OM Taught Me to Use My Sensitivity To Connect With Other PeopleBY CHRIS DAVIS
I was “winning” in that ridiculously American way, working constantly, afraid to pause for a second or the world would step on and over me. If my bank account wasn’t growing, I was shrinking and that meant I would have no standing in the world. I was a professional with a nice apartment and a wife. When we parted ways, I worked even more, round-the-clock, 24/7. If I was working, nothing else could get under my skin. I felt in control, a master in my domain. This continued for years.
My world became tiny; it was either the office or home. I wasn’t comfortable anywhere else. The larger world was growing more and more unmanageable and filled me with dread; sirens, traffic, beeping phones, fluorescent lights, Muzak, people. The stimulation was overwhelming and unbearable. It was like I had invisible straps across my chest and neck, always tightening and leaving me without air. Outside my door, anything could happen and it terrified me.
Then, I hit a wall, dead on, full frontal; I sank into a profound depression. The door of my apartment became the Great Wall between me and the world; I barely left my place for six months. I arranged everything to avoid interaction, sensation, and stimulation, even shopping at off hours when I knew other people were sleeping. I’d sit around hungry for hours, waiting for the store to empty out.
Something finally stirred in me after all those months and I started to feel a hunger for sensation and connection again. I began online dating. When I’d go out to meet people, my anxiety came along but at least it got me out of the apartment. One of my dates told about the OM practice; it seemed so outlandish, so far from where I was in my head, I couldn’t believe it was real. If OM couldn’t pull me out of my shell, I couldn’t imagine what could.
I found myself in an introductory course to OM; it felt really exciting, like bungee jumping or taking corners in a really fast sports car. My first OM was with a brain scientist gathering data for research; for some reason that really calmed me down. I approached the experience with the mindset of structured investigation. When I began going through the process, I was completely blown away.
Practicing OM felt a bit crazy; it was exhilarating, energizing, and so far out of my comfort zone. I felt I was flying.
For months, I'd been so scared of any stimulation. In OM, I felt waves of intense sensation, and I didn't have to brace or protect myself against them. I could stay present and just feel what was happening. Even though the sensations were powerful, there was also safety. It was like putting in a contact lens. Your eye has to be open. Your body tries to close the eye, but as you practice, you learn it doesn't hurt you, and then, when you get the lens in place, you can see.
For my first one hundred OMs, I wrote down everything; who my partner was; where we were; what time it was; what sensations stuck with me. I kept a detailed journal. It anchored the entire OM experience into something I felt I could control. It also told my story of coming back to life. It was such a big step when I hit that one hundred OMs.
I created enough presence of mind around sensation and feeling that I could remember it, like remembering how to get to the subway station. It just became a language I could feel and keep close. The whirlwind of sensation had no anchor, and I had no idea what was happening. I just knew it felt amazing.
I found myself seeking out sensation, instead of hiding from it behind my apartment door. Why should I be scared of something that might happen at a grocery store, when I can step into a room and OM?
OM softened me and helped me understand my own sensitivity, and it taught me to use that sensitivity to connect with other people. I started OMing to scratch an itch that had been itching for a long time. I had taken for granted that it would always be there, this nagging craving. OM was the medicine.
OMing helped me recognize my value. I was able to remember that people want to connect with me, which I had stopped believing when I was alone in my apartment for so long. In an OM, I could sense that what we were doing was good for me and good for the other person. Then I brought that simple mindset to other social interactions. I’m not socially nervous anymore because I feel that in every exchange we both me and the other person get something.
A while back, I was invited to speak in front of a crowd of people. I had never done any public speaking in my life. The thought of getting up before so many strangers would have shattered me to bits just a few months earlier. As I stepped up on that stage, I still didn’t know if I could do it. I walked to the microphone, opened my mouth and words just poured out. They were even in the right order, making sense! Not only could I speak, turned out I had a lot to say. I was free.