This is the story of how one depressed teenager, inspired by a single Buddha quote, changed his life through a simple meditation technique.
Age 16 I was heavily overweight. I mean heavily overweight. I looked kinda like the bizarre splicing of the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man and Marlon Brando (and I’m talking about fat Brando. Man do I wish I looked like thin, fit, sexual god Brando). I didn’t exercise, I ate the worst junk known to man (pretty much deep fried chicken fingers everyday). I was a mess.
I remember my school days. Hiding from bullies (toilets are a good place to hide), pretending to have an asthma attack every Wednesday at 2pm (conveniently right before gym class), sitting in the library reading at lunch time (after eating, naturally) to avoid my social anxiety.
My mind at this point was my worst enemy. Every thought I had about myself was a negative one. “You’re fat.” “Nobody likes you.” You know, the usual thoughts for a kid with depression.
One lunch time while in the library I happened upon a quote from Buddha. It read, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”
What we think we become.
Was that what had happened to me? Were my negative thoughts the result of a negative lifestyle, or had negative thoughts led me to a negative lifestyle? I wasn’t sure. It didn’t seem to matter. What mattered to me more was the other part of the quote, The mind is everything.
The idea that the mind is everything gave me hope. At the time, I didn’t think I could lose weight. I didn’t think I could make friends. But changing my mind? Changing my thoughts? I could do that.
I suppose it was only natural that, having been inspired by a Buddhist quote I looked for Buddhist ways to change my mind and my thoughts. Meditation was what the book I was reading advised (the book, by the way, was Wherever You Go, There You Are). I began to learn meditation.
It was easy. Given that I was spending all my time in quiet areas (the school’s sickroom, the library, in my own bedroom) I had plenty of opportunity to practice. And there was nothing to fear about meditation. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Anyone can do that, even me!
So I started practicing.
I’m not going to lie, it took a while. My mind was so full of negativity. I needed more than a mental spring cleaning, I needed an entire year of mental cleaning, of meditation.
It was the basic meditation techniques that worked for me. Not Transcendental Meditation or Vipassana or anything like that, just good old fashioned eyes closed focussing on your breathing.
To say meditation changed my life would be a gross understatement. It changed my very being.
Within six months I, a social recluse who had suffered from severe shyness, started to enjoy talking to people. Within a year I had even begun to sing and act on stage at school, hundreds of eyes looking at me while I sang or performed and yet somehow this shy little recluse didn’t mind.
I began exercising too. Dancing, actually (I’m more of the artistic sort of guy than the macho type, dancing was perfect for me and good exercise too). I lost weight and started to look pretty good. Sure I still wasn’t good-looking Marlon Brando—never would be. But I was healthy now. And now, having overcome all that negativity, I actually look forward to my future. My mind went from being my worst enemy to my best friend for life.
The “for life” part is important. I fully intend to keep meditating everyday for the rest of my life, never to fall into the doldrums of depression again.
And it all happened that day I sat in the library—depressed, overweight, socially outcast— and just happened to read that Buddha quote: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”
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