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.

Silence.

Welcome to the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where Ashok, Conrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar and I write on the same topic. Please do visit the linked blogs to get five different flavours of the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Grannymar. Grannymar is lucky! Of all of us, she would know most about this topic.

“True silence really means going deep within yourself to that place where nothing is happening, where you transcend time and space. You go into a brand new dimension of nothingness. That is where all the power is. That is your real home. That is where you really belong, in deep Silence, where there is no good or bad, no one trying to achieve anything. Just being, pure being. Silence is the ultimate Reality.”
~ Robert Adams.

Way back in 1978, I was on the fast track career-wise and burning the candle at both ends with a great deal of social obligations. My dear friend Sultan advised me to take to Transcendental Meditation (TM) made popular by the Beatles. Sultan had heard a lecture on the benefits of this technique and thought that I may yet be saved if I took to it. I did. After only about a week of regular practice ie. twice a day for twenty minutes each session, there was so much change in me that Urmeela wanted to learn and she did. Both of us regularly meditated and that was the turning point in my life, both in my career and personal life. Nothing else changed. The pressures of the career and social obligations remained, but I changed .

It simply meant that I was contacting that Silence that the opening quote talks about and the contacting was impacting my mind and body in a very positive way.

That exposure led me to study Indian spirituality for the first time and that has remained my first priority reading till today. It also led me to seek others on the same path and my spiritual progress has been enriched by those connections.

Six years later, in 1984 my mentor and boss at work, challenged me to successfully complete a ten day meditation camp to learn and practice Vipassana meditation. The requirements were to agree to ten days of total silence, no intoxicants and abstinence. Not one to let a challenge pass by, I attended a camp – and got hooked. So did Urmeela, once again seeing the beneficial effect it had on me. Both of us switched over to Vipassana. I started attending a minimum of one full 10 day camp and one or two short camps every year till, other compulsions made it impossible for me to go away for such long breaks from normal life. My practice however continues and I can no longer be without that daily dose of meditation. The exposure to such intense silence and meditation changed me completely.

The single most important aspect of meditation is the getting in touch with the Silence. All other benefits sucha s, increasing mindfulness, understanding and internalising impermanence, are byproducts, as beneficial as they may be. In that Silence lies my present and future.

Naturally, I prefer that Silence even during non meditation times and have been able to become a good listener because of that preference. This has had the unintended result of my becoming a mentor for many people who seek me out. I inevitably guide them to start any form of meditation that they will be comfortable with. I do not teach them, but guide them to teachers who can. I have seen some remarkable changes taking place in them with that, the most important being less agitated and stressed.

Silence and solitude go hand in hand. It is ecstasy when I can get it. I can be very creative and mindful in whatever I do, thanks to the regular getting in touch with my Silence in solitude.

Religion/Spirituality

Ashok, the youngest of the quartet on this Friday consortium binge, for all his youth, chose a topic totally unexpected from him. I hope that this post comes up to his very high standards. The other two, apart from me, Grannymar and Conrad, are seasoned travelers on this route. Both on the Friday posts, and the subject matter. Hints of their capability have seeped through, in their blog posts and I hope that they too would find this post interesting. Grannymar hopefully will withdraw the punishment that she gave me last week for not coming up to her very rigid standards of propriety.

“The hardest lesson in life, is to know which bridges to cross, and which to burn.”
-Anonymous.

“Nothing can be taught to a man; but it is possible to help him find the answers within.”
-Galileo Galilei.

And that sums up my journey from religion to spirituality.

I understand Religion to mean the various actions one takes to establish contact with the Divine.

Like all Hindus, my exposure to religion started from my first being aware of being a person. The constant teaching to pray, attend poojas, invoke God before meals, before falling sleep, before writing anything, asking for blessings, things and so on and so forth. Rituals, rites, group affairs, prayer songs, functions, the upanayanam, an important land mark in a Hindu’s youth when he is given knowledge of Brahma and given a sacred thread to wear. Exposure to our Mythology, Traditions, Legends and lore too played a great role in shaping my religious being.

In India, everything is religious. Nothing is ignored. If one’s foot accidentally touches another, an immediate apology in the form of a Namaste is given, because the other is Divine. If a coin or a currency note falls down, it is picked up and an invocation is said apologizing Goddess Lakshmi for the insult. A sacred symbol is written on top of the page before anything is written. Before studying anything, the Goddess Saraswati is invoked to bless the endeavour.

A lifelong obsession with all these and festivals including marriage and funeral ceremonies being converted into religious occasions sums up a Hindu’s life. Everything that happens, good or bad is attributed to Divine intervention. All commitments are made with the proviso, “God willing!”

My life till my mid teens was no exception. I went through all these things. Belief and Faith was drummed into my head with precision and regularity.

This was in the midst of the Rationalist and Atheist movement gaining strength in the South of India where I was then located. If from one side religion was being drummed into my head, from another side, rationalism and atheism was. I succumbed to the latter due to “peer pressure”. By the time I was sixteen, I was an atheist and a hedonist. Life was good.

Many things happened subsequently in my life, but religion played no part in it except in one case, when a Roman Catholic girl that I was interested in, insisted that I convert to Roman Catholicism before even getting engaged. I attended catechism classes and took serious instructions from her Father Confessor. I could not be convinced, and that relationship broke up. So that attempt at organized religion also failed. Life was good. Life began to revolve around spirits – Rum, Gin, Beer, Whisky, and when not available, hooch.

Fast forward to my early thirties. Something kept nagging me to give religion a shot again. So, I went back to practicing some rituals and visiting temples of worship etc. Life was good. The spirits continued to flow.

Came mid thirties and I was on the fast track in my career burning the candle at both ends. Step in an atheist friend of mine, who incidentally continues to be one of my dear friends and an atheist, who introduced me to Transcendental Meditation, yes the very same that the Beatles took up to. He thought that I would handle my stress better with that technique. I did, and curiosity took me to studying the subject of meditation and I was hooked into spiritualism. That initiation and the subsequent practice as well as reading of various books on matters spiritual, comparative religion etc, put me on a different tack completely. Life got better. The spirits continued to flow, but now the most sophisticated variety, like Single Malts!

Came the early forties and my mentor and then immediate boss, with whom I had many occasions to exchange views on spiritual matters, challenged me to attend a Vipassana meditation camp. I accepted the challenge and that ten day camp, transformed me and the path that it led me to, is the one that I continue to be on today. The importance of spirits started to decline.

So, from the chaotic and totally unstructured Hinduism, I travelled the Atheist route back to Hinduism and then, dare I say, got promoted to spiritualism due to unquestionable serendipity. So, it all boils down to serendipity after all. Came my late fifties, and the spirits simply disappeared from my life. Hedonism too just fell off by itself.

I understand spiritualism to mean, the real-ization that I am a spiritual being having a human experience. This implies that every other person and being in creation too is the same. If that trend of thought is to be taken to its logical conclusion, every ‘thing’ is one. The path that I am on now, should hopefully take me to that real-ization.

I accept that Religion has its place in society, but it is not for me. I am on a different ‘high’. I also accept that Atheism too has its place in society. It is just not for me. While I can defend myself about this, I simply do not wish to.

Post Script: Grannymar, Ashok never did take up your suggestion for brevity. I am glad that he did not. I would not have been able to do justice to this subject, had he agreed.