Part II in a series about personal transformation and the beauty of silence, written by Louie Santos, iAwake’s beloved longtime Business Development Director, who resides in Manila in the Philippines.
I can barely understand what the woman on the Skype line is telling me. Her husband, who a few minutes ago had been strumming his guitar to some unfamiliar blues music, has emerged from the background to ask her a question. As he and I exchanged pleasantries, I couldn’t help but be ashamed of the shrill noises happening only nine feet away from where I was sitting. If all the vehicles passing by on the noisy street give it a facade of civilization, why does it make me feel so uncivilized?
By the time the Skype call ended, all I understand is I got the job. More than 8,000 miles from where I sit, two people who live in a very majestic and serene high desert landscape have decided to give the city dweller a shot. It is a one-to-two-hours-daily gig that requires me to operate some software. This is my third part-time job, and as soon as the new week begins, I will be glued to my desk for sixteen long hours a day. It’s 2013, and the advent of the hustle culture.
I just hope that the layers of shrill noises coming from the road outside are enough to hide my pure ignorance about the nuances of the job.
“Close your eyes. Breathe in. Breathe out. As you breathe in and out, imagine yourself being bathed by pink, silk-like lights.“
One step away from the single bunk bed I bought from a junkyard a month ago is where it begins again. In less than five minutes, the rat race will commence. A foot from where I sleep every night is an old Pentium III computer that I got as a bargain from an Australian surplus store about three years ago. As soon as I turn the power on, it’s going to be a sixteen hour sprint that leaves me panting for mercy from some Higher Power and asking repeatedly when the misery will end.
This cramped, darkly lit room has surely witnessed everything imaginable. The peach paint on the walls has started to fade to shades of white, even though the sun never shone on it. The bed and walls vibrate when massive vehicles pass by, resulting in frequent sleepless mornings.
No human should really live here, yet here I am—confined in this solitary shack as a constant and poignant reminder of all my failures. People ask me if this set-up is temporary. My standard response is yes, but my tone betrays me for its ambivalence. I can keep closing my eyes, but the end is never in sight.
I don’t mind living in the place where I’ve seen my entrepreneurial ambitions collapse after sinking into a mountain of debt. At twenty-four, I still need to learn a thing or two about paying my dues. All of this would have been unnecessary had I not blown through a pile of cash I stashed from my previous life in a high paying career in the corporate world. I may have talked loudly about achieving financial independence when I bid my adieu, but the utter irresponsibility of savagely blazing through what was left of my savings is now causing silent screams and slow burns inside.
I wonder if something meaningful is bound to happen.
I’ve read and heard stories of people who overcame the odds and are now living their best lives. These people have become gurus who know and can show the rest of us how to crack codes in order to unlock the secrets. But pragmatism trumps idealism. The bills need to be paid, and an inner expedition to form some kind of mind protocol to manifest my desires is only a hindrance.
I dismiss the idea that it’s all in the mind. As I stroll through the self-help aisles of an old book cum school and office supplies store, I can sense my annoyance over the preachy nature of the books. Who has time for this nonsense?
I have a very bleak view of humanity: I think humanity is deeply flawed. We only exist in this meaningless vacuum so we can torment each other until one or the other of us whispers surrender or yells retreat. It’s an endless cycle of misery. I have been so engrossed in this philosophy, I don’t think even self-help can change me.
It’s been more than an hour that I’ve been submerged in a sea of confusion. My mind is elsewhere, yet I still notice the crowds of people entering and leaving a big chain coffeehouse. A new friend from work keeps rambling about paradigm shifts and alignment with the universe, while I continue to sip my now-cold Venti latte. The one thing I’ve always abhorred in those overly tacky shelves in the bookstores has now come to life, as my friend animatedly celebrates in front of me the wonders that these secrets have done for her.
In the ensuing years, she will become a great friend and a rock of support. One evening, she introduced me to meditation after a week of sleepless nights. I never pray anymore, so I met the idea of closing my eyes and seeking some divine force so I can finally go to sleep with great irreverence. Little did I know that forces of nature were secretly conniving to give me the greatest irony of my life.
I don’t mind the noise for myself, but I worry about people’s perception of me.
Months later, what I thought was going to be an on-call, part-time gig at iAwake has turned into a full-time job, and eventually I quit my other two part-time jobs. The Skype calls are always an ordeal, not because I fear conversation, but because I am starting to feel that the noise has become a distraction. Pam, especially, has been very understanding of my situation. She and her husband may say they don’t mind, but the tumultuous background noise could drive anyone crazy. It’s already started on me.
“Which is worth more, a crowd of thousands, or your own genuine solitude? Freedom, or power over an entire nation?
A little while alone in your room will prove more valuable than anything else that could ever be given you.” ~Rumi
“Any thoughts about your meditation?”
Pam asked the question after a reading from Coleman Barks’ A Year with Rumi: Daily Readings. For five months, I’ve been staying in the beautiful cabin she and John own right next to their own house in Southern Utah, and every afternoon we meditate in silence or while using one of the iAwake tracks.
It’s too late now—I tried hard to keep the tears from escaping my eyes, but here they are, unexpectedly. I never let my guard down. I try to let the tears roll back inside my eyes as I attempt to search for the words to say after the meditation session.
“I just… feel so grateful to be here. Meditating here in this room, surrounded by beautiful red rocks. It’s a beautiful experience.”
I’ve always had an affinity with the mountains. In my late teens to early 20s, I used to imagine climbing a mountain, and once I reached its summit, I would shout and leave all my troubles behind. I never had the chance to do so. I was too afraid, not of the physical dangers it might pose, but of the potential of leaving behind certain qualities of mine that make up for my overall flawed humanity.
I finally understood the beauty of silence.
This place is different. For someone coming from the noisy urban streets of Manila, I was surprised that the silence was not deafening. Three months ago, I experienced awakening while meditating with Profound Meditation Program 3.0, but as soon as I set my feet in this picturesque town worthy of many Instagram moments, I finally understood the beauty of silence.
There were, of course, an ungodly amount of selfies.
A muted liberation…or a romantic delusion. When the team at iAwake talked about their spiritual experiences using the technology it pioneers, I had already started painting images in my head about the potentials of escape using the power of sound technology. I don’t know when the barriers of resistance crumbled, but somewhere inside me I felt a fire slowly burning, aching for release.
In the presence of noise, the only contrast I could hope for was some sort of miracle to intervene to let me experience mindfulness. And my hope was that these layers of beautifully crafted scores of melodies could make the highway noise bearable, even for just a fleeting moment. My hope was that as the cadences would strike my soul deeply, my longings for genuine solitude would be satiated.
Six months later, I grew more weary. No matter how hard I tried, the process of entraining my brain to achieve some form of meditative state was not working. Why was this not working for me when it does wonders for others?
Meditation is a journey…and not a straight path.
It hit me many years later that the one thing I failed to understand during this hapless attempt to practice meditation was that it’s a journey that requires a lot of work. While I longed for momentary escape through meditation, I resisted the infinite possibilities that come with it when viewed as a lifelong journey.
The pièce de résistance came in the first few days of 2014. HeartWave Meditation was released a week before the holidays, and the release was met with heartfelt intensity. It was the first product launch to which I had made major contributions, and I spent a lot of time soaking in the pool of its amazing content. Prior to its launch, I had already given up on the illusion of being able to meditate. But the flame that had been extinguished was lighting up again inside me.
A few attempts later, however, and I still didn’t feel anything.
But instead of heartbreak, I remained optimistically captivated that the process would work. A download of some free guided meditations voiced by Tami Simon from Sounds True took me into a visual journey that shifted my perspective of what meditation is all about: it’s a journey.
As soon as I finished the guided meditations, I played HeartWave Meditation. From that moment on, I finally understood the true meaning of letting go and bathing in a state of true being. By the time my right palm landed on my left chest, the small flame blazing inside me spread throughout my body. It was a baptism of fire.
This was months before Time Magazine declared 2014 the year of the mindfulness revolution. I finally felt I belonged. I felt like a rock star.
Since then, I’ve moved on from a life of almost constant cognitive and psychological damage brought on by the overwhelming city noise, but the memories of the early days of beginning my meditation practice are never far away. While the sounds couldn’t cloak the barrage of noise from a reverberating city, they could still amplify the hidden treasures muffled in my heart.
This experience has only been buoyed by the many kind souls who have shared their gifts of artistry with iAwake. The emergence of new and beautiful creations over the last few years have not only reached the deepest of my spirits, but also have strengthened my resolve to shift my perspective on humanity.
In the years of transition from a life unconscious and full of cynicism, there are days when my dedication to practice can still falter. As I tread through the mysteries this journey offers, I am rediscovering that this journey, just like any other journey, is not a straight path. The beauty that lies in this ambivalence is that there are always new stories to discover and new narratives to tell.
Part I in this series on personal transformation by Louie Santos is called From Fat To Fit: Finding Calm in the Tumultuous Journey of Weight Loss.
Louie Santos is the Business Development Director of iAwake Technologies. Louie’s work with the iAwake and Integral Recovery teams has changed his perspective on and approach to business development from a revenue-based to a mission-based model. He believes that the meditation practices introduced by iAwake Technologies and the recovery model introduced by Integral Recovery can change the world, beginning with the changes in our inner selves and our relationships.