Confessions of an Amateur – MEDITATOR
Meditation is no longer an art practiced by the select few; it is a lifestyle you can adopt, a class you can attend, an app you can download. Millions prescribe it as the solution to all of life’s problems. Therefore, I’ve tried over the years to inculcate this as a habit in my daily life. However, it’s easier said than done, I realised. The journey into my soul seems to be hurdled by multiple road blocks due to the jumbled jargon in my mind.
As a child, I remember peeking into my grandmother’s room on countless occasions, only to see her seated in bed with her eyes closed, lost in prayer for what seemed like hours. As I grew, “meditation” became widely renowned as the answer to all of the world’s worldly worries. “Just a few minutes a day is enough,” prescribed my friends, family, and saints alike. “Still your mind,” “Become one with the universe and God,” and my favourite, “The mind is like a wandering butterfly. Control it, so it cannot control you.”
Over the years, I tried and tried hard. I shut my eyes so tight that I saw stars. I kept my back erect if required, relaxed it if I was told to, sometimes focusing on an idol, sometimes on my breathing and occasionally on my forehead to activate the mind’s third eye.
I even tried it along with yoga, scented candles, in a group, with a Guru, but each time my ability to concentrate was a few seconds lesser than the previous. No matter how hard I tried to sit in a sterile, silent room, devoid of all distractions, with religious books, and idols in place and my eyes solemnly closed, my thinking mind invariably took over. Like a nanny trying in vain to discipline a curious child, I wanted to control it. Still, it was hell-bent on using that time for overanalysing and imagining dismal scenarios that were Oscar-worthy for best drama.
I tried for many years until I reached a point of complete frustration. Anyone lost in their trance-like meditation in prayer (and in India, it is not an uncommon sight) automatically exuded a superior smugness and earned my envy because their meditative success reminded me of my failure. Clearly, the world is divided into professional meditators and the overthinkers. I am evidently the latter. My mind loves to drift. It likes to think, reason, and analyse. It wanders, like a wayward child who forgets to inform her parents where she’s going when she strays towards the toy store window. And surely there are worse flaws to have in this world. If meditation means controlling your mind, well, maybe mine likes to be boss. It was only after prolonged periods of trial and error that I realized that the key to meditation is self -acceptance.
I cannot touch my toes; I cannot cook unless it’s to burn toast; I cannot make perfect ponytails, and I cannot meditate!
I can, however, tie shoelaces well, brush my teeth, do a mean candle pose, and walk really fast.
You may think that these ‘accomplishments’ are too trivial and hardly worthy of mention. And I agree. But in that case, I ask you, why do we enjoy magnifying our minor shortcomings? Why do we keep pushing to achieve that one thing that someone else can do, but we can’t? So eventually, I decided to follow the words of my spiritual guru, Elsa from Frozen, and I chose to just ‘Let it go’!
Meditation may not be a one-size-fits all solution, after all, and I’ve made my peace with that, indulging instead in the simple act of prayer, which I believe is my private conversation with God. “Private” being the operative word. Wherever… whenever…however I need it, devoid of
any instructions on proper prayer (or meditation) etiquette.
Imagine somebody telling you exactly how to sit (almost always uncomfortably) and how to accurately position your hands, while having a heart to heart conversation with your closest friend. Imagine if you had a great secret to share that you were simply dying to tell, but having a shower was mandatory before you could pick up the phone to call her. Would it not rob the conversation of all its intensity and passion?
It’s the same when we want to communicate with God, our friend, or connect to the higher energies. The dress code of correct prayer and meditation ends up more often than not, stripping the conversation of its joy, which is all there really should be when our soul wants to make a call back home.
I have been advised to pray to many Gods in many languages, ‘just chant this mantra so many times a day’ I was taught. But my experience has always been this. My soul does not need a language or to be in a particular meditative state to communicate with God. The answers are already there, buried deep within. It just needs ‘spiritual silence’ which is a silence that transcends the noise of my “thinking” mind. Ironically I have most often found this in a very noisy room, or while shopping, dancing, or doing something mechanical and mundane, like taking a shower, ironing clothes, or walking. Any activity that requires my physical body and mind to function on auto-pilot. When all my faculties are otherwise occupied, satisfied that they’re productive, it is then that my subconscious mind seems to wander freely. Aimlessly at first, like a tourist smelling in the fragrance of a new city. And before I know it, my soul seems to have found its way home. It has been to a place it once belonged to, spoken to someone it once knew, and calmly found its way back. And all this, while I was physically stuck in endless traffic, listening to music, swinging on a hammock by a quiet lake in the misty mountains, or mindlessly following the zig-zag movements of budding footballers in a children’s park.
Prayers, I now know, are just…words! Words that have no extraordinary powers other than the fact that they’ve been devised, not to silence the mind, or to control it, but simply to occupy it. To keep it busy, distracted with rote-learning and repetition so that the soul is free to do its job. It doesn’t matter which language one prays in, or the words one uses or how one chooses to meditate. I could recite something simple like the days of the week over and over again instead of a mantra, or be busy doing something ordinary as folding clothes. It is during times like these when I feel that calm exhilaration and a sudden disorientation, when, for a few moments, I forget who I am. It is in these moments that I feel at peace, moments when I need to recall what it was that I had been thinking about, and experience that wonderful feeling that I’ve come back home after my soul has said its prayer.
By Nitya Satyani