I first tried meditation when I was 16. It was the time when I was first introduced to the world of spirituality and personal development.
Now, 10 years later, my ideas, understanding and expectations of meditation, what it is exactly, and what it is for, is different to when I first started.
Back then, I remember sitting down, closing my eyes and trying desperately to “just not think about anything.”
I tried having conversations with myself in my mind with a voice that was kinder to me than I was.
I tried having conversations with myself in my mind with a voice that was not very kind at all.
I tried visualizing different scenarios that would make me feel good and relaxed.
I tried visualizing things I wanted to happen for myself.
I tried to think about all the things that I am grateful for, which quickly transformed into thinking about all the things that I dread and/or regret.
I tried meditating laying down. And took a little nap instead.
I tried counting to 100. Gave up at around 20. I tried counting back from 100.
I listened to guided meditations, repeated mantras, listened to music, listened to sounds of nature, tried to feel some kind of heaviness where my third eye should be. I realized I could lay down and bring my attention to my toes and feel the tingling of my awareness at my toes. But when I tried to do this with the spot in between my eyebrows…nothing. I was beginning to wonder if I even had a third eye at all.
I watched people in prayer, in meditation and I wondered with curiosity what was happening with them? It’s almost like I felt left out of something big. Like they had a secret contract with God, and I had nothing but white noise and velvety black.
Nothing seemed to “work”, or if it was, I wouldn’t have known, because I had no idea what meditation was really supposed to do. I just felt it was something important to life. I felt it was the path out of unhappiness, and into peace, clarity, awakening and ecstacy.
I tried so hard. And that was my lesson. I was trying so hard to do meditation like it was something you could do. Today, I have come to understand that you cannot do it. It is something completely, totally, unimaginably different. I find it hard to put this into words, but I will try to.
I was meditating, ticking it off my to-do list like an accomplishment, but I wasn’t feeling very accomplished. I felt broken. Like it wasn’t working on me. Something must be wrong with me.
So you want to meditate, and I’m glad for you. After 10 years, I honestly feel that meditating has changed me in an indescribably wonderful way, and touched my heart. It was a very slow, gradual process for me, with lessons to learn all the time. It’s only in the last year that I have started to feel closer to the heart of it. With every meditation, every month, and every year that passes, I slowly peel away more false ideas and expectations of what it is, and what I am left with changes my heart in way I never knew possible.
What I want to share in this blog post series are the things I wish I knew when I first started. Although, saying that, maybe it would have meant nothing to me at the time. Maybe I still had certain lessons to learn.
Through meditation, I started my own “Contract with God.” It is a relationship that I cannot put in words. And I realized it was not about meeting “him”. It was about becoming me. It was about meeting me in the golden stillness of my core.
So what exactly is meditation?
Speaking for myself, at 16, my understanding of meditation was that it is where you sit, close your eyes, and think of nothing. Then I learned that there many ways to meditate – you can repeat mantras, you can do guided meditations, you practice intense focus on one particular thing.
But this still isn’t it.
Meditation is a way of aligning all your energies together. Right now, our mind says one thing, our emotions say another, our body does something else. Our inner divinity and grace often doesn’t play much of a part in how we lead our lives. We’ve given the lead role to our thoughts and our thoughts are all over the place, and so are the other aspects of our beingness.
The benefits of meditation
A sustained meditation practice will help to slowly bring these together. To get all the wheels pointing in the same direction. Some of most fundamental benefits of being meditative is a reduction in stress and anxiety, deeper more restful sleep, protection from negative energy, a deepening sense of calm and peace.
If you continue your practice, then becoming meditative can create a space between us and our thoughts, us and our mind, us and our body. So that we can choose life, and not live a life of reaction.
And then it restructures our system entirely, and gives the lead role of our life to our inner grace.
Yes, we can sit with our eyes closed for 30 minutes and call this meditation. But meditation is a way of being, it is quality. That is why it makes more sense to say “becoming meditative” rather than “to meditate”.
A lot of our unhappiness as a person, and also in society comes from an intrinsic desire for self-preservation. We must survive at all costs. We must feel good about ourselves. We cannot have anyone or anything shatter our image of ourselves and how life should be. We put all our energies onto maintaining this, maintaining what can only be described as an illusion. And when we live for self-preservation, our guards are up. We live in our own bubble. We connect only when we need/want to, and if our capabilities allow us to. We separate ourselves from people to protect ourselves. We feel we can only really be ourselves, and we can only be truly blissful with a few select people in our lives because they make us feel safe.
But moments of ecstatic joy in life (Try to recall some for yourself), your guard comes down. We connect with everyone. We are free, and open. We express our love, our hope, our affection. This is the kind of thing that happens when people drink alcohol, and probably one of the reasons why people love to drink. I’m talking about that same uninhibited connection, joyfulness, openness. Imagine being drunk on life. This is what happens when all wheels point in the same direction, when there is space between you and your thoughts, and when your inner divinity guides you through life. Meditation helps Life and grace become the propelling force for living, and keeps our self-preservation instincts down.
If we are always worried about surviving, then we can never explore joyfulness. We can never explore the other dimensions of life.
A beautiful thing happened to me this last year. For years I tried to make meditation happen, but for the first time, meditation started happening to me. There were a few times (not many) where I felt that the only appropriate and natural thing to do now was to close my eyes, and go inside. To go inwards.
Just as eating food follows naturally from the state of hunger – there were a few times when the energies of my day/life/environment aligned in such a way that the natural progression was for my to close my eyes and go inside.
I remember thinking….so this is what it’s all about.
If you are new to meditation, in the beginning you will love coming to your practice. I guess because it’s so novel, and you feel a sense of accomplishment for just showing up. Keep meditating anyway.
Then it will become boring. Keep meditating anyway.
Then you will start HATING it. Keep meditating anyway.
Then you will decide that hey, maybe meditation is not for you. Keep meditating anyway.
Then you will find it boring again. Keep meditating anyway.
Then you feel neutral about it. Keep meditating anyway.
Then you will decide that – look, you’ve given it a good solid effort, but clearly meditating is not working for you. Maybe it’s time to stop. Keep meditating anyway.
Keep meditating, keep meditating, keep meditating.
And then slowly, but surely, things will change. You will blossom.
For myself, I first started feeling deep changes last year. Somehow, I was able to stay in meditation for longer periods of time. My meditative state felt “gooey and sticky”, I felt like I wanted to stay for longer. I remember when I first started, feeling that time passed so slowly and I was looking forward to when I could go and do something else. But now, I can melt into my senses and the warm blackness of myself. My thoughts still come, some days more than others, but I feel fine about it (more on this tomorrow.) But usually, in my meditative state, my thoughts are very light and wispy, not heavy like they used to be, not demanding my attention like they used to. They don’t bother me.
I began to notice shifts in my understanding and realizations about life happening quite frequently for me. I feel a pull to go deeper. To experience more.
Late last year I attended a course to learn Isha Yoga’s Surya Kriya. I highly recommend this, and any and all of the Isha programs. On the day of the course, while meditating in my room before we started, for the very first time, I felt a sensation at my third eye chakra. My entire state was completely heightened.
Since then, practicing Surya Kriya has been a very powerful part of my practice that has accelerated some kind of spiritual process within me. Since then, I feel that my baseline level of joy is much higher. And there were moments when I would feel an intense feeling of happiness for no reason at all. There are a few times that I can literally sit there feeling completely blissful for no reason at all. I keep coming back to my practice for this feeling.
For Shivarathri 2016, I followed the 40 day fast (no food or drink till 12pm every day), and a 21 day sadhana in preparation for the big night of wakefulness. That night was the most beautiful night, with the longest time I have spent in my meditative state, and the first time I was brought to tears through Sadhana. Since then, I feel old and new at the same time.
I hope reading about my experience with meditation was somehow helpful or hopeful for you to read. I like to hear about others spiritual journeys. It gives me hope, at times when I feel stuck. It reminds me of other powerful and amazing processes that are at work in our lives.
I hope you will join me tomorrow for part 2, where we will have a look at some of the more practical aspects of starting your meditation practice and transforming your life!
All my love,
Help definitely needed in sustaining my practice. I feel like I focus too much and when I let go, I’m not centered. Paradoxical mess.
I completely understand. I’m going to try to cover some of those topics/issues in the next post in this series 🙂
I’ll be tuned in for it. I’ve tried a couple of minutes at a time focusing on breath and it feels forced. Great read makes me want to rededicate to it.
I feel very grateful that my experience with meditation has been much like yours but the way you speak about it is so profound. My understanding of meditation waxes and wanes and I love that a practice so “simple” is one of the most complex adventures we can embark on. As always, I love your insights!
Colin, so wonderful to hear from you. I am so glad you can relate, and what you said about how such a simple practice is one of the most complex adventures in our lives – so true. Who knew that just sitting for some time each day, and going inwards, can be so important. I hope you are doing well, and would love to hear more of your story too. Thank you for taking the time to comment. That means a lot to me.
Malavika, I have been practising Isha Kriya for about 5 months now. Cant say non-stop. I just feel light and good at the end of it, but somewhere I think I have slackened. Can you advice me regarding this?
I am glad to hear that you have noticed some of the benefits of practicing Isha Kriya. It is a very powerful process indeed, as are the other practices taught by Isha. I too have found great benefit from practicing them!
Your problem is not an uncommon one. I think many of us at times reach points in our sadhana where we feel it is not as electric as it was when we first began. I too experience this from time to time. When this happened, I remind myself of something – the process itself, Isha Kriya, or even Shambhavi Maha Mudra, has not changed or slackened. It is just as potent and powerful as when we were first initiated into it. It’s just that over time, we start getting bored, we take short cuts, we start treating with less importance than we did the first time we did it.
So the first step is to once again approach your sadhana with a sense of reverence. Treat the kriya like it is the most important thing you will do today. Treat it as though this is the last thing you will do before you die. Only when we start living our life with this level of intensity will transformation really start happening. It is easier said than done, of course, but when done in this way, the results are explosive!
Secondly, what helped me too, was to spend a couple of minutes before beginning your kriya, reminding yourself of why you are doing what you are doing. It shouldn’t be done like a robot where you forget why you are doing it – that will only make us dull. Instead if you remind yourself of the powerful teachings of isha that have touched your heart, think about what it really means when you say “I am not my mind, I am not my body.” Feel the answer in your body. And then begin your kriya. Kriya has a way of magnifying what is within us at the time. So if we begin kriya dull, lethargic, and thinking about other things, only that becomes magnified – at least in my experience.
If you are looking forward to taking your sadhana to the next level, I really encourage you to do an inner engineering retreat and be initiated into Shambhavi Maha Mudra Kriya, Of course, we are likely to encounter the same obstacles with any practice, so this is such a great question to ask nonetheless.
I hope that this helps you in some small way.
Thank you for taking the time to comment.
Thanks a ton for the reply. I appreciate the effort you took into writing the entire thing. I will incorporate what you have said into my daily kriya. BTW I will be heading to Coimbatore next month to attend Mahashivaratri 2017! 🙂
You are so welcome! Feel free to let me know how it goes.
Wow, I am so happy for you that you will be experiencing Mahashivarathri at the Isha centre. That would be a dream come true for me. For now, I have to settle for watching the live stream from my home. But maybe someday….
You did attend last year didn’t you? I am sure you would’ve loved it!
No. I took part from my home, watched the live stream, and spent the night in meditation. At the time I was living in Ireland, and now I am back in Canada 🙂
Oh right.! Lets see how it goes.! Excited already!! 🙂