“Greater is he (the spirit) that is in you, than he (the body) that is in the world.”
– I John 4:4, the Holy Bible
Ever since I was a teenager two things kept coming in my life at regular intervals. One anticipated financial riches, the other promised physical, intellectual and spiritual wealth. While I was curious about both with a desire to know them better, deep inside one always repelled, I had quite a fascination for the other. Both kept knocking my doors when I went to college and even when I joined work but each time I kept eluding them. It was as if two girls approaching me to marry – one with the modern hi-fi, showy, pretentious life style of a big city and the other filled with simplicity, peace, patience, true to her-self, ever- smiling with a beaming presence of a small city or a village. It was a battle of the mind and the heart. Finally, when I was nearing 30, I pursued the first one only to know what my true love is. With the kind of personality I possess, I had fallen in love with the second one long ago secretly. Out of shyness, couldn’t express my love for so many years. Well friends, my romance with the second one has just started.
Okay, while most of you might have guessed my love from the title of the blog, the other lady I was talking about is Amway (perhaps few of you might have guessed that as well for wherever and in whichever part of the world you go, it keeps chasing you :P). When I came to America for the first time in Dec’13, out of curiosity and the inner-spark to do something apart from routine work, and importantly be on a forum where you meet new people and attend those large business seminars, I finally joined Amway. After attending those meetings and seminars, I was fed up with the over-significance that was given to the word ‘money’ and seeing people applying hook and crook to lure prospects for expanding their networking business. I quit Amway for the good exactly after 51 days of joining. I appreciate my decision of joining Amway (and leaving it) for it made me realize my calling and purpose of my life and moreover I will never repent that I could have done something better in my finances had I joined it.
That was the time I realized my heightened passion for reading, writing, helping people without anything in return. More recently, from deep inside I felt a strong desire to meditate as if my lost love had been looking for me all these years. It’s been 35 days of mindfulness meditation and I feel happier, calmer, stress-free and at peace of mind. I am here today to share my thoughts on why we must meditate and that it is not a ‘should do’ or a ‘would do’, but a ‘must do’ stuff.
Further to my previous blog on the pursuit of an enriching inner life through self-awareness, today I present you insights on meditation which helps instill a higher degree of self-awareness. We live in a world where there is ever-growing egotism, desire for material possessions have taken over moral values and respect for fellow human beings. There is inability to love people; people seem to have forgotten the language of compassion and kindness. The ever growing sources of distractions and lack of moral values have led to imbalanced behavior. The un-healthy competition and everlasting battle to show others down and in the bad light has further led to performance pressures, dissatisfaction, joylessness and discontent. We seem to have forgotten our true selves, our divine selves and have associated more with the vices and uncalled for pleasures of the world.
Well friends it is time that we must connect to our inner selves; take responsibility for our own states of mind and change them for the better. Re-iterating the words from my previous blog, true self-improvement cannot happen without being self-aware and meditation is the most powerful and efficient tool to becoming fully self-aware. To further my statement that ‘self-awareness is the gateway to journey within’, I would go on to say – ‘meditation is the gateway to self-awareness’.
Before I delve deep into what meditation really is, I must clarify what meditation is not.
1. Meditation is NOT Relaxation: Relaxation makes us calm, gives a sense of serenity and rejuvenates our body. All these things are natural by-product of meditation. Meditation has much more to offer. It is as if relaxation is a small subset of meditation, and certainly not meditation.
2. Meditation is NOT Concentration: When we concentrate we fix our attention to a particular object, task, idea, or activity for a certain period of time. In meditation we do not project our attention towards an object, task, idea or activity; rather we simply remain aware of the moment without choosing anything to concentrate upon. Yes, concentration helps in learning meditation in the initial stage when we focus on our breathing but certainly it’s not meditation.
3. Meditation is NOT Exercise: Exercises such as postures or breathing do not constitute meditation. They only help establish some balance in the initial stage of meditation.
4. Meditation is NOT self-hypnosis: In hypnosis, an initial period of concentration on an object is required whereas in meditation, meditator maintains an awareness of the present moment and stays conscious of the meditative process which is not the case in self-hypnosis.
5. Meditation is NOT mental effort or Thinking: In meditation one does not apply mental effort, introspects or thinks, rather meditation is the art of letting go and surrendering oneself.
In addition to the above, meditation is also not any sort of religious practice; it does not pertain to any particular religion. Furthermore, meditation certainly does not mean leaving the family life and going to mountains in pursuit of liberation (Rather I would say this very act of leaving is running away from your duties and responsibilities which form the basis of karma yoga).
“Meditation is listening to the song of the inner soul, seeing the beauty of inner-self, smelling the fragrance of the inner spirit, experiencing the touch of the divine inner energies, and tasting the intense sweetness of the inner god.”
-Dr. Amit Ray, Author of Om Sutra: Pathway to enlightenment
Meditation, one of the greatest discoveries of mankind, helps to re-discover ourselves, connect with our true identity with a whole bunch of health benefits as a by-product. It’s a technique to separate ourselves from the past or future at our will. Authentic meditation enables us to focus on the present moment rather than dwell on the unchangeable past or the undetermined future.
Friends, it’s important to understand meditation from inside-out. I will start right from the word ‘meditation’ itself. The word meditationcomes from two Latin words; ‘meditari’ means to think, to dwell upon and to exercise the mind while the second word ‘mederi’ means to heal. The Sanskrit derivation comes from the word ‘medha’ which means wisdom. Meditation trains and heals the mind bringing wealth of wisdom to it. Wikipedia defines meditation as ‘a practice in which an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end in itself.’
In simple words, I would say that meditation is a means of transforming the mind. By engaging in a meditation practice, we learn the patterns and habits of our mind. The practice offers a means to cultivate new and more positive ways of being. Meditation takes us to a state of thoughtless awareness and does not involve any effort or doing rather it is simply a state of being. Meditation helps access the cosmic intelligence of the universe which is the reservoir of all positive things like – bliss, wisdom, pure love, creativity, intuition, and deep peace.
Okay so why we must meditate? I would say for the simple reason of reaping its health benefits. Additionally, meditation is also a means to self-realization. It helps to put our mind in control. It helps you understand that you are not your body, neither your mind nor your thoughts. With this awareness we can learn to live fully in the present. Friends the true ‘I’ exists only in the present. Past or future or rather attachments to past or future are works of our imaginative mind. The day you grasp the fact that you are separate from your body or the mind, you can manage it better. It is just like we have rented the body and mind for a limited period from the creator of this universe. So as to say, Narendra (the body), Narendra (the mind), and Narendra (the soul or the true Narendra) are three separate entities that happen to live in the same house (the body). In majority of us, the mind is the boss and controls the body and the soul which is a misfortune. There is least communication between the three. Majority of the action is performed by the mind and the body, of-course the mind commands and the body demands while the soul is asleep.
The mind keeps wandering in different directions every single moment. It is said that a person of average awareness thinks about 60,000 thoughts in a day. Friends, is it any surprising that with such a huge volume of inner traffic we lose touch with our true-selves. In this purview, it has become so essential to tap to our inner-selves and teach the mind – who is the boss? With better control over mind and body, we can limit the number of thoughts at our will and connect to our consciousness. Meditation or the art of stillness is the medium to do this and bring harmony and peace between the three entities that live in the body. Meditation unites the body, the mind and the eternal soul and when this happens in someone, miracles start to happen.
Meditation brings inner peace, gives energy to cope up with difficult situations and unites the heart and mind of people. Good meditation improves motivation, perception, cognition, creativity, attention and decision making ability. Overall it plays a significant role in improving the quality of life and brings about a personal transformation. We feel a paradigm shift in our being. Some of the benefits of meditation are listed out here.
Foundation for self-awareness: The most important of all benefits of meditation is the fact that it provides the foundation for self-awareness. It helps us focus on the present moment and stop worrying about unchangeable past or the undetermined future.
Health Benefits: Meditation lowers hypertension and high blood pressure while slowing down the heart rate. It lowers the levels of blood lactate which helps in reducing the anxiety attacks. It reduces stress and over a period of time helps to become (almost) stress free. It decreases any tension related pain
There are scientific research which proves that meditation helps improving the functioning of brain, improves metabolism and helps lose weight, increases immunity and helps fight disease, and even helps in getting a good night’s sleep.
Manage negative (and positive) emotions: It helps manage and have better control over negative emotions. The negative feelings of jealousy, hatred, greed, anger, frustration, anxiety and failures start disappearing from our personality. It brings emotional steadiness and harmony.
Attitude towards life will change for the better: We see the larger picture of things instead of small day to day problems. We start ignoring the petty issues that consumes much of our energy. We learn how to be more appreciative of the good deeds of others. We start enjoying the little moments of happiness that life provides every day. It helps us feel more connected to people and world.
Increases Concentration, self-esteem, spontaneity, creativity and depth of awareness: Meditation increase attention span and helps focus on one thing at a time there by increase our productivity. It helps boost our creativity and new ideas get generated. Our inner ability to solve complex problems increases.
Sense of Gratitude: Meditation helps develop a deep sense of gratitude and contentment. It makes us content with what we have. The desire for giving more increases.
Friends, meditation is a skill that we need to develop. It’s like a baby who tries to stand and then walk, he or she falls often but eventually is able to walk. In 35 days of my meditation journey so far, and I must admit I am still in the kindergarten stage; I have really struggled with anxiety and thoughts of doom and gloom occasionally getting the better of me. However as we progress along the journey, the ability to meditate becomes easy and the practice of meditation becomes the most enjoyable, most refreshing and life giving part of the day. It is a step by step journey into the subtler world of blissfulness and fulfillment.
There are thousands of meditation techniques and in each of them the basics remain the same. To start with I would recommend start meditating with as less as 5 minutes duration. It is said that a person should ideally meditate for duration equal to his age. For example a 30 year old should meditate for 30 minutes, however in order to get started and make a long-term and fun experience, we should start small. Meditation is made easy and fun with this 5-step process.
1. Choose a peaceful environment: Firstly we should choose a place with peaceful environment and possibly away from external distractions. This helps us focus on the task of meditating.
2. Stretch out: Now we Stretch out in order to minimize any tension or tightness existing in the body. This process helps us feel lighter and relaxed.
3. Duration of meditation: There after we decide how long we want to meditate. Possibly we may set timer. I would re-commend starting with 10 minutes.
4. Sitting Posture:We sit in a comfortable place on a chair or floor with our backs straight and gently close our eyes.
5. Focus on breathe: Finally we take three deep breaths and keep focusing only and only on breathe – from the source where it originates to the destination where it ends.
Friends, there are plenty of misconceptions in this regard. The ultimate goal of meditation is neither to know about your past lives nor to see the future; it is not even seeing some God we have visualized from the photographs or daily soaps we see on tv. After reading and listening to quite a few genuine experts in the field and with my current state of awareness, I can say the end goal of meditation is simply to become fully conscious and learn to live in the absolute present every single moment (literally).
Meditation is the beautification of our inner and outer world and it certainly starts from inside. It helps radiate positive energy wherever we go across the world. Dr. Amit Ray says all human beings are so deeply connected that we have no option but to love all. Friends, meditation manifests the potential to find inner peace for ourselves and contribute to the happiness of all beings. When we plant the seeds of love, nothing but kindness, compassion, peace, harmony and happiness blossoms all over. For whatever reasons we pursue meditation, be it for the personal transformation, or the development of a sound physical health or the pursuit of inner peace and endless love – meditation emerges as a factor essential for leading a balanced life.
Before I conclude, with this blog, I declare three important decisions I have taken today.
1. A book based on my experiences with meditation: With that immense love for meditation which is growing every single day, I have decided to pen it down in the form of a book. My first book based on my experiences with meditation will be published in 2 years from now.
2. Blog every 2 weeks: From today onward I will be publishing my blogs every 2 weeks for the next 1 year in a row. These blogs will be based on my learning’s and daily life experiences.
3. My website: My personal website will be live in roughly 2 months from now. This will include along with blogging a few more initiatives I look forward to kick-start. I will keep you posted.
“You exist in time, but you belong to eternity. You are a penetration of eternity into the world of time. You are deathless living in a body of death. Your consciousness knows no death, no birth. It is only your body that is born and dies but you are not aware of your consciousness. And that is the whole art of meditation – Becoming conscious of the consciousness itself.” – Osho
Wishing you the very best in your meditation practice. God bless humanity.