Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Place for Meditation

The truth is you can meditate anywhere. And anywhere, in any place you can be in meditation.

It’s not so much a specialized activity like swimming or ice hockey or motorcar touring, for which you need specialized equipment like a wooden stick with a curved and taped end or an Olympic-sized pool full of chlorinated water or a long open road with clear sight lines and four-on-the-floor. Meditation is more like a state which you are in – not “a state of mind” so much as a state of being.

And more than something that you are in, such as a room, meditation is something that you are. It is the natural state in which you belong. It is how you were before you got distracted by the world. With meditation, you are connected.

So you can meditate on a bus, while walking a dog, even while sweeping the porch. As Dr. Seuss might say, you can meditate “on a boat, with a goat, in the rain or on a train.”

You can even meditate in a box with a fox, if you want to. But it is probably best if that box is clean, gently decorated and with a whiff of incense and the sound of some nice music. It would help too if the fox is into meditation – or at least sits quietly.

This is all because meditation is a state of thoughtless awareness. It is a connection to the Divine and the lines are always open. We just don’t want to interfere with the quality of that connection. We do not want to dilute the signal nor be distracted by things negative – or even mundane. Meditation is nothing but surrender. And sometimes that is hard to do. But it can be done.

As much as we would all like to meditate in the smoke and fire of the battlefield, meditation needs to start at home, the place where you are in charge.

In order to meditate, you must first want to meditate. There must be a desire in your heart. Be humble about it. Ask for the necessary temperament. Create an environment conducive to meditation. For starters, make a meditation room.

In the same way that we all prefer to sleep in a bed rather than at a desk, reserve a spot in your home for meditation. This will help: clean and simple with everything in its place. A photo of Shri Mataji will carry the vibrations to you. A candle, a flower, a stick of incense – everything placed with purpose. All these things will assist you. Declare to yourself, “This is a place for me. For my meditation. For my spiritual ascent.”

With swimming suit donned, eye goggles secured and mind alert to the task ahead, you are ready to swim the length of the pool in a straight line. It is the same with meditation. Your initial actions declare your aspirations. Your aim is straight – to be in the centre. Both your attitude and your desire are a promise to your true Self.

So while you can meditate anywhere, your own space always works best. And that is your starting point. On the boat or on the train may be a bit more challenging, but now that you have Self Realization you can do it – and do it anywhere. The meditative state will be with you when need it. The world is yours and the connection is always open. It is just up to you pick up the phone.

So meditate in the rain, but remember that the rain is always falling, and you need to hold the bucket the right way up in order to collect the water.

And remember too that meditation is a collective affair. Solitary mediation can be cool, but collective meditation is supreme.

So tell the goat and the fox to get with it. Surrender to the Divine, get connected and do it together.

Then get on that boat or the train or the bus and find others like yourself. We are here waiting for you. Although we have never met, our spirits are the same.

Meditation require dedication. It is a new undertaking for which you need to be devoted. But just like the Seuss character, who thought he did not like the oddly-coloured eggs and ham, you have to try. Once he tried, he knew he not only liked the new breakfast menu, but he could eat it anywhere and at any time.

In a house, with a mouse, here or there, he could eat them anywhere. And then all he could say was thank-you.

“Thank you, Sam-I-Am.”

Saturday, August 15, 2009

now is the time to seek

When I was young I admired people who were on a spiritual quest, who wanted to find out meaning and value in their lives.

I don't mean people who wanted to be priests or sought out a church every Sunday morning. That seemed to be just another route into the spiralling sinkhole of confusion. I am talking about those whose eyes were turning to the East for enlightenment, those whose attention was turning inward for peace, meaning and security. They were my heroes even though I wasn't following in their footsteps.

Herman Hesse's Siddhartha and the desert-wandering Carlos Castaneda seemed like people on a real journey – and it wasn't any sort of a package holiday. Kubrick and Clarke's astro-voyager Dave Bowman looked like somebody who was really finding something important – and he wasn't staying at home to get it. Travel looked like the key to getting there. And getting there meant getting the knowledge that was beyond just life skills, cooking lessons and tire rotation.

But for myself, I thought, best to do this later. "Spiritual meaning is something for later in life. Life is to be lived when you are young. And a life well lived will deliver meaning." That was my philosophy: worry about meaning when you are knocking on heaven's door.

But for each us who are seekers, the questions remain. When is the time to seek? When is the time to find? What are we here for?

Do you want to know a secret?

We are all a part of something greater. We are each a stitch in a fabric which is stretching across an infinite universe. It has folds and pleats and a design of such delicate beauty created by the warp and weft of each thread. Everything is connected – including you and me.

Most people are procrastinators. They put off their homework until Sunday night. They clean the house only when guests are expected. They seek the meaning of life only when death is calling.

Troubles make us seek solutions. Crises give us cause to find truth. But why wait?

We each have a choice: to live a shallow life, bouncing about at the whims of others on the current of mundane events or we can seek out the deep end of the pool, know who we are and live a life secured by that knowledge.

If life is a journey of discovery, why not figure it out now and have a richer time of it? Why not become the thing that you want to be, your true self, rather another soul lost in the crowd?

Don't ignore the inner call until you are too old to remember the question.

"Open the pod bay doors, Hal." Let's begin the real journey.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Who is Shri Mataji?

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi is unique.

Her words and personality radiate a love that is beyond the everyday. Her compassion is deep. There is no one like her.

Shri Mataji teaches a meditation called Sahaja Yoga. It centres on the natural experience of Self Realization – a profound awakening of the spirit.

But to say that she "teaches" meditation is inadequate. She also teaches peace, tranquility and spiritual ascent. These are her gifts. She also shows us how to look inside ourself and to become our own guru. Her teaching is also a giving.

Many people feel a deep devotion to Shri Mataji because they recognize her uniqueness. When she entered their lives they felt changed. They discovered their better self when they met her.

Shri Mataji was born in 1923, many years before most of us. She was born in British colonial India, a place a world away from our comfortable homes in the West – but not so far, it would seem, from the dwelling place our inner Self. The spiritual roots of India are not foreign to our true being. Our heart knows when it is home.

Shri Mataji fought in the freedom struggle that brought nationhood to over 350 million people. She knew Mahatma Gandhi. The political liberation of 1947 was followed by a spiritual liberation about twenty-five years later. This second revolution took the form of Kundalini awakening. As a gift to each of us, Self Realization is there if we want it.

Shri Mataji's words have been heard by great numbers of people. She has travelled to many countries. Her love has travelled even farther.

Verbs are inadequate when describing Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi. Born. Married. Founded. Travelled. Said. Lived. These words can map the life of most people, but not Shri Mataji.

Nouns come closer: teacher, founder, guru – and, most importantly, mother.

Words are steps. They describe points in time, but not the totality.

Perhaps qualities are the way. Wisdom. Compassion. Vision. Love. Shri Mataji is all these things. And more.

When describing Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, words point us in the right direction, but they never complete the portrait.

We can only say that we are blessed that she is here now, that our lives overlap with hers, that with joy we can unwrap her gifts in presence of our spirit.

Our understanding completes the portrait.

She is unique. She is love.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

One Path or Many?

Someone once asked Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi if there was only one path to enlight-enment. Her answer itself was enlightening.

She pointed to the microphone in front of her. There is only one way of connecting a mic into a sound system – by way of the audio cables. Finding enlightenment is the same, she said, except that it is spontaneous. It's a living process and sometimes there are obstacles in the way and there is no guarantee of reaching the goal.

An important point here is that since it is natural, you cannot pay for it. It happens or it doesn't happen. "Suppose a seed is not sprouting, what's the use of of paying the Mother Earth?" she said. "If it has to sprout, it will sprout." But not all seeds sprout, just as not all routes lead to the truth. Or to put it another way: not everything that is beyond is divine.

There is a general feeling among seekers that all paths lead to the same nirvana. "We will get there eventually, no matter what we do. Seeking is its own reward."

As a result, many prefer to take the scenic route in their quest for enlightenment. They are confident that they will get there eventually. They might, they hope, even have some fun on the way.

But what is the use delaying the reward and probably damaging yourself in the process? Are we enjoying the trip so much that we want to put off the arrival. "Flat tires thrill me," the proverbial seeker might say. "Getting there is secondary."

Sahaja Yoga is the simple, spontaneous and natural way to spiritually ascend. That is why it is called "Sahaja."

"All roads may lead to Rome," but not all paths of seeking lead to the truth. Some are deadends. Some are circuitous and torturous.

And in order for a seed to sprout it must fall on fertile land. It must also be sometimes nurtured, fed and watered.

In the same way, Kundalini awakening is fueled by our individual desire. Although the Kundalini works within each of us in the same, she also has a knowledge of the individual in which she is rising. She is like our mother.

There is a quality of universal motherhood, but at the same time every mother has a special love for her child. The same with Kundalini. She is our mother.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Scrolls of Wisdom

“Silence, as a form of discourse, occupies a space even more vast than does language."

"The day will come when human beings will be understanding the beauty of love, then from the heaven there will be flowers falling upon us."

Imagine these words found, a fragment penned on a piece of fragile papyrus – a message from the past.

"But who wrote these words?" we wonder. A breakaway sect of secluded monks, a lone poet with enlightened insight? Why have they come to light now in these modern times?

The past is a mystery to us, at once a barbaric arena and at the same time a well of wisdom. We lower our bucket into the darkness and draw up words in small droplets and wonder. Their context and authorship are unknown, but we know their value. We love the wisdom from long ago. Out of the darkness of the well comes a shimmering light.

Somehow that which has been lost and then again found has a cachet. The words are noble because they are from long ago. "They were oppressed," we speculate, "so they hid their truth in a jar, a time capsule for the future, a message to us."

The Dead Sea Scrolls are currently on public display in Toronto. The crowds will gather and pay a premium price to see these ancient documents, bits and pieces really, an incomplete jigsaw telling of the early formings of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The scrolls have been called "the most important archaeological find of the 20th century." These are celebrity artifacts for sure.

And what is it we want to find when we look at these words from long ago? They are not written in English, but are still their characters are decipherable to some contemporary eyes. Historical fact is nice. The artful poetics of the ancients even better. But real truth forgotten would be the best: stories and events suppressed by church authority, the mystic and marvellous, the alternate gospels shedding light on both the historical and divine Jesus – we hope. Our hearts leap at controversy: what the Church wanted us not to know!

Why is it that words unearthed after two millennia are so much the sweeter for having been lost?

The words at the top of this page are not from the famed scrolls. They were not delicately preserved by the dry air of the Dead Sea shores, decanted and placed in a sealed cave. They were spoken by Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi only about five years ago. They were given to us without charge, read without the effort of digging or translating. They were free – not lost like the scrolls, just ignored.

Though Her words live not on a parchment, but on a computer screen, they are, nonetheless, just as valuable, as intrinsic to our well-being, our ascent and the meaning of our lives as that of the ancient anonymous scribes.

And more so.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Meditation brings balance

we've got to get ourselves back to the garden

There is a dream of long-ago that we all have. It is of a garden where everything is in balance, each stone and plant in harmony, a childhood of simple joys – no worries or sorrows, no regrets or anger. Perhaps it is a collective dream. I would like to think so.

As elusive as that paradise may seem, the path that leads to that garden is easily at hand. Push the swinging gate and enter. It is as simple as this:

Put your attention to your Sahasrara, the uppermost chakra at the top of the head. Don't think. Don't worry. Become.

That original, in-the-present state that we experienced as children is a lot like meditation. But that state of being for which we now yearn does not come about through our own efforts. That state returns simply by desiring, not by doing.

If anything, perhaps not doing some things might help us all a lot more than adding another task to our list.

Look at your present life and see how it is different from your life as a child, or from the golden age for which you now quest. Are you mixing the medicines in your effort to get there? Is there a practice or a habit – good or bad – that you are doing now which might be interfering with that state of being in balance? Smoking or drinking are obvious drags on our spiritual ascent, but so are other things which might, at first, seem to be good. Another type of meditation, a ritual practice or "a false knowledge" fall into that category, but so does anything done in excess or extreme.

The thing to remember about that childhood garden is that it was not perfect. It’s perfection was not in its blossoms and blooms, the length of its hedgerows and cornstalks. The beauty lay in our perception. We lived in the garden, but more to the point we lived in the present, not the past or the future.

Meditation and yoga are all like that too – all about balance – while the events of this world are constantly trying to throw us out of balance. We say, “Peace.” The world says, “Expense account.” We say, “Aum.” The world says, “Tire rotation.” The buffeting can become so constant that it can appear as normal. The mundane supplants the divine as easily as our attention wanders.

Who knows what the answer is? Who knows how to attain balance? Chances are you do. For each of us, the answer is inside. And the gate is in within reach.

Drop everything. Go back to what you know to be true. Start over. It is like going home: you never forget the way.

And if you are in balance, it is no longer tightrope. It is a garden path.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

There is a Land

There is a land unchanged, separate from our own. It is not distant, but very close.

It a country we may never have visited, but it is not foreign.

It is the principality of our dreams, of our childhood, of our hopes. It is a state that is our realm, both personal and universal. We are the monarch. And we are the citizenry.

This land is the destination chosen by all travellers seeking truth.

The language spoken there is understood by all who can listen. It is soft and loving. It talks of peace and joy.

No passport is needed, no visa or inoculation. It is a land without borders, but still it is entirely within and contained. The checkpoints are those of welcome. You may never have been there, but you will immediately be at home.

Consider these words to be a travel guide, an invitation, a brochure like no other. Consider gentle waves lapping, a beach landing of white sand, a low plateau of wild grasses, trees bowing in a fragrant breeze, a feeling as to what may be, a knowledge that harbours peace. There are signposts and milestones, ensigns and anthems. There is also tranquility, equilibrium and balance.

Don't miss a thing. There is a lot to see.

There is no government or army. The laws are natural and obvious. They are written inside. Everyone knows.

In this land there is no word for allegiance, no handle for patriotism. Competition and war are in exile. There is only oneness. Wordless silence. Simplicity.

And, oh, there is a river which runs through this country. Its gentle gurgles are heard from a distance. From the fresh whitewater of the highlands to the slow circles of the seaside estuaries, it feeds the land through which it passes. This river calls to every heart. It is a river of love.

Welcome to the place you belong.

Look inside. The land is called Within.

You are home. Home at last.