Thursday, 3 October 2013


This is a humble note of gratitude to a bunch of white folk who visited my primary school for a few days and taught each class by class, each student at a time, the magic of meditation.  It has meant a world of a difference to me.

To begin with, as a teacher also lamented, it took some Americans paler than the Albinos, but dressed in Indian garbs to teach us about the one of the oldest Indian traditions. There were two guys wearing kurtas and two ladies wearing bright Sarees with bindis, hair tied in ponytails.

When they visited my class they talked about how if you meditate you can do anything and achieve anything. And to tell you how young I was then, I think the response will give you an idea. A prompt question to this was ‘Sir, can we fly if we meditate?’ and some kids giggled. But the American didn’t miss a beat and said Yes of course, you can do anything. We were all hooked.

What I think this selfless team succeeded was, in educating us to go about meditation in the most basic and simple manner, shorn of rituals and rules which can bog us down.  One key ingredient with them was the magic chant.  And they said this is very unique to each person, and should not be shared. They would take us to a corner of the grounds and each student would have to then go to one of the four volunteers who’d ask us our name, pretend to contemplate and calculate what the word should be and then whisper the chant into our ear, and ask us to repeat this back in their ear to make sure we got it right. We later discovered that all of had got the same word.

They would patiently spend about half an hour of meditation practice with us in our classes (which all young kids spent restlessly in silence waiting for the class to get over)

Another remarkable thing about the way they went about this, was that there was absolutely no link to religion during any of this discussion. The chant word they had asked us to use was a single word which had no roots in Sanskrit or any name of God. 

But I was hooked. I practiced meditation as best as I could given how chaotic life can be in a middle class household where privacy is at a huge premium.  But I gave this up eventually and forgotten about it.

Later when I started working and staying in my own house, I would return to it sometimes, and it used to provide me relief.  I also happened to read about meditation from time to time, and be invited to trainings (usually in Yoga classes or by some spiritual group, both which I avoided).

The point was the first set of training was possibly the simplest, most basic, the most practical way to go about it.  They in fact even suggested it was okay to put your head down, or do this in Shavasana (lying down on a mat, face up). Some purists scoff at the use of a ‘mantra’ but I realise the trainers who came to the school wanted it to serve as an anchor. In fact they took great pains to tell us that it was perfectly normal for your mind to wander away, but when it did you should not get upset or agitated, but come back to the mantra and gently start reciting it in their mind. There was absolutely no pressure or rigid rules to conform, just go with the flow.

Which made it much much easier.  I mean, I would have loved to be able to practice Yoga (which I can never muster the energy or enthu to learn) and then have a perfect session of meditation that would activate my chakras but then the basic meditation was good enough.

So what about my experiences?  It wasn’t easy to always get a perfect session, but a lot of my initial sessions as kid, teen and in my college days would be fairly intense, and when I woke up from my trance (typically lasting somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour maximum) I would have this strange mix of being light and energetic at the same time. It was wonderful, and I simply couldn’t sometimes remember what happened – Yes kinda like a strong powernap.

But mostly there would be a lot of frustrated ones too, while I would give up midway and get back to something else.

But this simple design did serve me well.  Even when I put on weight and had difficulty sitting cross-legged it was easier to sit on a sofa or easy chair and then carry out the meditation.  When I was obese, these sessions usually resulted in me falling asleep and I would move to my bed, with some frustration and irritation that I was not getting it right. But the learning for me, was this was resulting in better sleep instead of the insomnia that was my constant companion otherwise. (Yoga is a good precursor to practicing meditation as it is likely to keep you in peak physical condition to allow a concentrated session of meditation).

A word of caution, and I think Liz Gilbert says it best in her book that higher and intense levels of meditation should be best done under the guidance of a guru and/or in a more protective environment like at a retreat/ ashram.  (yes, Someday…)

So, I am grateful to the team of four who came to my school and who lead by hand, a lot of young folks like me into the wonderful world of meditation.

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