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Learning TO MeditatE, Getting to 10 ...

Jun 2017

A friend started May Meditation challenge for the month of May and created a group on WhatsApp for co-support. Now I was never into meditation , never understood what was the big hype- that's exactly what I thought it was- a big hype, and certainly never practiced it- didn't know how, even when I tried. 

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But I accepted the May challenge because this friend was the one who had gotten me hooked to yoga. She had managed to get some 100 friends to do Surya Namaskar 108 times, not once but two years in a row (and going for the third round this year). Anyway so when she mentioned the May Challenge, I was more than willing to give it a try. If she could make a yogi out of me for 108 Surya Namaskar, I reckoned she will make me mediate- and I mean really and truly meditate. I have to say day 1, 2, 3, and even 7 came and went and I was no were close to meditating. Sure I was sitting with my eyes shut, in a clearly serene surrounding, in certainly a relaxed frame of mind, yes, I focused on my breathing too, but was clearly missing the purpose, the essence, the goal or any understanding whatsoever of the how, the why and the what? In the group chat people recommended various apps and YouTube music/ videos that they tried, some even shared pictures of peaceful space that they created to mediate. I related to nothing and kept mostly quiet about it on the group chat in the face of all the very successful mediation sessions that others were sharing. But I didn't give up. I was doing the May challenge and that's it. Now, I did download various different recommended apps, but got frustrated at each one leading me to a sign in page. I run away from signing in- how many places in this world do you need to leave your foot prints behind these days? Not that I plan on committing a crime and worry that the cops will trace me, but really- do we have to leave the date, time that we were "here" for these-many-minutes and did "this" oh-so-very-nicely? Frustrated, I took to free YouTube assistance. Nothing I tried really truly helped. Even with those that I gave in to singing in I was turned off with, as mostly they all led to paid subscription pages post the free trial. Finally I stuck to Insight Timer recommended in the group chat. Their Yoga Nidra helped me with very sound sleep (the kind you don't need to wake up to pee even ). Another one that I tried and liked was Headspace. Their free 'Take 10'does well in guiding you through your meditation sessions with helpful video clippings offered as analogies.  I found myself calmer, tad bit more energetic and less prone to be bothered by mundane things. I found the "Opening the Heart Center" series in Insight Timer and followed the ten free guided sessions of that as well. However, I was still experiencing drifting thoughts and so in that respect wasn't really feeling like I was getting it fully. And then as the days of May passed by, I started to realize that something was starting to pull together for me, was beginning to fall in place. So by the time month end came, when my friend asked for everyone's feedback, this is what I had to say-

On a scale of 10, I went from 2 to 7 with regards to -
a. Believe in meditation - importance of incorporating it in daily life 
b. Practicing meditation- just 'being able to do it'
c. Benefits of meditation - feeling/ experiencing the benefits

So why did I say 7? It appears to be a large enough jump from 2, but my reasoning was based on the fact that end of the day, meditation appeared to be a "medicine", a cure, or at the very least a solution for a problem. That one would practice it if one has a "need" for it. My hypothesis was based on my experience with talking meditation with my husband- he is a fairly level headed, reasonable and calm person. And I can never sell meditation to him. Plus, the result I was getting from it was a sense of calmness - which implied I needed it because I allow myself to get pulled in different directions. And since I have to believe that there have to be a sizable human population like my husband, say at least 30% (purely my evaluation of the human race, there is no research/ analytical basis that I know of), so that would make the "need" for meditation about 7. 

Then comes June and my friend suggests we continue our Meditation challenge, only now add mindfulness to it. So I continue with the meditation. As for mindfulness, I had been practicing it as a way of healthy eating and dieting. So I continued with it in that aspect. Slowly and gradually I realized that I was being mindful through many moments that I would otherwise find annoying. I realized a few of the guided sessions that I had with Headspace were coming back to me, starting to sink in. Like there was this short video that they used to explain the significance of being the audience to the chaos of life, of thoughts. The analogy given was- you may watch the traffic zoom by, but you won't go get involved in it. I understood it to mean that we must allow ourselves be mere audience to life events that we have no control over- allow it to pass by. The words in InsightTimer's Yoga Nidra came to me often- think of something you passionately desire and let it go. I understood it to mean that it's okay to hold desires but you must not desperately hold onto them. I understood meditation. I now know meditation is an art of living, it's practicing mindfulness in every moment of action and reflection, it is quite simply- being in the moment, every moment! Now, I had never read any article on meditation, didn't click on any link shared by friends on the topic. Okay perhaps I did hear it from my friend or read it in one of the many Deepak Chopra books that I have read- but the point is I came to that conclusion all on my own, thanks to sticking it out with a bunch of friends taking up May meditation challenge. I know now that irrespective of your temperament, your personality, any "condition" that you may be finding a "cure" for, you need meditation in your life to develop an inbuilt, natural power of living in the moment, of allowing yourself to witness your own life as a spectator without trying to control the game that you may have no power over. Yes, that means it is for my husband and the 30% of people like him (again, my guesstimate) too. That brings me to update my conclusion thus- on a scale of 10, I went from 2 to 10 in my believe in meditation - in its importance of incorporating it in our daily life. Yes, I'm trying to rope in my calm husband and daughter, and the far from calm, much like I am- my son.

By Sonal Kulshrestha

(Sonal is a computer programmer by profession and a writer by passion. She lives in Texas, USA)

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(My heartfelt thanks to my friend, Anita Reddy, who was born and raised in United States but taught us immigrants from India the importance of incorporating yoga and meditation in our lives. Also thanks to all the ladies in the May Meditation group for all the suggestions and encouragement- sharing some pictures shared in the group)
Photo Credit: Sujata Naik
Photo Credit: Bharathi

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