Do you have any difficulty in calming your mind? I have! Do you meditate daily? Meditation is a buzzword these days, especially in the corporate world and among busy business people who do not have time to eat or sleep!
I was introduced to meditation by my brother in 2005. Which is not to imply that I am doing meditation daily for the past 14 years. I am not! But I do try to do it whenever I feel really stressed out either mentally or physically.
The thumb rule is that one should meditate for the number of minutes per day equal to one’s age. Thus, a 20-year-old needs 20 minutes per day. So it’s always better to start when you are young. I am told that it is always good to meditate as soon as one gets up in the morning and preferably before breakfast. Also that it is best if one meditates at a particular time and place daily. However, I haven’t been able to follow any of the above due to various reasons.
When I enrolled for a meditation class a few years ago, first, the instructor would ask the class to sit in a crossed-legged position on the floor. I don’t know about you, but it is very difficult for me to sit in this position, also called the ‘lotus’ posture. I may have sat thus, a handful of times in my life! On my wedding day (Hindu wedding rituals and all that), on my two kids’ ’28th-day’ (noolukettu) functions, a few housewarming poojas, and so on. It is really difficult and painful for me to sit thus for more than a few minutes. I used to have a tough time during my school days and also during my Veena classes.
In the meditation class, after correcting the sitting posture, the instructor would ask us to close the eyes and concentrate only on the breath. The main challenge then was that even if I was ‘in the present’ till then, as soon as the eyes were closed, lots of thoughts rushed into the mind. The more I tried to ignore them the more they came. One thing I had happily concluded then was that I was not under the threat of Alzheimer’s disease! I could remember everything in my past when I closed my eyes to start meditation.
The instructor used to say loudly, ‘inhaaale’, and ‘exhaaale’, to get the class to properly time the inhalations and exhalations. Once while doing a powerful inhalation I got the smell of ‘ghee roast’ (dosa) from her kitchen. I opened my eyes only to find the instructor glaring at me. She said loudly: ‘Close your eyes and exhaaale.’
Days passed by. I had other instructors, books, and Youtube channels. I was and still am being bombarded daily from everywhere with the enormous benefits of meditation. Still I have not been able not master the very first step: sitting in the lotus position!
Last month while travelling I carried a book, Concentration by Ernest Wood with me. A book always accompanies me whenever I travel. Papa had asked me to buy this particular book just three days before his disappearance from this physical plane in 2016. I used to flip through the pages of this book since then, but never attempted to read it seriously.
My understanding was that meditation is used to enhance concentration and calm the mind! But this book says that concentration is a preparatory ability one should master before attempting meditation! I became confused and curious. That is when I decided to read this book properly and completely.
According to the author bodily disharmony can make mental exercises difficult. Thus my difficulty in maintaining the basic lotus posture was/is the major hurdle in my meditation journey. These days at home, whenever I try to meditate I sit on a chair. But the lotus posture is still in my bucket list. 😉
The author prescribes a few ‘simple’ bodily exercises one should do daily to master concentration. One of them is the ‘standing still’ exercise: ‘With your watch in sight, stand still for five minutes in front of a mirror.’ Initially, I took this lightly. But then I found that it is not as easy as it sounds. Please try for yourself and see.
Others are breathing, bending and relaxing exercises. There are some for the eyes and neck too. This reminds me of what happened once when I went to the doctor for a stiff neck. He suggested some neck exercises and said, ‘You are as young as your neck’! So take care of your neck.
I like the author’s solution to ‘wandering’ of the mind: Each time we encounter a thought just tell it, ‘I am practicing concentration now, please come back later.’ Every time we bring the mind back from wandering, we are actually building the muscle of concentration. I am practising this technique now.
These are the lessons I learned during my meditation journey:
- I can choose any comfortable posture while meditating. But I should not lie down. Then I will fall asleep.
- It is better if my hands or at least fingers touch each other. This locks and guides energy flow and reflexes to the brain. (I use the gyaan or chin mudra: the tips of the thumb and index finger touch to form a circle with the remaining three fingers stretched and the palm facing upward.)
- While meditating my stomach should neither be full nor empty. A full stomach can make me fall asleep. And an empty stomach brings unwanted thoughts of ‘ghee roast’ to mind. So I usually have something light like a banana to kill the growl in my stomach.
- There will be days when I am caught up with the daily routine or travel and I will completely forget to meditate. But that’s okay!
- I realized that the longer my breaks from meditation, the harder it is to start again. So consistency and perseverance are very important.
- Don’t aim for enlightenment or try to find the answer to ‘Who am I?’ Just meditate daily. And the results will show. (Whatever they may be!)
My meditation journey is a ‘work in progress’. How about you? How often do you meditate? Daily? Please share the experiences of your meditation journey.
Happy empty nesting 🙂
You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour. ~ Old Zen Saying