culture, art, people, rituals and customs. Linde read books, watched documentaries and films, bought typical Tibetan incense sticks and Googled a lot to read articles and watch videos to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism. When she was twenty-four, her boyfriend at the time went to India for a year. At one point he told her that he was in a Tibetan monastery in Dharamshala and had seen the Dalai Lama. ‘I thought it was so fantastic and fired questions at him like how does it look like out there, what do they say in the mantras and what did the Dalai Lama say? I was living in my current hometown Rotterdam, and when I heard my ex his stories, curiosity transformed into a burning desire. I googled: Tibetan Buddhism Rotterdam.
The first hit was the Buddhist center where I still meditate today. When I went there for the first time, it felt like coming home. I was touched by the words and presence of the spiritual teacher, Lama Jigmé Namgyal, but I was even more struck by what was in the air, the vibe. I was finally able to really breathe freely; I felt recognition, I felt seen and valuable and I was grateful that I had finally found a place where people were talking about life, how to cultivate hapiness, about spiritual development, and about the self. Here I learned how to put the pieces of the puzzle together.’
Meditation in every day life
‘Now I meditate at least half an hour every day and I recite mantras. When I wake up in the morning, I grab my blanket and I walk to my meditation cushion. Starting my day like this is like giving myself a positive enery boost. When I have missed my morning session, I meditate before I go to sleep.
The meditation course at the Buddhist centre gave me a good foundation for my spiritual practice. Some days I am more overwhelmed by my thoughts and emotions than on other days. Sometimes I become aware of the amount of thoughts that go through my head while I'm meditating. An important aspect of my spiritual practice is humor, it makes the journey so much lighter and more fun. I also practice this sense of humor in my daily life when I’m overwhelmed by negative thoughts. For instance, a while ago my boyfriend was sitting on the couch, I looked at him and I was so in love. I thought: I’m so lucky to rub shoulders with such a wonderful man. A week later, he sat exactly at the same spot on the couch, in exactly the same manner, and I thought: how annoying are you, what are you doing here? It is funny to notice how your own interpretation and perception determines your reality. Because of my spiritual practice I can see the impermance of my emotions and laugh about my negative thoughts and emotions. Meditation helps me to get to know every corner of myself, even those aspects which I don’t really want to face up to. However, it contributes to accepting myself and loving myself and others.
At the age of thirty-one I can say that I am truly happy and that I have found my place in society. I have a rich life, and I have a good relationship with my friends and family. I know myself much better now; I know I need to make lists and that I’m sensitive to stimuli. I’m studying to be a social worker and when I'm studying, I have to take a break for ten minutes and then I can hit the books again for ten minutes. This routine helps me to stay focused and absorb the information I’m reading. Because I know myself better, I can happily live my life according to my wishes and beliefs.’
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