Following is the full text of heartfulness meditation trainer Mamata Venkat’s talk titled “How Meditation Changed My Life” at TEDxWayPublicLibrary conference.
Mamata Venkat – TEDx Talk TRANSCRIPT
Meditation has been a part of my life. Ever since I can remember, I personally have been practicing it for the last five and a half years.
I have been a trainer for the last 8 months. But I will get into that a little bit later.
My college career has been unconventional to say the least. I started out as pre-med, got halfway through my freshman year in college, before realizing that really wasn’t for me.
I switched my major about four times before finally landing on international studies and eventually choosing public health. I think it took me a long time to figure out what I want to do with my life, for a few reasons.
One: I’d always struggled with self-confidence, and I would set my standards for myself so high, that anytime I failed to reach them, or I felt I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing, instead of finding strength from that situation, I would beat myself up in falter.
Two: my idea of success, happiness, and satisfaction up until recently was completely misguided. We live in a world that encourages this idea, that in order to be internally satisfied, we have to rely on external circumstances. This is an idea that’s been hammered into our heads, probably since we could understand what happiness, success, and satisfaction were.
Obviously, these are different concepts for different people at different times. It could be the little things like spending time with friends and family, or curling up with a good book; or getting good grades, getting the job you want, finding the person you’re meant to spend the rest of your life with.
While all these things are great things, we’re still relying on things outside of ourselves to make us happy. This idea of external substance creation has been magnified with the increases in technology and the advent of social media.
We can’t really exist without our devices anymore, it’s almost like our phones have become other body organs that we can’t live without. No offense to anybody, but I can guarantee, the second I’m done talking, the majority of you will subconsciously reach for your phone and check your texts.
And social media… social media has created this idea of false happiness and satisfaction. Nobody wants to share bad moments of their lives, none wants to share their mistakes or their failures. So social media has made it seem that everyone is always successful, and happy, satisfied all the time.
What if things don’t go our way? What if we don’t get the grade we want? What if the person we thought to spend the rest of our lives with breaks up with us?
Or we do get the job we want, but there is a negative aspect to it? Like our boss sucks, or we have a horrible co-worker.
Suddenly, the concept that was providing us with internal satisfaction, externally is now negative. What I am realizing more and more is that not only is our success temporary but our happiness is conditional.
We are only happy or satisfied because something external is making us happy and satisfied. We are never truly satisfied for the sake of being satisfied. That’s where I realized I was going wrong.
Let me back up a little bit. Anybody who knows me knows my entire life I had been on a one-way path to becoming a doctor. My family is filled with medical professionals, and at age of 5, I declared I was going to be just like them.
Of course, my incredible Indian parents let out a huge sigh of relief because they didn’t have to convince me to go into medicine. For a long time, that was what I wanted to do until I started learning more about myself, my passions, and interests.
Suddenly, becoming a doctor was less of what I wanted to do, and more of what I felt obligated to do. Because my entire life I have been taught that in order to be successful you have to be a doctor.
I was always a weirdly compliant kid, I always knew my parents knew what is best for me. So instead of being confident to stand up for myself, I went along with it.
Fast forward to my freshman year of college: I was miserable. I was taking classes that I hated, and I was doing poorly in them. The person I thought I’d spend my life with broke up with me the second he went to college.
I was still living at home, so I felt like I wasn’t having the normal college experience. After years of having a plan and a direction for my life, all of a sudden, I was lost.
When you go through hard times or through a break-up, everybody tells you to get out, do things for yourself. And I did, I’d hang out with friends, I would go curl up with a book at a bookstore, I joined our Bollywood Fusion dance team at school, I would get a massage.
But those were temporary satisfactions. I would still come home and still feel internally dissatisfied with myself. Social media became the bane of my existence. I’d see my friends, my ex, and all my classmates posting pictures of their college adventures, their dormrooms, their new friends, all these new things.
I felt like a failure for a couple of reasons.
One: I didn’t have anything to share on social media. I was still living at home, I didn’t feel like I was having the conventional college experience.
And two: as an Indian, I wasn’t meeting the standard of success that had been dictated for me. I wasn’t doing well to become a doctor. But because that was all I knew as success, I stuck with it, and my GPA and my self-esteem failed as a reason. So how did I change this?
HOW DID I TURN MY LIFE AROUND?
Like I said, meditation has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. My dad has been practicing a form of meditation called Raja yoga, or yoga of the mind, for over 35 years. My mom started shortly after they got married.
Just like people go to church, a temple, or a synagogue, meditation is my way of life; it’s all I have ever known. I always knew I was going to start practicing meditation at some point. I tried it a couple times at my freshman year of college, but anything at that point that my parents thought would be good for me, or it would help me get out of the rut that I was in, I was completely rebellious against.