My Story

My Story

I started on my journey when I was 27 years old. I was a young, ambitious, San Franciscan resident working at a prominent tech company. I had been recently promoted to a sales management role and I was excited to get started. I had no experience being a manager and so it was only a few days into the role before it dawned on me that I needed help. I was lucky to have worked with a fantastic leader in the past and so I called him and asked if he would be willing to coach me. He agreed and we started to meet weekly to talk about my goals, mindset and challenges. It wasn’t long in our working relationship before he said “dude, you need to start meditating”. He must have been able to tell that I had a chaotic mind. I took his suggestion very seriously and started to meditate for 10 minutes / day.

Initially, it wasn’t very interesting. I felt I had much better things to do. But after a few weeks, I found myself looking forward to my meditations.

As I sat in silence, I started to notice that my mind was chattering away endlessly. This chatter was so captivating that I couldn’t hold my attention on my breath for long. My attention was getting distracted by the mind’s chatter. This was fascinating to me… Prior to meditation I was not consciously aware of this incessant chatter. I was learning so much about myself, and I was curious about what else there was to discover. I sensed there was a lot about my mind that I did not understand. And this curiosity led me to read every book I could on the subject of mind, ego and mental health.

One of the books I read was “A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle”. Eckhart writes, “Whatever you react to in others is in you”. Those words jumped out at me. This was a radical idea… I mean people in my life were really pissing me off! Prior to this book, I was convinced they were a real problem. But I instead decided to take a radical approach and assume this idea was true until I could disprove it. So I started to notice who I was reacting to and why. And I used my 1x1s with my coach as an opportunity to explore those situations.

One day, during our call, I shared with him that one of my employees was frustrating me. I perceived this person as being “fake”. They put on a smile and laughed nervously at team meetings, and it felt very disruptive to our dynamic. Crazy enough, I found myself thinking about this person even after the meetings. They really got under my skin.

So my coach asked me the question directly. “What in you is reacting to this behavior?” I remember sitting there in a long period of silence. Until an answer dawned on me.

I said (to my own surprise), “I am fake…” As this new thought entered my consciousness, I recalled going to social gatherings and putting on a smiling face. I too laughed nervously. I was doing the same thing I perceived this employee doing (albeit in a different area of my life). Until then, I had not been consciously aware that I was doing this. As I made this realization, I felt a shift in myself. The irritation I was feeling suddenly dropped and this employee was no longer on my mind. I had released something… And I couldn’t explain what it was. At the time, I just felt better. Like I could move forward and that was that. It wasn’t until later that I noticed that I was much more comfortable in social situations. The smiling face and nervous laughter had stopped. So not only was I freed from the irritation I felt, but I also found my behavior changing for the better, without any additional effort on my part.

I had many similar experiences working with this coach. But I will share one more that was particularly powerful.

All of the managers had to meet in a big conference room to discuss sales enablement ideas. We sat down and the plan was to go around the room and to all share our ideas. I was a confident person, but for some reason my heart was pounding like a jackrabbit. I was feeling extremely nervous for my turn to speak. I don’t think anyone else in the meeting noticed, but I sure felt it. I wasn’t going to tell my coach because I thought that was normal. After all, most people have an intense fear of public speaking. But for some reason I figured I would bring it up to see what comes of it. I told my coach and he asked “where does that come from?” My mind surfaced a feeling of not being accepted during highschool. I said to him “When I was growing up, I never felt accepted. Like in highschool I don’t think anyone accepted me”. My coach asked: “What is the truth about that situation?” Moments passed until I finally said, ” I didn’t accept myself during highschool.” The answer surprised even me. It was something I never thought about until that moment. And it felt like the answer surfaced from somewhere deep inside my mind..

I felt dizzy… Disoriented. There was a shift in my energy field. Like something very deep had just been released. I remember feeling suddenly exhausted. After our call I took a long nap at work. My energy level was very low and I really needed the rest.

I remember wondering what had happened. What had I just released? I had never napped at work in my life. But this experience was so deep and healing that I was exhausted afterwards. My curiosity grew.

I started to wonder if there is a simpler explanation for our suffering and how the human mind operates. A perspective that is not part of the current mental health paradigm. Throughout my life, I had seen many different psychologists for various conditions like depression, ADHD and anxiety. But I never had any experiences like this. How come? I was determined to keep on the journey.

As I went forward, I continued to have very similar shifts and releases both from meditating and working with my coach. Eckhart Tolle’s theory was proven true. The challenge was, there was no rhyme or reason when the released would happen or how they occurred. It seemed like the luck of the draw. I knew that releasing things was possible, it just wasn’t clear exactly how.

As time went on, I noticed that I was feeling better. Additionally, my memory was improving. The releases were having an impact on my well being. So naturally I wanted to experience more of them. But I had not yet uncovered a systematic approach to creating these shifts.

Then, in 2019, I came across an interesting opportunity to partake in a 7-day silent meditation retreat. The structure of the retreat was quite intense. I was going to do 9 hours of meditating per day (including the walking meditations and thai chi). I was not allowed to eat any animal products, but I broke that rule and snuck in some beef jerky and other snacks. I was to sleep in a tiny, unairconditioned dorm. Oh and my phone had to be off the entire time. No reading, no writing. Within the 7-day period, I was only allowed to speak 2 times. Once on day 3 and once on day 5, for about 3 minutes and to the teacher only.

Initially the retreat was very challenging. But as time went on, I felt better and better. My state progressively improved, like a hot air balloon slowly rising into the sky. By day 4 I was feeling joyful. I would see a squirrel and think “I love you squirrel!”. Joy was welling up inside of me and I felt blissful. Unfortunately, I was having a pain in my forehead while meditating. It was an intense pressure and it was very uncomfortable. Then, on day 5, I had a profoundly deep experience. I was sitting in a semicircle for the speaking part of the day. The teacher was going around the group and spoke with each of us for 1-3 minutes. When the teacher got to me, I told him that my head was hurting so bad and the pain was becoming unbearable. And my teacher just sat there and looked at me for a bit. After some time passed, he smiled gently and said, “you try hard don’t you?” Suddenly, I felt this deep awareness of myself pass through me. I became aware of this very core component of my personality. I had always been someone who “tried hard”. As I realized this, I felt the pressure in my forehead release. At that moment, I became one with the world around me in a way that I cannot explain. I found myself in a state of complete oneness with everything happening in my experience. The next person who spoke to the teacher cried about their sadness with climate change. While they cried, I cried. Moments after, the next person spoke and they were giggling about something and I started to giggle. It’s hard for me to explain this experience with words. In fact, I can’t even remember exactly what it was like or how long it lasted. But I do remember thinking I would give my whole life for just 5 more minutes in this state. That’s how amazing it was.

As I look back on that time, I feel I had momentarily grasped what great spiritual masters spoke about. They were living in this wondrous state, some may have gone even deeper. When the retreat concluded and it was time to leave I turned on my phone and a flood of messages and texts came through. My friend let me know they were ready to pick me up, and it was time to finally head home. As we drove through traffic, I felt my body tighten. As I interpreted the world around me, all these very subtle mental processes turned on in my mind… “how did it go?” My friend asked. Even the question stirred me. I started to think about what I would say. My heart and chest progressively tightened. I had an intuition that this discomfort I was feeling was actually my normal state. Thousands of temporarily dormant mental patterns were being re-activated The outer world was triggering them back on. And before I knew it, I was back in the world as my old self… No matter how much I meditated, I was not able to recreate the state I experienced on retreat.

However, from that moment on, something very deep about me changed. I had gained a great amount of clarity on where problems were originating from. I realized at some deep level that all problems were inside of me. This affected how I responded to conflict with others, particularly with my partner. For example, when my partner was upset with me, I knew at a deep level that she was the one in an upset state (albeit with me). And that the only real lasting solution was for her to release her conflicted state. Likewise, when I was mad at her for something, I knew that I had an issue that had to be released. 

The easiest way to think about this is in the context of the internet. Our mind is like the internet. We get to experience sites and go to different pages. But along with our experiences and what we think about consciously, there are also popups. These PopUps are unpleasant emotions, tension, and uncomfortable thoughts. They come into our experience and they disrupt what we are trying to do! The problem is everyone is convinced that the popup they are experiencing is because of the page they are on. However, these popups are actually coming from pages that are running in the background. When we become aware of their source, the popup closes down. After my retreat, it was much easier for me to work on my own popups. After all, I had all the time in the world to reflect on the challenge and try out different methods for uncovering the hidden page. When my partner had a popup, it was much more difficult.

I remember thinking deeply about what might be happening inside of her that was causing her to be in an upset state. Minutes would go by before I would ask a question. And then more minutes would pass and I would ask another question. And after lots of contemplation and exploration, we would eventually uncover something and she would release her popup. She was starting to have a very similar experience as I had with my coach. And as she went on this journey, she began to believe more and more in this process.

Now, my partner is an intrical part of my journey. We work on our PopUps together, and it’s been a core practice that keeps us connected and in a state of love with each other. She knows me well, so she can help expose things about me that support the releasing techniques. And vice versa. And interesting enough, when one of us gets triggered by the other, we can feel like our connection gets severed. We do not feel close and sometimes don’t feel attracted to one another. And when the PopUp gets released, we immediately feel better. Attraction resumes and we enjoy each other’s company.

Along this journey, I have refined the releasing process. It’s worked for me, my wife and many others. I have even used these techniques to help a friend come off her antidepressant meditation. And release a very deep persistent “blue” feeling that she was having. I am not a trained psychologist, but I have so many questions about how these new ideas would impact the mental health space. I wonder if there is a new way to think about this human experience and a new paradigm that can help us solve the mental health crisis we are in.

The challenges we face as a community are large. That is why I think we cannot rely on mental health counselors and psychologists alone. I hope for a world where people feel empowered to work on themselves directly. Where people have the tools to help themselves, their loved ones and community members. And all of that starts with you. You have the power to release your PopUps. And by releasing them, not only will you cultivate happiness in yourself, but you also contribute to a more positive environment for others.

I do not claim to be enlightened or perfect. I still have many PopUps, but I have developed tools and techniques that consistently work. And I believe with dedication, time and persistence, any person can apply these techniques and move closer and closer towards a state of joy, peace and happiness. I am on that journey and I welcome you to join me on the path.

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