Monday, November 25, 2019

Why Americans Should Give MEDITATION Another Try

Wikipedia defines meditation as: 
"A practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. Scholars have found meditation difficult to define, as practices vary both between traditions and within them." 
There have been hoards of scientific research studies conducted that conclusively prove the effectiveness of Yogic practices on mind and body. One article proclaims 76 benefits of practicing meditation and mindfulness (https:// There is no doubt that yoga is beneficial-this is well documented as fact by the medical and scientific communities. Why then hasn't America taken to the ancient and respected science of Yoga in a bigger way? 

I am an American Hindu who has been practicing meditation and mantra chanting for almost 20 years. In addition to my own daily puja practice, I have taken in-depth courses in the Vedic scriptures from a Hindu monastery, have read hundreds of books and articles on the practice of Yoga, and have been an online student and devotee of America's most popular Indian Guru, Sadhguru. In that time I've learned many lessons (the hard way) about Hinduism and the practice of Yoga. I say the hard way because there are very few authentic Hindu gurus who have a Yogic program that the average American can easily assimilate and understand, so I learned much of it on my own. I'd like to share what I've learned from my exhaustive study and practice, in hopes that you, after reading this, will be curious and willing to give meditation, mantras and the other accouterments of Yoga, another try.

In a nutshell, the Hindu Yogic system is just that: a comprehensive and wide-ranging spiritual system leading to Self-realization. Yoga is a far-reaching set of practices that encompass expanded consciousness and greater health for the whole being. A huge body of Hindu scripture, combined with the ancient and mysterious practices of Indian ascetics is exactly what has confounded American seekers and kept them from discovering it. For an American such as myself, the topic of Yoga is like looking out at the vast and roaring ocean, having learned only the basics of swimming, and being asked to dive into the the surf headlong. You might play in the waves for a little while, but how do you make it your home when all you've been taught were the basics of swimming? You won't last very long-and this is the essential problem for Americans whose only experience with meditation has been brief or unsuccessful: it's too complex, and therefore too confusing to grasp. 

The average American has no doubt heard of Yoga, and many have experienced a Yoga class, or attempted meditation. When I ask what their experience has been with it, I usually get this response: "I've tried meditating, it didn't work for me, I couldn't keep my mind from wandering." Or, not wanting to look like a novice, people will say: "Oh ya, I meditate." Sure you do. You see, I know that whether you tried it and failed, or sit for 10 minutes a night as your mind wanders that you're struggling with it-because everybody does. It's just that some people are willing to admit that they struggle with sitting still and getting to a thoughtless state, while others are not willing to admit it. The people who will be successful will be the ones who can admit that it is harder than it looks, and who understand that developing a rich and rewarding spiritual life is going to require more of them than they first bargained for. Kind of like learning to navigate the ocean: it looks easy until you get out there lost in the depths of it, because in the middle of the ocean by yourself, you can't tell which way is up. 

I'd like to de-mystify meditation, because unlike the Hindu yogis, swamis and gurus, one does not need to take the oath of a sadhu (holy man or woman) to enjoy the many wonderful benefits that yoga offers. However, one must be willing to agree to 5 guiding principles of this system in order to lay claim to it. 

Rule #1Be willing to give it another try. So you've tried it before with little benefit, so what? Your next experience may be decidedly different. Be willing to give yoga a fresh look.

Rule #2Be willing to admit that it's harder than it looks. You may need to invest some time learning about the system and science of Yoga.

Rule #3: Find a person who has already traversed the Yogic system and make him or her your Sherpa. I'm switching analogies from the ocean to the mountains here, but you don't climb Mount Everest without an experienced guide. If you traverse yoga alone like I did, the mountain will teach you its lessons the hard way. If you want to get the top of the mountain intact (the mountain being the goal of Self-realization), you'll require a Sherpa. Word of caution: there are many false gurus and cults out there, and even well-meaning people who offer classes without the benefit of having achieved authentic spirituality. There are thousands of 'em-so look for the Sherpas who have one defining characteristic: THEY ARE HUMBLE. They are supremely humble, because climbing the mountain has humbled them. If they are not supremely humble, it's hard to say where you will end up and how much you will wind up paying them.

Rule #4: Be willing to try things that you've never tried before. Hinduism is the most ancient spiritual path on earth. It dates back some 10,000 years BC-that's ancient! Despite Hinduism's longevity, today's yogis and gurus are still utilizing the majority of what Adiyogi, the first yogi, and the ancient Rishis taught their disciples. If the science of Yoga is still being transmitted using the same time-worn methods, there's a reason the Yogic masters are still using these methods. So rule #4 is: stick to the time-tested methods if you want success, being willing to try techniques you've never used before.

Rule #5: Regardless of what Yogic method use or what guru you follow, Self-realization has everything to do with the heart, and nothing to do with the head. Be willing to suspend your logic when you enter the meditation room. If you think you can think your way through this one, you're dead wrong. You won't get close to swimming in the endless ocean of love or climbing the peaks of enlightenment if your heart is not in it. It is better to have a willing heart than a brilliant head on this journey into the Absolute.

Where to begin? Begin by reading about yoga and meditation, or reading about Hinduism or the Hindu saints. That's where I started. The first book I read was a biography of one of India's most beloved saints, Sri Ramakrishna. I fell in love with him and read all I could find about the hundreds of other saints that practiced Yoga. I quickly realized there are two types of Yoga: mental yoga, using meditation and chant to achieve a transcendent state, and physical yoga. Because I'm a senior and have some physical limitations, physical yoga wasn't for me. However, meditation and chant, well anyone can do that. If you can read, you can learn about the Yogic system. Next, I took a class from an Indian Hindu monastery online that taught me the basics of Hinduism. I found an Indian guru who has ashrams both in India and America, and watched all the Youtubes I could find on him. I enrolled in his online classes. I started practicing meditation, and I taught myself 25 popular Sanskrit chants which I added to my meditation practice. I finally converted to Hinduism a few years ago and per tradition, I was given a Hindu name by my guru. My advice to you is: don't wait for someone to come along and lead you by the hand. If you are interested in meditation, start digging like I did on Youtube and the internet. As the yogic Christ said: "He (or she) who seeks shall find" 
(Luke 11:10).