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How meditation taught me the art of adaptability

Sometimes events force us to be adaptable, but through meditation we can appreciate the benefits of proactively being adaptable.

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Vedic Meditation teacher Rory Kinsella meditating at home
Vedic Meditation teacher Rory Kinsella meditating at home

Adaptability is something that’s always relevant but maybe more so now than ever. Whatever your plans were for 2020 they likely didn’t involve not being able to leave your house for months on end.

I had an early lesson in the benefits of adaptability in my schooldays.

When I was finishing high school in Bristol in the UK, I wanted to study English literature at university. I’d been a late bloomer when it came to reading, but by 18 I was in love books and put in applications to six universities. 

But my last year of school was a tough one for many reason. About midway through the year, my mum died suddenly after an accident and my life was turned upside down. 

I was all over the shop trying to deal with this tragic situation but still wanted to keep going with my studies. My mum was very successful academically – she’d studied at Oxford and worked as an academic editor for Cambridge University – and I wanted to make her proud by following in her footsteps by studying English.

At a certain point in the year, people started receiving offers from universities which were usually contingent on getting certain grade in the final exams. One day I received the first letter in the post and got really excited opening it – I knew it was going to have a big impact on my future. 

It was a rejection. 

This was a real shock. I’d never failed at anything important before and I thought I’d put together a strong application. I was predicted good grades, but there it was in black and white – a rejection. It was from one of the universities I didn’t really want to go to anyway, but it was still a setback.

And then the letters kept coming – a few days or weeks apart, but relentless, one after the next after the next. 

It got to the point where there was only one university left – my reserve choice, one I knew I’d easily get into based on my predicted grades. 

But I got rejected again.

I’ve never found out what happened but I must have made a spelling mistake in the form or something stupid like that. 

My options were then very limited – wait until I had my results and go into what’s called clearing to get a place at one of the less prestigious universities or wait another year to apply again.

I didn’t want to wait as my original plan was to get started right away. But I decided to take a year out – and in the end I was very glad I did.

It meant that when I did get to uni, I was a year older and more mature – although still not very mature! And I was better able to make the most of the experience.

I also gained some priceless life experience in the real world in my year off – I had my first proper job working full time in a restaurant and got to travel all across Europe with a friend and spend more than two months partying in Spain.

How meditation fosters adaptability

The Vedic lesson here is that we can rarely see the bigger picture when events are happening. We create plans and try to rigidly stick to them, but the universe often has other plans.

What we learn through meditation is how to be adaptable. Every time we meditate we flex our adaptability muscles. We find ourselves lost in thought and rather than getting frustrated that we couldn’t clear our minds, we accept that the thinking is a fundamental part of the stress release process, even if that’s not the meditation we wanted. 

The world will throw up barriers and push us off our paths every step of the way, but if we stay open and adaptable we’ll realise that the roads we end up on are more interesting and fulfilling than the ones we would have chosen.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

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