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.

Care Giving.

My care giver friend Swapna shared this link with our internet group of caregivers on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, on June 15, 2012.

Before that, I had read this horror story. A while later another perceptive here.

In a response to Swapna, I had quipped – “Swapna, will you join me in starting a movement against abuse of care givers by the elderly?”

Swapna responded – “Ah, Ramana, this is a problem that is even more invisible than caregiver role or elderly abuse…Everyone says “they are your elders” and expects one to take the verbal and physical abuse done by elders as a sign of “respect”…I think ignoring this very real abuse is hypocritical. Say, I suggest you start systematically blogging about it; it is definitely a problem worth opening up about.”

Here I go to get the ball rolling. Can’t say no to Swapna can I?

I have been a care giver now for over eleven years. The first nine years for my late wife Urmeela who was incapacitated by multiple cerebral and cardiac infarcs and who suffered from dementia and other related problems. That care giving experience was pure pleasure and an experience that I would not mind undergoing once again. Urmeela was an ideal patient who understood her limitations and agreed to be cared for without any conditions. She would occasionally be lucid and would express her gratitude for all that I did for her and it was a pleasure listening to her on those occasions when she would be back to her normal ways. They were few and far between and that was my only regret.

My now 95 year old father came to live with me just a few months before Urmeela died. It has now been over three and a half years that he has been living with me. My care giving problems started in January of 2010 when he fell down and fractured his right femoral head. He had to be hospitalised and subsequently provided with round the clock male nursing care for two months. He recovered but that set back made an already cantankerous personality more so, primarliy because his hearing was rapidly deteriorating and even the use of hearing aids would not help. His hypochondria worsened and that was accompanied by ill temper and impatience. His mind and intellect is still in excellent shape but he is unable to keep pace with his body. Since the last four months, his kidneys have started to malfunction, his eye sight is weakening and he has lost all control over his sphincter muscles and bladder and is incontinent.

Prior to coming to live with me, he was totally independent and the lord of all that he purveyed, and his subsequent rapid decline has affected his personality which at the best of times was any way cantankerous. His expectations from me are that of a patriarch who insists on being served by his offspring. Since none of the other children are around to oblige, I bear the brunt.

His abusive behaviour did not cross such limits that I could not manage it, but on a few occasions I did have to suggest that I move him to an old people’s home to lower the heat. On a couple of occasions he volunteered to move out on his own and when he saw how with alacrity I was willing to oblige him by finding out details etc, he changed his mind.

Now, the abuse is neither verbal nor physical but with emotional blackmail through great play acting. Having seen through that, I do not react and that makes it imperative for him to improve on his histrionics. Since my sense of humour kicks in, I can handle that too. His not taking responsibility for his actions and words with the complacent “I have always been like this” attitude can be very grating.

His current way of abusing is to demand all kinds of things like a TV for his room, snacks from distant suppliers, summoning the cable service person to attend to imagined faults, scolding the help, asking for immediate medical attention, homeopathic medicines not locally available and so on. The worst is when he complains about the diaper being too tight or too loose or not properly fastened and so on.

Such abuse is pea-nuts compared to what many other care givers go thorough when the patient suffers from Alzheimers, Dementia etc and we have, at the initiative of Swapna and another caregiver Shikha, started caregivers group mail and FB page and use those forums for raving and ranting and extending moral and other supports to each other. The point however is that care givers receive abuse from the care receivers as well. When I had arranged for professional care givers, my father’s feudal behaviour would drive them nuts too and it took a lot of my interceding to see that they kept at it. This too is a permanent feature of other caregivers’ lives with constant turnover of hired help due to the patient’s inability to accept help from outsiders.

Swapna’s latest post has given me, and I am sure other caregiver followers of her blog, hope that it will be alright in the future.