I was introduced to meditation pretty late in life. Today, I am one of 21 graduates of an inaugural mindfulness programme conducted by the founder of 7C Life RealiZation Centre, HH SwamiGuru. He saw to it that all of us meditated for at least 15 minutes every day during the nine-month programme (and after).
This article is not about the meditation we tend to relate to spirituality or monkhood. This article is about how meditation helps create the mindfulness that we need in our daily. It could be a book we are reading or the music we are listening to. Or the steady steps taken almost rhythmically forward whilst hiking up a hill in the evening. Some of us may know it as vacations to get away from life. Others consider it the time we give ourselves to simply breathe and listen to our minds. Getting the body to totally relax can help one reach that desired state quicker. This is the meditation that this article is about.
A PROMISE OF CLARITY
All too often, the little voice that tells me to slow down and smell the roses is drowned out by the myriad of other things going on in my life. Experience tells me this is when I need to drop whatever I am doing and reflect. Otherwise it becomes all too easy to collect unnecessary clutter and lose much needed clarity. This calls for a more conscious and regular meditation practice that folks like Alain Boey have been undergoing from young.
“I started meditating when I was in secondary school,” says this sprightly volunteer at the Bandar Utama Buddhist Society (BUBS). “This was because my grandmother meditates as well. She told me it will help clear my mind and concentrate better on my studies.”
With the promise of clearer thoughts, Alain started to meditate for a few minutes every day. Slowly, he progressed to ten minutes, then fifteen minutes and so on. By the time he started college, Alain
managed to carve out 30 minutes to meditate, at the same time every day. Without props or music, he was oblivious to his surroundings during his meditation.
“In the beginning it was a little more difficult to get into the meditation mode,” he confesses. “Because, you still need to learn how to focus your mind. One would focus on their breathing first. This is so my thoughts would not be running all around. So, (breathing and) managing thoughts is a good way to start, and that’s what I did to get into the meditative mode. After some time, you will know how to tune into your mind and thoughts so you can go into the mode easier,” adds this business leader in corporate Malaysia.
WALK, SIT, SLEEP
Although the sitting lotus position with fingertips touching is an image that is well-associated with meditation, I am a big proponent of the idea that it takes many ways to get into the meditative state. One of them is walking.
During our 7C retreats, we have a session called ‘Walking Meditation’. It takes approximately 45 minutes to complete. The rationale behind this is that the way we walk has a connection with our emotional state at that present moment in time. Sadly, because walking has become so mechanical, we are no longer mindful of how we walk, our emotions and the surrounding beauty.
Our ‘Walking Meditation’ makes us aware of the motion of walking and brings us into the present moment. The trainer for these ‘Walking Meditation’ sessions will observe the participants as they walk and these will be shared with the participants in the ensuing discussions. More often than not, participants of our ‘Walking Meditation’ sessions come away with a deeper understanding of what’s happening in their world and a way in which they may move forward.
Concurring with this, Alain describes walking meditation as focusing the mind on breathing and on the path being walked. Every step is taken with full consciousness of the sensations on each foot.
WE ARE ALL UNIQUE
Needless to say, walking requires movement of the body. What happens when the person is sedentary? Most meditation sessions make you become more energised. Sometimes, during weekly Mind Focus Sessions, when people are seated and working towards getting into the meditative state, suddenly, they’re snoring instead. That said, since the objective of meditation is to achieve relaxation, we are glad that our practitioners awaken at the end of the session feeling energised.
Alain has a curious take on this when he says that he’s practiced sleeping meditation. While seated in the lotus position, he has found himself gradually slouching. And this is where sitting meditation, starts to differ from sleeping meditation.
“I would end up slouching, but I wouldn’t move to straighten up. There are no thoughts in my mind, but I would be cognisant that I have slumped down. And in this way, I continue to meditate,” Alain says.
This is the crux of our discussion: Everyone’s experience of meditation is different, says Alain. “No doubt there is a lot of literature out there about how to meditate, but actually going through the steps is not easy.” For Alain, having his grandmother’s guidance helped a lot in his early practice when he couldn’t close his eyes and sit still for three minutes. “Now, after 30 minutes of meditation, I could feel my mind is clearer. It is like a good rest. In a way I felt light as well, and to me it is good,” concludes Alain.
All said and done, the one constant since I started meditating is that everything I thought I knew to be the truth since I was a baby, is regularly and emphatically challenged. This is the result of advanced meditation practice that sometimes takes five years to master. Together with the accompanying self-empowerment programmes we have, I am excited and look forward to more of the learning.
The article was written by Catherine Yong.