A perfect blend of mischief and wisdom, Sarah Yost says that she is the happiest person she knows! A graphic designer by profession and a regular meditator for six years, Sarah has also taught the practice to thousands of youth. Here, in a brief chat wth Divya Sachdev, she reveals the secret to her mischievous personality, sharing that meditation helps her play better pranks!
Q - We hear that you are very mischievous and love playing pranks. Does meditation play a role here?
Yes (laughs). I love to goof around! I can play and joke and mess around with just about anyone. It brings in me a feeling that we are coming together as a family, a feeling of community. Meditation is the same way, it gives me this sense that everyone is close to me. And that’s when the party starts!
Q - So how long have you been meditating and what is your meditation routine like?
I have been meditating regularly for six years. I meditate twice a day – in the morning and then again in the afternoon or evening. Every few months I like to go for a more intensive meditation program. This is a bit like going to the dentist – everyday you brush your teeth, but once in a while it’s good to go for a deep cleaning. Afterward, I feel brand new – so fresh, clean and energetic.
Q - In what areas of your life has meditation contributed?
I have always been a creative person. I get a lot of ideas and excitement to do new things. But earlier in my life, I wouldn’t often have the stamina to implement those ideas. My enthusiasm would drop off quickly or I would become overwhelmed.
After regular practice of meditation, I am able to execute the ideas that come up, instead of letting them drop. I have more endurance, determination and commitment in my life.
Now when an idea for a project comes up, I have the strength to make it happen. So much power has come into my life because of this. I see myself taking bigger and bigger responsibilities. I feel like I can influence the world – and I do!
Q –So is it about the confidence that the idea is going to work or about the never-fading excitement to implement the idea?
It is definitely the excitement but also the confidence that I can work things out step by step. I feel more empowered to do it. It is also about mental clarity, focus and consistency.
Another way meditation has changed me is that earlier I could be closed off to people or guarded. The idea of meeting new people and becoming friends was a little intimidating. Especially as I finished college and stepped into the professional world, staying in a big city where everyone seemed strangers.
As I began meditating, this changed. A sense of connection and intimacy with others came up in me without any effort. Whatever stiffness or distrust I carried, dropped away and I ceased feeling such strong boundaries between myself and others. Instead, everyone felt so close and dear to me, even just making conversation with someone on the metro or at the grocery store. I think a lot of compassion was waking up in me.
Now deep friendships happen very quickly and naturally in my life. It has become so easy and fun and enriching to be with others.
I think when you go deep in meditation, you realize that the boundaries between yourself and others are just a perception of the mind and that the deeper truth is that there exists some sort of oneness and belongingness in all living things. In meditation, you experience this at a deep level and then it naturally expresses itself in your life in the outer world.
Q - You have such a smiling personality. Does this joy come from meditation?
Oh yes! It’s kind of funny because before I started meditating, I was depressed for many years with medication and hospitalization. But now if I tell people that, they don’t believe me! They only see that I am so happy now. Which is true – I am just about the happiest person I know!
Q - You have taught meditation to a lot of youngsters. How do you think meditation goes beyond age?
Meditation definitely transcends age, gender, nationality, everything because inside, there is oneness.
For youth, the cool thing about meditation is that it helps you to be dynamic. When you are young, you want to learn new things, make new friends, experience everything; for this, you need dynamism and meditation is the best way to harness this energy. It’s only through deep rest that we can be fully dynamic in activity.
For older people, meditation is the way to slough away the stress and bring back the youthful qualities in them – to be bright, optimistic, enthusiastic and glowing!
Q - How was the experience of the youngsters you taught meditation to?
It’s natural for youth to be enthusiastic, joyful and social. But they become so stressed because of life, relationships, social issues, and so forth.
When I first started teaching meditation, I was living in Washington, DC, where in the inner city, there are a lot of social issues such as poverty, poor education and gang violence. These young people have witnessed so much in their short lives. Meeting them, it felt like their natural enthusiasm and joy has been covered by something. They had become very guarded and stiff.
But when they started meditating, the stress dropped off just like that! Their smiles came back right away. These techniques are so powerful.
Youth have so much energy and when it is channeled in a positive way, they can make such a huge impact on the world. Huge! It’s something I wish every young person to know – how powerful they are, how much they have to give.
Q - You say that after meditation, the energy can be directed in a positive manner. Have your students who have been meditating worked on any projects?
There are so many students who change from their self-destructive behavior to service, once they come to know who they really are.
Once there was a student who was so inspired by her experience in the course that on her own initiative, she applied for government funding to get our YES! program offered in more schools. Later, she came and told us, “Hey, guess what? We won thousands of dollars!” She had gone through the entire messy bureaucratic grant process and she was just 16 years old! We were all so impressed.
Another time, there was one group of university students who were inspired to mentor at the local high school. This was in an area where it was rare for students to even finish high school, whereas the university students came from well-off suburbs across the country. That project was awesome because it broke a lot of boundaries and expectations in both the groups. They continued with the mentorship for a long time and it helped both the groups to grow in life. That’s something about service - no matter how much you give, you always end up getting more back.
Q -Would you like to give any tips on meditation to youngsters who are beginning to meditate?
Don’t try too hard when you sit to meditate. Just relax and let go. It’s like when you are lying down to sleep, the less effort you put, the easier it goes. The same with meditation – just sit back and relax.
Q - Any message for the youth?
You have so much energy and enthusiasm; you can change the world. And these techniques will help. Every youth has a power within and meditation is the best way to bring it alive.
All the gifts we’ve been given in life are there so we can share them with others. I’d encourage young people to look inside and see how they can contribute to this world. Once you discover that feeling of purpose, nothing can stop you and nothing can make you unhappy.