“Sit quietly and observe the breath”, I remember this as being my first instruction on meditation given to me during a basic yoga course I attended when I was in school. Although it sounded simple, it was the hardest thing I had ever done. The mind ran here and there and my body was quivering being unaccustomed to sitting still. It felt so unnatural that I gave up on meditation from that day onward. It took me many years and several ounces of world weariness before I was ready to give it another try.
When I finally decided to explore meditation and eastern wisdom, I went to my preferred mode of knowledge – books. Little did I know the immense limitation inherent in the written word to explain an experiental construct. The more books I read, the more confused I became. Buddhist schools talked about focussing on the breath, sitting still and expecting nothing. Books like Vijnanabhairava Tantra gave 112 ways of meditating. Western interpretations of ancient eastern scriptures on meditation muddled the stream further. Mindfulness has been propounded by several new age western teachers. Osho talked of meditation as just being unoccupied. So while scriptures like the Upanishads spoke of the illuminative experiences and the grandeur of the infinite, I had no idea on how to experience it….
The first breakthrough in meditation happened or rather the first time I went into a meditative state happened for me in Isha’s Shoonya program. It also broke a few of the misconceptions I had about meditation. The first misconception that I had was that meditation requires one to sit with a straight,erect spine in a difficult to do asana like padmasana or siddhasana. In Shoonya, one could even sit on a chair and meditate. The second misconception was that meditation was all about continuous uninterrupted awareness of something – either breath or a chosen deity or a mantra.
While the meditative states I experienced through Shoonya were intense on occasion, they were irregular and not very long. The really deep and intense meditative states started happening regularly once I started doing practices outlined by Guruji. In fact he never told me to sit separately for meditation. I remember asking upon first meeting him “Guruji, Dhyan kaise karte hain?” He just gave an enigmatic smile and said “Ho jaega“. All the books I had read were thrown out of the window with that one statement. He just told me “Do these few practices and sit quietly for some time after that”. I used to sit quietly on the sofa after the practices and within a few days I started slipping into meditative states which were so powerful that they started reshaping my actions during the rest of the day.
If I were to ever examine the most important thing on this path which has helped in motivating me to continue onward, it is these deep states of meditation. They are like the reward for following the Guru’s instructions and the rules of the path properly. Talk about positive reinforcement !! I feel so relaxed, energized and in tune with my true self after these sessions, that there is nothing in the world to compare them to. All the wealth in the world pales in comparison to that eternal nectar that lies within. The most funny thing however is that Guruji says this is prarambhik avastha (beginner’s stage) of meditation. I wonder what happens in the next stages…