Meditation.

buddha

My blogger friend Jody has left this comment on my post on Writers’ Block.

“I was just thinking of you yesterday because I’ve begun to meditate again, and I was remembering that you have a practice that’s been going on for a long time. One day, can you share how it works for you? Before or after morning tea, how long, what do you feel it does to/with/for you?”

Beside that request another young lady Mona who receives my posts by email advice has asked me to write on meditation and other spiritual matters and so this post is dedicated to both these ladies. Mona has recently started to meditate and I am delighted that Jody has revived her discontinued practice.

To start with, I request Jody and Mona to visit my blog post Meditation which I wrote just over a year ago. More than the post itself, the comments and responses are more interesting in my opinion.

Let me however start off by sharing how it all started and come back to answer the specific questions that Jody raises.

In 1977 I was burning both ends of the candle when a friend suggested that I try Transcendental Meditation.  (TM).  I took to it in earnest and that was also the beginning of my spiritual journey as I inevitably started to study the Bhagwat Geeta that Maharshi Mahesh Yogi recommended. TM was of great benefit to me and I became quite an evangelist for the technique with my colleagues and friends. That led my then mentor and immediate boss to challenge me to go for a ten day Vipassana Meditation camp in 1984 and I got hooked. There was no looking back and till the year 2000 I attended at least one and sometimes two, ten day camps and a couple of short three day camps every year. I could not attend them anymore due to my preoccupation with my caregiving duties but I have kept the practice going without a break.

There is a significant piece of information that I must share here.  During both the TM and Vipassana initiation stages, my late wife enthusiastically joined me and got initiated too. Till she died five years ago following an eight year long convalescence from multiple cardiac and cerebral infarcts,  she practiced Vipassana every day without fail and I am convinced that her peaceful convalescence despite her dementia was due to the practice.

To come to Jody, my normal waking-up time, without the help of an alarm clock is 4.45 am every day. After a wash, I sit down for an hour long meditation session on an empty stomach. Morning tea and other chores are all only after this session. It is now a habit and I miss it if I don’t get the full hour’s session. Sometimes it does happen that I have to be satisfied with shorter sessions, like when I have to drop someone off or receive someone coming from the airport or railway station or I myself having to go out of town. Sometimes, I also meditate at some other part of the day but those sessions will be for shorter durations, from between 20 minutes to thirty. I also meditate while I travel as long as I am not driving that is! These sessions will be after at least an hour after any kind of food intake.

How have I have benefited? Let the Buddha answer!
Buddha and meditation

Mona who has met me personally will vouch for these to be true in my case.

Medically, I am blessed with a natural low blood pressure system and meditation has certainly helped in keeping it there. In fact my two surgeons who have operated on my hip joints on five different occasions have remarked on this at each operation. I am also naturally endowed with a cheerful disposition and I think that meditation has enhanced this aspect of my personality too.

In Vedanta, there are four states of being , waking, dreaming, deep sleep and a state that is simplyh called the fourth.  The last is being in a state of consciousness where one is  consciously witness to all the three states. Advanced meditators reach this stage of awareness. I am not at that stage yet but am sure to reach there eventually. I am in no hurry. It will happen when it has to, but I do get moments of intense clarity and awareness off and on and it is happening more and more frequently since the last surgery three years ago.

No, I am not a saint. Not yet anyway! I do occasionally flare up in anger but that does not last longer than a few moments and I am back to normal in a trice. I occasionally do go into whymeitis but here again my recovery is rapid and without rancour or regret.  I was the sole caregiver for my late wife till she died and was able to manage that responsibility as well as running my household without stress.   Between end 2008 and end 2012 I went through a mentally and physically challenging period due to another caregiving responsibility.  I am convinced that I would not have survived that period had it not been for my practice which helped me in keeping my sanity intact.

The spiritual journey that started with the initiation into TM way back in 1977 has taken me into the study of Vedanta under a Guru / Sishya parampara system. This consists Shravanam, Mananam and Nidhidyasanam. The first is to listen and learn from a qualified teacher, the second is to internalise the learning by study and the third is to reflect on the learning through meditation. My Guru has now released me from the first requirement and has instructed me to focus on the second and third aspects. Eventually, this path will lead me to Samadhi and Moksha. The last may not be in this lifetime but it will happen now that I am on the path.  It is said that Religion is belief in someone else’s experience and spirituality is having your own experience.  I would rather call myself as a Spiritual person than a religious one.  To a large extent, I have evolved into one over a period of time largely influenced by my meditation practice.

I trust that Jody and Mona find this useful.  I will be happy to respond to questions from them as well as from others who may want to explore this topic further.

A Week Of Questions.

Grannymar had posted these questions with her own answers and I thought that I should do the same in my blog as it certainly helps with one more topic to post!

What is the best part of being a blogger, writer and/or photographer?
Keeps me out of mischief.

When you are reminiscing with friends, what is your favourite story to tell?
The one that appears in my mind within the context of the discussion.

What is your favourite place in the world?
My comfort zone. My home with all the conveniences that have been provided for me.

When you are looking for inspiration where do you search?
I depend on my intuition.

Are you a morning person, a night owl or somewhere in between?
I am at my best in the mornings.

What animal best represents your personality?
Alley cat.

What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you?
An entire 1305 word letter from my brother which concluded with; “Ramana my dearest brother, all I can say is that no matter how much money I was offered, I could not have performed what you did for my father. All I can say, is thank you my brother, and probably wrongly, on behalf of my father, may I thank you, I know that he never did, but I am doing so on his behalf. You and your son, and your now departed wife are superhuman, otherwise you could not have done what you three did. God Bless you and keep you. I believe that you will, some day be rewarded for your efforts.”

Weekly Recap – 10.

Saturday was a day of a house full of ardent animal lovers who came to finalise a program of action at the initiative of my son Ranjan who is deeply involved in this activity. For the first time, I met some people whose names I had heard of but had never met. One of them was a lady that I used to see in our local park without knowing anything about her and thinking of her as being rather aloof, and it was gratifying that she was a warm caring person willing to go out of her way to see that stray animals got a humane treatment.

As though that was not enough, Ranjan’s girl friend brought home-made Modaks which sent my father into rapture and me into nostalgia for my mother’s cooking.

Sunday had me reading a remarkable book on Vedanta about which I had not heard till very recently. It is by an author who I regard highly for being enlightened and gracious and it was everything that I expected from an author of his caliber.

Monday brought great news in that my GP who had been ill for 8 weeks had resumed his clinic. I went to congratulate him and to welcome him back as well as to update him on my own problems. He perused all the reports and gave the green signal for the surgery and this was music to my father’s ears, who wanted his confirmation.

The carpenter who is to modify some furniture for my future use came over and took measurements and assured that everything would be ready by the time I returned from the hospital.

A difficult client was handled tactfully and his fresh orders booked.

Tuesday brought great news that my physician sister in law and her husband, my cousin, will be in Pune during and immediately after my surgery to keep my father comfortable. That is the best news that I could have hoped for.

My classmate in Vedanta studies and fellow spiritual traveler surprised me with a book on Vedanta, a primer as it were, which had been out of print for some time and which I very much wanted. I had given my copy away to my nephew who is just starting his own jouney and I have found it necessary to go back to basics and this book is truly a Godsend. Thank you Kusum.

Wednesday brought bad news as well as good news in that a dear friend of mine, a fellow member of the Replaced Hips Club, fell down and got seriously injured. Luckily, despite abrasions and lesions, no bones were broken and her replaced hip is intact. She needs to rest and recover and it gave me great pleasure to advise her to do that as, she has been badgering me with that advise for some time now.

Wednesday also saw my interview for a caregivers portal being published; and another friend coming to my help with a wheel chair for another friend. I am not at liberty to write about either in detail, but two people benefited by my being a mutual contact and I was able to be of help to someone badly in need.

Thursday was quiet. Very quiet. Two books on Indian mythology and civilisation that I was looking forward to reading came.

Friday, got me finally chatting with my friend who was able to let me know the latest position on her injury. She still has to undergo further tests but for now she is resting and recouping from the shock of her mishap. I was able to connect with a caregiver having a stressful time and to give some encouragement.

Modern Medicine And Caregiving.

I prefer not to write on Friday mornings as I have to post the LBC post in the evening anyway. Today is however an exception, as the topic that I want to write about just demands to be let out of my system.

I met a neighbour and friend yesterday after a long time. He has been busy the last couple of years helping his wife battle cancer, and though we have been seeing each other and would wave to each other, we had not found the time to have a quiet chat till yesterday, when both of us met while walking.

He is a completely transformed person. The confident, joyful and joking person has morphed into a morbid, shaky and unsure person. The doctors have given up hope and have stopped all treatment for his wife. It took them two years of all kinds of test, treatments, re-tests, hospitalization, relapses, treatments again and so on and so forth. He is so confused about the present, leave alone the future, that I had no words to comfort him. When I asked him how best I can be of help in his present condition, he simply said, pray for his wife and him.

On my return home, quite shaken by that meeting, I received a phone call from another friend to inform me that his wife passed away the day before. She too died of cancer, but did not suffer for as long or in the way my neighbour’s wife has suffered.

The difference between the two cases, is that in the latter, the doctors told both of them clearly in the beginning that the case was hopeless and at best another few months of living could be assured, but in great discomfort for the patient and the family. The wife, the brave lady and her husband, much against the wishes of other so called well wishers, decided to go the route of controlling the pain with drugs and face the end together. From the time of the first diagnosis and the passing away, it took just over six months. During that period, she was pain free but totally bedridden and my friend patiently looked after her like he would a baby.

Yesterday in the evening, I was talking about these two cases with another friend who sent me a link to an article in the New York Times, which I seem to have missed reading. It makes for poignant reading and I wish to share that story with my readers. Unusually, I had a restless night thinking about how medicine seems to be doing many wrong things and playing havoc with patients and their care givers.

I am still in a disturbed frame of mind, as sooner or later, I may well have to face similar situations either as a patient or a care giver, and despite telling myself that I should take things as they come, one day at a time and all the other formulae, morbid thoughts have been haunting me, and I hope to use this writing exercise to provide me with some catharsis.

Visitor.

Some of my readers will know that exactly a month ago, I had to attend the funeral and subsequent thirteenth day ceremonies for my aunt who was the grand matriarch of our family. She was 97 and the last few years of her life had been quite stressful for my cousins and their respective spouses.

When she passed away, she was living with her eldest surviving son in Navi Mumbai, which is New Bombay. My cousin and his doctor wife were the care givers for her and went through a great deal of stress doing an admirable job of providing care for her.

My cousin, currently called very affectionately and our cheeks firmly in our cheeks as the Clan Chief, CC for short, wanted to get away from it all for some time, and decided to come over to Pune to spend some quality time with me.

That he did the last two days and the two of us had a grand time catching up with each other and talking family politics and generally had a great relaxing time together. He left earlier today after lunch and has just confirmed that he has reached home safe.

For me, it was male bonding at its best. He and I had got fairly close to each other over the last twenty five years or so when both of us were living in Bombay. He and his remarkable wife had always been great hosts and affectionate kin for me and Urmeela. Since both of us are now retired, we have been planning a meeting like this for quite some time, and finally we did it in an atmosphere free of tension and care giving. I am extremely satisfied with the outcome and hope to have more of them.

Next on the agenda is for the two of us to drive down to a gated community for senior citizens near where he lives to scout possible retreats for us when we eventually decide to quit city life, which is not too far off. I hope to do that within the next few weeks. I shall keep my readers informed.

The Complicated Me?

This post has been in the making for some time and finally was triggered by a recent exchange of mails between me and a very perceptive and dear friend. I hope that this is the catharsis that will bring about some badly needed change.

A little background. My friend had been hard of hearing for many years and only about a year ago was fitted with hearing aids after a successful surgery for cochlear transplant. The two of us meet infrequently but exchange mails and SMS messages often.

The exchange was triggered off by a reference to a book by my friend who wanted me to check out and if found interesting enough to buy it. I checked it out, found it not up to my current levels of interest in the subject of social psychology, and advised him about it. That led to another set of exchanges, starting with this:

“Rather surprised. The impression I took away from my last visit to you was of someone increasingly impatient with appearances. On the other hand your blog suggests that the Tambram in you wont go without a Nobel. Perhaps the breaks that arise so subtly in our dialogue are due to this. (Tambram is short for Tamil Brahmin, the community to which I belong. For a great write up on the community, you can read a literary icon of India, Kushwant Singh here.) My friend suggests that despite many dissimilarities with the stereotype, my innate Tambram qualities come out unexpectedly and with some impact on the immediate neighborhood!

“The dialogue that I refer to is with with one of the many yous. The you on the gaddi ( Gaddi is the ceremonial chair that Gurus sit on.) at the moment is said to be the Sage of Kalyaninagar but I have a feeling that he has been installed there by a you that’s in rebellion against another you. You’re quite a complicated guy!” ( I live in Kalyani Nagar, a suburb of Pune, and my friend lives in St. Patrick’s Town, another suburb, about fifteen Kms away)

I responded with this message:

“I yield to the sage of St. Patrick’s Town. I am complicated only to those who try to find hidden agendas in me! I simply do not have any. I wear my heart on my sleeve as it were! This being so unusual that people tend to find me a very complicated fellow!”

This led to some more exchanges which are not relevant to this topic, but ended with this message:

“My mistake, incurred in the course of conversations in the pre-cochlear days. Reinforced by the evidence of Tambram irregularities. Seriously speaking though, you do appear to be groping your way through some inarticulate crisis. Obviously something to do with your wife’s demise but more than that at the same time.”

The last paragraph is very perceptive of my friend. I have been noticing a tendency to be short tempered and easily annoyed in the recent past. Today, at lunch, an innocuous statement by my father sent me off into orbit and it took me some time to cool down and get back to my normal self.

Some post lunch meditation and introspection helped me to identify the problem of a simmering “Why me-itis”. I have now been a caregiver for nine years and perhaps it is natural to want out. After my wife’s passing away in March, I have been focused on looking after my father and perhaps have over done that. Yet, present compulsions prevent any drastic decisions towards achieving that status of wanting out. This is the possible reason for the “inarticulate crisis”. I am not a psychologist, but this makes sense to me. Between my father and me, “Status Anxiety”, each coming from Head of the Household positions into a unavoidable yet a new equation is upsetting to both. This in turn is perhaps making me appear as I do to my friend.

I need to work on that understanding a bit, lest I end up being a care receiver instead of a care giver. This possibility was advised to me by my late wife’s Cardiologist who warned me to live my life too. I have not been doing that the way I can, and I think that I should now change.

I wonder if I will be nominated for the Nobel for introspection and blogging about it! The Tambram in me will then be satiated.