Daaji says that by the time we take our first meditation sitting, the foundations have already been laid to prepare you to embark upon the spiritual path. Had you told me a year ago that there would be a time in the future that I would be meditating daily, I would have laughed in your face. Tracing back my perceptions of meditation, I thought that it was something that only Buddha did, sitting in Lotus position with a slight grin on his face, which was later adopted by hippies. It was only in my adult years that meditation started to become more and more of a buzz word. I started to listen to Tim Ferris’ podcasts, in which he interviews top performers about their rituals and routines to try to deconstruct if there are common elements to successful people. One commonality that I could not ignore was that each person had some sort of meditation in their lives, which they attributed as their source of clarity, observations and guidance. This, coupled with my father’s hard-learned advice that inculcating some sort of meditation in to your routine was necessary to survive in today’s fast-paced world, must have been the threads of conditioning that Daaji was speaking of that started me on my journey.
In July 2017, I moved from Ireland to India to undertake the Young India Fellowship programme. It was my second week and my room-mate, who had been meditating for four years, invited me along to meditate with her and, much to my own surprise, I agreed. I had never meditated in my life. She (perhaps deliberately so as not to scare me away) did not give me much information beforehand and so I arrived at her trainer’s house in Delhi to a room of about 10 or so strangers. Some basic information was shared with me about Heartfulness meditation and how to meditate according to its guidelines and then I closed my eyes and for the first time in my life was completely alone within the vortex of myself. Many people come to meditation with the expectation of peace and stillness. I experienced pure terror. For 45 minutes, I felt the intense flow of energies coursing over my body and I felt powerless to control them. After the meditation, she requested us to look in to the eyes of the person sitting next to us and to write one word about how we thought that person was feeling. Looking at my partner, I tried to channel through my eyes the intensity of my experience. When he gave me the piece of paper, he had written “carefree”. I was disappointed. After discussing my experience with the trainer, I left feeling a bit deflated and not knowing what I had just tapped in to.
In Heartfulness meditation, it is recommended to take three sittings with a Heartfulness trainer or “preceptor” to understand the whole process of the meditation and to seek the guidance of the trainer who can help you to fully grasp your initial experiences. Since Delhi was far from my campus, the trainer had put me in contact with another who was closer to campus but, being new to the city, I was anxious of going there by myself. Two weeks elapsed after my first sitting and I had not followed up. Then, one day, I received a WhatsApp message from the second trainer to tell me that a trainer had recently moved to our campus and could conduct sittings. He sent me her number. I don’t know what possessed me to message her, but I did. A day later, I found myself at her door, two strangers who had never met, about to meditate together.
I decided that I would apply myself with absolute earnestness and really commit to whatever she imparted to me. She told me how Heartfulness meditation is mediation upon the heart, supported by yogic transmission. Over the course of three days, she explained the three pillars of the practise. She patiently explained the Day 1 relaxation and meditation process to me. I returned the following day when she explained the Day 2 cleaning process and then finally, Day 3 – the prayer. I was also amazed at the simplicity of the three steps. I had misled assumptions that meditation would involve some serious mental grappling to achieve any enlightenment. I came with many doubts and I say, in hindsight, that I think the Source of Divine light, which we meditate upon in Heartfulness, knew that it would have to do something spectacular to me to convert me in to a believer. And so, on my third day of meditating, I closed my eyes and emerged an hour and a half later with no recollection of where I had been but feeling like I had returned afresh. I had not slept so I knew that I had tasted something akin to pure peace and stillness deep within myself. I was enthralled as I never knew that such experiences were possible. And from that day forth, I believed, and I kept with the meditation.
I began to speak about my experiences with fellow students and slowly but surely, more and more began to come to meditate with us. We created a Whatsapp group to coordinate sittings more easily and gradually the number of participants grew to over 100. Some came and went but others stuck with the practise. Each person has their own story to tell of what Heartfulness meditation has brought to their lives.
I came to meditation seeking balance and hoping that it would increase my ability to focus, my productivity and my performance. These benefits I have received, but I noticed other changes – a rapid internal transformation of the self. During meditation sessions, I would have observations and revelations about myself, my past and my actions. I began to become more conscious of habits that I had formed that were holding me back or as the prayer states “putting bar to my advancement” such as excessive drinking of alcohol and smoking. I had tried to quit cigarettes many times but never with any lasting effect. With meditation, this realization comes from deep within ourselves and, aided by the cleaning process of Heartfulness, removes the desire completely from the root. I gave up alcohol on 29 October 2017 and cigarettes on 26 December 2017 and have not felt any compulsion to indulge in either since then.
My legal training had instilled in me a tendency to value thinking and logic over feeling. I realized that over the years I had become entirely removed from my feelings, seeing them as a sign of weakness. Heartfulness meditation gently reunites us with our heart, our central organ of feeling and moves us from thinking, to feeling, to intuition to finally – being. Through the practise, I started feeling immense episodes of gratitude and love for others and it has transformed me in to a more tolerant, accepting human being. I used to also feel a lot of frustration whenever I had an important decision to make, such as to pick between a job, move countries or to end a relationship. The frustration would mount when I would ask my close friends and family, who would each give their opinion based on their own frames of reference but which I knew, would not fit mine. Through meditation and listening to my inner voice, I realized that I had the answers all along as you alone, know what is best for you. When you quieten the torrent of daily, repetitive thoughts, these revelations present them to you in the most organic and natural way.
After a few months of meditation, I also found another unexpected development – I began remembering my dreams in vivid detail. We naturally revert to our unconscious mind during sleep, but we don’t always remember our dreams as the divide between the conscious and the unconscious mind is still fixed. Through meditation, we begin to consciously delve in to the unconscious, blurring the lines between the two. I note down my dreams each morning which have managed to garner some invaluable insights in to how my mind works as a whole.
That said, meditation is not always easy. Like anything, it requires commitment, courage and cultivation to really uncover the treasures hidden in its depths. Many people, like myself, find it very difficult in the early stages of the practise not to engage with the thoughts that we all have milling about our minds. Meditation is not about attaining thoughtlessness though – this is impossible – it is about learning to observe our thoughts but not to engage with them. Slowly, the interference from thoughts and distractions become lesser and lesser and it becomes easier to go in to the depths of oneself. Many people become impatient before this happens and say that meditation doesn’t work for them. I often ask them if they wanted to run a marathon, but had not ever run before, would they expect to run a marathon smoothly, with no obstacles in the first couple of attempts? The mind is like anything, it must be trained and this is built up over time and practise. For anyone waning in their motivation to continue meditation, I ask you to really consider this.
For anyone reading this who feels like they could benefit from meditation, I urge you to visit the Heartfulness website and connect with a trainer near you. These people are all trained volunteers and do not ask for any payment whatsoever. I have found each trainer that I have encountered to be completely giving of their time. Sittings usually last for about 30 minutes and factor in some time after that for discussion. All that is required of you is to come with an open mind and a willing heart. The rest, will take its natural course.