|Ben, Vijendra, Sacred mountain|
It’s coming towards the end of January, 2001 – and the end of my one month Yoga teacher’s training course in Kerala, India.
I was very lucky – when I learnt to meditate for the first time, I had a very good teacher.
Teaching, to me, is all about transmitting – in other words beyond what you say and what you do as a teacher, there is a sharing of the essence of what you teach. As a yoga instructor, when I run a class, I am of course giving verbal instructions, and correcting poses, but at the same time I am allowing the essence of yoga to flow through me. This is what I mean by transmission.
Well, my first meditation teacher did that very well.
It was in the Transcendental Meditation center in London. I had taken the basic course to learn to meditate, and on the last day, the culmination of the course was that the teacher guided me into a meditation. She sat with me for a while, and together we chanted the mantra that I had been given. Slowly, the chanting became quieter and quieter, until she left the room, leaving me for 20 minutes to continue repeating the mantra silently.
She had set up the whole thing very well – there was an air of sacredness; I felt completely relaxed; and my mind was totally focused.
For a few minutes I continued to repeat the mantra silently, allowing my body to relax more and more fully, feeling a greater level of concentration take over me. And then…
I heard the teacher returning, approaching the door to the room in which I sat. I suddenly realized that I had not had a single thought for at least the last 10 minutes. My mind had been completely silent. That thought – that I hadn’t been thinking – interrupted my state of silence, and with it came further reflection. I remembered what I had been experiencing in that silent state:
I was floating in space, weightless, and surrounded by the most beautiful stars.
The silence of my mind reflected a deep silent space around me – silent, but full. Full of the most wonderful depth, and infinite clarity.
I was bathing; body, mind, and soul, in the embrace of an unconditional love that knew no bounds.
I felt total and utter bliss – there is no other word.
As the door handle turned and my teacher came back into the room, I melted. Tears of gratitude streamed from my eyes as I felt completely transformed. Those minutes in that room has shown me that what I had been searching for – the experience of transcendence / self realization / enlightenment – was REAL. I was not chasing shadows. I was truly on to something.
My life since then has been a quest to re-attain that silent state more permanently.
Please note: the state of transcendent awareness does not have to imply detachment from the material world! On the contrary: when we are aware of our true nature, we are more capable; more able; more functional. The difference is that we no longer have to TRY to perform. We are automatically supremely skillful in that state. The words that come from our mouth are divine. Our actions reflect nothing but love. And our intentions are supremely benevolent. Because the reality is that our essence is of God. And when we transcend the mundane ‘little self’, and contact once again that ‘true Self’ that is at our heart, we know nothing, but are completely aware.
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( This is the second article in what will be a long series on meditation. You can find the first HERE )
I want to demystify meditation, and make it accessible to everyone. So I’m going to tell you in very simple terms what meditation is, and I’m going to share some of my experiences with you – partly to inspire, and partly to show you what is possible.
Meditation is really very simple:
It is the combination of deep relaxation, and focused concentration.
It is not a doing. It is a being. You don’t do relaxation – you are relaxed (or you are not). And you don’t do concentration – again, you either are concentrated, or you are not.
Many people are put off because they assume that meditation means ‘stopping’ the mind. So they try to stop the mind (doing). They might try it a few times, and they usually see that it’s really not very easy to make the ‘monkey mind’ shut up! So they give up…
Of course, one of the long term goals of meditation is to be able to achieve a degree of mental control. But for a beginner to try to silence the mind at once, is a bit like someone who has never used a computer trying to design and program a website in one go!
relaxation + concentration = MEDITATION
When you relax deeply, and focus your concentration, something magical happens. I use the word magical rhetorically: it is not magical in the sense of inexplicable – on the contrary, I will explain scientifically exactly what this ‘magical’ effect is – but it is wonderful, enriching, and enlightening! With practice, a whole new world, a new life opens up before you. You become more grounded, more balanced emotionally, physically rejuvenated, and… I’ll write in much more detail about the specific benefits of meditation later.
- I will tell you about my experiences;
- I’ll teach you some techniques to help you to meditate – including some tricks that not many people know.
- I’ll also describe the benefits of meditation in detail.
My Father was very fond of saying:
“there are two types of people in this world…”
Well, guess what?
There are two types of people in this world 🙂
People who think about the question “who am I?”, and people who avoid that thought at all costs. It’s the difference between thinking deeply, and trying not to. As Bertrand Russell said in one of my favorite quotes:
As I took my dog for his customary long walk over the hills and through the woods this morning, I came to the realization that I sometimes appear to be two different people:
- Ben A feels like an ordinary human being;
- Ben B feels like a superhero
What makes the difference between the two is very simple: if I get up in the morning and do what I call ‘my practice’ – which is meditation and yoga – , it’s going to be a superhero kind of a day, guaranteed; if I don’t, it’s going to be… an ordinary kind of day.
Why do I need to practice to feel great. Why can’t I maintain that level of energy, focus, and joy? I think the answer is this: we learn as children that we are SOMETHING. For example, I was told:
- you are Ben
- you are a boy
- you are Jewish
- you are English
- you are clever and handsome (thanks Mum)
- you are lazy (thanks Dad)
- you are … you are … you are …