Increasingly I meet people who are interested in Meditation. You may say that being a Yoga teacher I’m bound to meet people/students who are inclined towards the self-awareness and growth – which is absolutely true. However, I also see common folks, business people who about 5 years back would not have cared about anything apart from the dollar rates; and now they are waxing eloquent on the techniques of meditation at every possible cocktail party!

About a decade ago you were considered quaint, perhaps even odd, if you had a keenness to dabble in meditation. You didn’t socially fit in! But times have changed; and how! All that you see around is meditation-this and meditation-that. Someone wants to sell you the Power of Now, someone else is now writing 7 Secrets of successful Spiritual people, and so on… We’ll come to the new-age self-help gurus later – for now let’s just soak in the scene. Ladies and Gentlemen, MEDITATING is today as omnipresent as getting a facial or having a blackberry!! It’s the socialite thing to do. (If you haven’t yet started, you’re already old-fashioned my friend! It’s that bloody mainstream!!)

Ok, I promise to cut back on the sarcasm. Let’s understand this better. I gather that in the corporate world, folks supposedly earn their week’s bread and butter (and EMIs) by Wednesday afternoon. Which means that unless your relentlessly pursuing money; you actually have some time to dabble in other things. We can if we want have more time than say a generation ago. So that is a huge plus-point because only once the stomach is full, can a human think on the lines of ‘what more is there in life?’. History shows us that the most spiritually advanced civilizations were all affluent at the time of their metaphysical ponderings and progress. That explains why the West had developed such a fascination for eastern spiritual disciplines; best exemplified by the profusion of Yoga students worldwide. The question that remains though, is

WHY MEDITATE?

While I’m hardly the best person to elucidate on this topic, we do see that Meditation has many benefits on the human condition – physically, mentally and more. The question really is What is Meditation? Is it just a feeling of peace we experience as a result of a specific set of hormones secreted in the body. While modern brain mapping research is attempting to break it down to a neuro-chemical condition; the Power that meditation has to heal oneself and those around cannot be easily explained by any biochemist. Hence the term Metaphysical; or beyond the bodily experience. Its very interesting to see the scientific research being carried out on Buddhist monks and Yoga masters. Most of the results are only confirming what these ancient traditions have always said.  In many ways in the ancient times Science and Spirituality were not separate, as has been the norm with the later religious movements. In fact many of the greatest scientific discoveries in India were made by men who were sitting with their eyes closed and their selves immersed in meditation.

Having said this we find that more and more people are tending towards yoga and meditation for health and fitness (physical and mental) which was not the case centuries ago. Medical research is showing the health benefits of practicing meditation. The other major reason is that rigid, orthodox social-religious structures have been highly localized in the past – now with the information barrage and global village scenario, people are more prone to experiment with the enhanced options available. So more people take to yoga & meditation, because there is a scientific basis to it and it appeals to the mind – something we always crave.

YOGA and MEDITATION therein;

Any Yoga teacher will tell you of the vast numbers of students who approach them wanting to learn Meditation. These are generally people who are bored with the mundane and have seen glimpses of Peace sometime, or are going through a traumatic time in life and are looking for some way to divert/calm their mind. By the time, we end up explaining to them that Meditation will take a long time to prepare for; only the real seekers/ experimenters choose to continue on the trail. The others drift to some other system (other than yoga) which might promise instantaneous Nirvana!

In Yoga, as espoused by the great sage Patanjali, Meditation or Dhyaan is the 7th stage of an 8-step ladder whose lower rungs include Asana (disciplining and strengthening the body) and Pranayam (enhancing the breathing and quietening the mind). So unless you are prepared to train your body and mind to sit for long periods of time in quietude, you will not be able to enjoy the bliss of Meditation. Of course, the process is guided by your Guru/ a teacher who can help train and direct you towards your goal. But don’t worry searching for your Guru – as the Zen saying goes; “When the student is ready, the Teacher appears.” Profound, tacit and you’ll have to see for yourself it it’s true!

Nonetheless, your effort is to train yourself to be a better person – that’s what meditation is eventually about. Knowing about yourself,  understanding the inner workings of who you are, and much more. So don’t worry if you haven’t started – its quite simple. Try sitting still and being calm. Once your body moves and aches, you’ll realize you need to strengthen it. And once your mind is still running you’ll realize you need to breathe slower. By which time you’ll already be in a position to learn much more!

And for the ever-expanding Self-Help books industry; the less said the better! I haven’t yet met a single person whose life has actually changed magically after reading the latest New York bestseller. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good read – just enjoy it for what it is! Because honestly you don’t really care if a monk sold his ferrari, do you??