Learnings from Meditation
The pandemic has halted many distractions of our lives. Social distancing has made everyday interactions feel like history. For instance, most group meetings convert a real person as a small head shot and an unseen voice. Our homes are a place of both work and leisure. Many of my friends have turned to practice meditation during these times – though meditation groups, watched YouTube videos, or apps on their phones.
Traditional Views and Research
Many traditions view meditation as ‘a head in a lion’s mouth’. Meditation is by no means simple or effortless. As Osho mentions in The Book Of Secrets, meditation is a ‘process of deconstruction’ which has the potency of destroyed. Thus, it should not be undertaken without expert supervision. Along similar lines, Ramana states meditation requires fearlessness, while having ‘absolute trust at all times’.
Shapiro’s study in 1992 finds that 62.9% of its subjects reported adverse effects during and after meditation, while 7.4% experienced profoundly adverse effects. The length of practice did not make any difference to the quality and frequency of these. For instance, subjects felt relaxation-induced anxiety, panic, tension, boredom, pain and confusion. Additionally, many felt depressed, spaced out, and judgemental, and ironically developed an addiction to meditation.
I’ve taken some steps to document my own missteps and learning. Please don’t let it dissuade you from your inner call to meditation – if anything, try to avoid the mistakes I have made. There are three tips I would like to give you.
Firstly, you need to strengthen the mind and body to eliminate distractions. You can achieve this with a healthy, plant-based diet, proper digestion, staying grounded in nature, and self care. Secondly, carry out an inner cleanse of your psyche. Carefully observe your thoughts, desires and memories to ease your inner conflict. Thirdly, take the help of a meditative guide – this can help you to orient your growth and learning.
In contrast, I approach meditation as a means of focusing, relaxing, and relieving pain. Also known as Dhyana, it is among the eight limbs of Yoga for awakening and truth. Relaxation and focus are only the initial fleeting benefits. To reach the destination of truth, I had to travel through a dark internal storehouse with absolute trust. During this challenging task, I stumbled upon compassionate teachers who have themselves completed the journey.
Initially, these practices provided a peaceful respite from my self-driven mind. I felt priceless inside a perfect storm, a feeling of open quiet stillness, without the aid of any drugs or medicines. Earlier, my life was too frantic to process negative experiences – I found it easy to “file” these away and move on to the next thing. As the silence and stillness deepened with meditation, I could connect with this repository of files.
Takeaways and Moving Forward
I tried to remain calm and kind even throughout the turbulent parts of my journey. While I often surrendered, I embraced my discoveries without judgement. Two approaches which helped me the most are heart focus and zen teachings. My heart focus shifted the attention from thinking and feeling to simply being, while zen teachings helped me untie knots and come to harmony with the happenings in life.
My zen guide was relentless. He wanted my meditation to express itself through my everyday life, rather than a state to retreat to during chaos. Moreover, he wanted my spirituality to be of service to this world instead of an annoying virtue. The techniques and inquiries suggested by him created a profound shift in my perceptions.
I eventually realised that this journey was inside out, and not outside in. I now realize that pull to be a sacred awesome presence in every moment of time, may have came from deeper regions of my being which my mind could not have resisted. Once my head was inside the lion’s mouth, there was no turning back until the lion and I merged as one.
This time of pandemic has brought about a great pause from the usual distractions. Despite its challenges, it has helped me to deepen my connection with myself, for which I find myself grateful.