Meditation & Me

“Meditation is the key.”

That’s what the leader of our school used to say.

I wish I could tell you that meditation has always been a peaceful and beautiful experience for me. I wish I could tell you that meditation is easy. If you’ve never tried it before you might see it as something incredibly peaceful. If you have tried it before, then I’d guess you’ve had experiences like mine.

Meditation is not fun.

Maybe for some people it is. For me it has always been a huge struggle and I no longer even try to do it.

When I was a little kid, my parents would meditate for half an hour at dawn and at dusk every day no matter what. I was intrigued. My mother tells me that I used to have my Barbie dolls sit and meditate. The thing I most wanted to know what what exactly my parents were doing. They told me that there was a mantra, which they used to focus their minds. I wanted to know what the mantra was. They wouldn’t tell me.

It was a special word. A sacred word. It could not be shared except through the initiation ceremony that I could go through when I was thirteen. 

Like most children, I was terrifically curious and wanted to know everything about everything, so it bothered me a lot that I didn’t know what this secret word was.

You would think with that much lead up and anticipation, that I would really take to meditation. When I was thirteen, I finally started the preparation classes that culminated in a special ceremony. The meeting house we went to was scrubbed and decorated with flowers (I helped with the cleaning the day before!). In the kitchen I was given a basket with a piece of fruit, a flower, and a clean white handkerchief in it.  My mother told me the things represented purity and also an offering to the teacher who had flown in all the way from England to initiate the class.

I climbed the stairs with trepidation. I wanted to be worthy of this gift. I wanted to show how grown up I was. Someone upstairs guided me to one of the classrooms. Inside was a man wearing a three piece suit and sitting up very straight in a stiff-backed chair. Cautiously I approached and he indicated for me to sit in the chair across from him. Without preamble, he began to chant a single word over and over and over. He raised his hand to indicate for me to join him. My tiny adolescent voice joined in.

After a time he stopped and told me I could go into the next room now to practice. I was afraid I might forget the word. I went to the next room where there were another two chairs and one of the ladies that I knew. She told me that we would meditate for ten minutes. I sat and closed my eyes.

The ten minutes felt unbearably long.

I was fidgety. I was bored. I had gotten the secret I wanted to know. This was the practice that was supposed to hold the key to enlightenment. This was the thing that was supposed to bring me into adult practice. I hated it.

I never stopped hating it.

Some people said that they loved meditation, though I realized that most were struggling with it as I was. Some said that it brought them great peace and stillness. Others said that when they managed to actually do it, they were glad they had.

I continued to feel like it was boring and pointless.

But I had to do it.

It became a chore. Every day my parents would ask me if I had meditated yet. “No,” I would mumble.

“It’s important,” they said.

“I’ll get to it!” I pouted as only a teenager can. Part of me felt like meditation was my parents’ thing. I wanted to distinguish myself. I wanted to do things my own way.

When we went on retreats, there was no choice. Our days there were tightly scheduled and regulated. Thirty minutes of meditation at dawn and dusk every day. Many mornings we did it outside in the hopes that the cold air would keep us sharp. Freezing and miserable, sitting on a hard chair, body aching with desire for sleep, can’t wipe away the stray hair in my face. I get tense now just remembering it.

Once I left home, I tried to keep meditating. It was like eating veggies that I hated. It was good for me. I had to do it.

But eventually I just stopped. I stopped feeling guilty about not doing it. I saw that most people didn’t meditate. It wasn’t like brushing my teeth, which I could see the purpose of doing every day.

Which brings me to now. I’m a religious person, dedicated to purifying my soul and attaining enlightenment, and yet I have a very strong resistance to meditation.

My boyfriend meditates. He practices a few different types. One is a standing meditation, which he can do for an hour at a time. I have never stood still for an entire hour. I can’t even imagine. Then there’s the Buddhist meditation retreats he goes on where he spends a week doing eight hours a day of meditation. Makes me cringe to think about it!

There are so many different kinds of meditation. There really ought to be one I can do.

  • Mantra
  • Focusing on the breath
  • Yoga (in its purest form)
  • Standing
  • Buddhist
  • Passage Meditation (as I learned about from Eknath Easwaran)
  • Guided visualization

I should find a way to work through this resistance I have.

What do you think? How important is meditation to the spiritual practices of a Hindu? Should I force myself to do it because it is good for me or should I focus on other practices to purify the mind?

By the way, the cartoon up there is from meditationcartoons.com which is a really fun site. I hadn’t ever seen it before, but apparently they have a book of cartoons about meditation. I think I need to get that as a gift for my parents!

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Seeker

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting into words what I have considered my dirty little secret; meditation is just like eating broccoli. I know it’s good for me; I know it’s recommended; I know I’m a grown-up and grown-ups eat it. Unfortunately, I just don’t like it and doing it is downright unpleasant.

    That being said, I still can’t shake the impression that I should meditate since I believe in what is taught in the Bhagavad Gita. Now I’m trying the free online guided meditation involving the chakras (sorry, I can’t think of the particular name–I just started yesterday). Maybe meditation is an acquired taste!

    • Ambaa

      Hahahaha! Yes, it’s exactly like eating broccoli! You’ll have to let me know how your guided meditation goes. Post a link if you find it helpful. I really need to try a very different form of meditation from TM.

  • HARRY

    I came to your blog accidently when I was reading blogs on culture appropriations and culture thefts for profit by dominant culture. You probably know which one I’m talking about. I have read some of your post. I’m just curious on few things that you do / practise.

    I have few questions that I wanted to ask you. which part of hinduism do you follow? and why? Which temple do you go to ( is it ISKON ) and finally who is your guru?

    One thing that I wanted to point it out to you was, you cannot convert to hinduism. You become part of hinduism by accepting hinduism. Same as you cannot convert apple in to an orange, you just have to accept as an apple.

    One other thing that people often makes as a mistake is by saying that everybody is born hindu. This is not entirely true, if you read Bhagvad Gita. Lord Krishna says it that every soul is born SUDRA, it’s only by his/her actions and karma it becomes Hindu. Do not make a mistake in thinking that you are born in caste of sudra it’s only by your current actions you be come one. Same as doctors son is not a doctor and is not allowed to practise medicine and pilots son is not a pilot and is not allowed to fly the plane. One has to earn his own privilege to become what ever they wanted to become by their own actions. Period.

    Regarding your qustion on meditation, Mind, Body and Soul must become one in order to become part of great unity ( God ). For a car to proceed it needs three things a engine,fuel and a good driver because with out anyone of those the journey cannot be completed. Does this answer your question? I think I said enough for first post.

    HARRY

    PS My best wishes for you in what ever you do. Damn I can see lots of typos, not to worry.

    • Ambaa

      I will be having posts in the future addressing many of these things! Particularly the question of whether one can or cannot convert to Hinduism. I use that word because it is something that makes sense to people, they can understand it. I am not ISKON. I’m an advaitan and my parents’ guru is Sri Bharati Tirtha.

      I’ve heard the metaphor of fuel before, yet such anecdotes and stories do not take away the visceral unpleasantness I experience with meditation. I need to find a form of meditation that does not remind me of my childhood!

      • Doesitmatter

        Bharathi seer from Sringeri mutt?

        • Ambaa

          Yeah! That’s the one :) Have you been there?

      • http://changenia.blogspot.com/ .Nia.

        This reminds me of the way I feel about running…I can’t keep my mind interested in it even though I know it is good for me

        • Ambaa

          Agreed! I’ve been exercising more lately and the biggest factor on the elliptical machine is not how long I my muscles can go, but how soon I get bored.

  • Sandeep

    Most difficult thing is to keep ur mind still for some time….This is what meditation teaches..I am also trying to do that but need to put more efforts…

    • Ambaa

      So true. And I can see the benefit of having a calm, still mind. Yet I can’t seem to get myself to practice!

  • Sandeep

    BTW Congo Amba for ur first post..:-)

    • Ambaa

      Thank you! :)

  • Seeker

    The meditation type is called Sahaja and the link is:

    http://www.onlinemeditation.org/meditation-class-1/guided-meditation/

    • Ambaa

      Thank you very much! I will take a look!

  • indian

    don’t expect phal(fruit or benefits) do ur right or dfined karma or dharma without expecting something in return.don’t worry about end result leave it too god because end result is not in our control. only thing in our control is doing the right karm(righteous) —>as krishnna said & gurus explain to their shishya

    • Ambaa

      So true. And that’s at the absolute core of Hinduism. I always think about Krishna saying not to expect benefits. Very difficult to live that way, though! It’s so hard to do something that I don’t see and feel the benefits of. Something I need to work on for sure!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/mjfisher2005 Kaushiki

    Is meditation easy? No! The mind and body are made to turn outward into the world where there are plenty of distractions and fascinating complexities and sensations to sample. This ability of the mind and body is what keeps this physical universe going for us. Otherwise we would all be enlightened in a momement! What force can possibly turn the mind and body, which have been created to get involved with all these complexities and feel all these wonderful sensations? There are two answers to this. One answer is when we understand that pain and suffering comes along with all the enjoyable parts of living in this world. The other answer is the recognition that our time in this world is very limited. There is nothing that lasts and we, in the form we are in, will not last, either. Then we are always on the look-out for something that will last, that is the basis of everything, that will always be with us.

    • Ambaa

      Very true. I guess I’m still not convinced that meditation is the way to that escape from the suffering of the world. Even though so many people agree that it is! lol

  • Drekfletch

    This is one area I can’t contribute directly. My stance is that Enlightenment is overrated. “In the beginning, the Universe observed itself.” “We are the Universe experiencing itself.” While becoming conscious of and experiencing the unity of existence is a goal, I don’t see it as THE goal.

    The closest I get to meditation is when I’m hyperfocused. That state when you’re reading and the only thing that exists is the book, or when you’re driving and you realize you don’t remember driving the last mile.

    • Ambaa

      Hahahaha. I’ve never heard anyone say that enlightenment is overrated! lol.

      I do think, though, that I tend to become too into the DOING. Ideally meditation and the quest for enlightenment should be just a part of being. Learning to just simply be. I put too much anxiety into turning it into something to grab hold of.

      I actually remember people in my school being really disturbed by that time when you forget the distance that you’ve just driven. They saw that as an example of being too unfocused! I think it’s cool that we can look at something and have completely different interpretations of it.

      • Drekfletch

        How about “Enlightenment as a goal is overrated.” But then again, my polytheism places focus on the here and now, with no afterlife or reincarnation as typically conceived. Enlightenment just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s like trying to encourage the search for the perfect shade of blue in the blind. That’s why I said I can’t contribute much.

        With the driving it’s not that I’m unfocused, as I’m aware of the driving as it’s happening, I’m just focusing on whatever I’m contemplating at the time.

        • Ambaa

          Makes sense, though enlightenment definitely is a goal for me! I figure that will be the last of my desires to go :)

  • HARRY

    @ Ambaa
    I think you are seeing meditation as a chore for your body rather then seeing it as a solution for your soul and calm mind. And BTW there is nothing wrong with broccoli. :)
    See, I’m like one of those Indian doctor, who like to prescribe all the medicine to others but never take it him self. Go on, call me hypocrite.
    :)
    HARRY

    • Ambaa

      lol! I think I’m seeing it as a chore for my mind and a chore for my soul too! :P

  • seeker

    Is there a different word in Sanskrit for meditation done for enlightenment and meditation done for other reasons? I’m asking because I’ve seen the word used in texts written by Hindus that use meditation to mean both.


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