I’ve been meditating for around 8 years now. Apart from a couple of missed days and weeks here and there – I’m extremely consistent about my practise. I mostly practise mantra meditation, but given recent work pressures, I simply haven’t been able to meditate. My mind felt like a circus where different animals wouldn’t stop chatting and bickering about what needed to be done, when it needed to be done and why I hadn’t I done it yet.
We humans must be the only species that is capable of driving ourselves mad.
I was lucky enough to connect with fellow tarot card reader Vandana. She gave me some invaluable advice which made me tweak my meditation practise. In this post, she shares her thoughts on meditation with me.
Dipa: What is meditation to you?
Vandana: Meditation is like a “disk clean-up” of my mind. Throughout the day, the mind is overwhelmed with A LOT of information and emotions. Meditation is my way of processing all that – discarding the irrelevant and setting aside only that which is useful.
Dipa: Some people say that they absolutely can’t meditate. Why might that be?
Vandana: I think the prospect of sitting down and staying still to focus only on one point is scary to a lot of people. If you sat inside a dark room with absolutely nothing to do for one hour, it would have the same effect on you. You will face the runaway train of thoughts and memories in your head. Ultimately, that will lead you to be more depressed than you were when you started.
Having said that, most of us are actually seeking the meditative state. Have you ever been so utterly, completely involved in something that brought you great joy or a profound peace and when it was over, all your problems and pain shrank to manageable proportions? Maybe you feel it in a nice bubble bath or massage or while playing with children. That, in a nutshell, is what meditation does to you but without the extra props of scented water or a spa, or chocolate ice-cream.
When you are lost in music or dance, you experience happiness, obviously and also, your mind is brought very sharply to here and now – which is the fundamental aim of meditation. On average, our minds tend to wander to the past or try to speculate the future, so it is very rarely sitting in the present moment.
People do tend to ask why they can’t just do that favourite activity instead of meditation. The problem is you tend to crave the bliss of the experience, rather than trying to be present. Pain or danger also brings you very sharply to the present moment but obviously, it is not something anyone would inflict on themselves. This applies to some people, not all. After all, there are a few people who feel ‘alive’ in the face of danger. They have accidentally reached a meditative state. Meditation is the middle path – trying to be present without bliss and without pain.
Dipa: What is your current meditation practise and how has it benefited your life?
Vandana: Currently, I practise vipassana: a form of mindfulness meditation. I try to fit in about 30 minutes in the morning, just after I wake up and about 30 min before I sleep. However, there are super-stressful days when my mind is too jumpy for me to be able to sit down and meditate.
On those days, I switch to another less-intense practice like a guided meditation, or meditation with sounds of nature playing in the background. Another practise I found useful on such days is Yin Yoga. The combination of stretching the body and meditating at the same time is very useful in calming the mind down.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t see benefits of meditation right after I started practising it. But over a period of one year, I started to notice small, subtle changes in myself – in the way I reacted to a stressful situation; better anger management; being more aware of the kind of food I eat, better focus, and – this one is for the ladies – better skin. Meditation has made me aware of the way I take care of myself and has pushed down my anxiety levels a lot.
But, like the way one needs to exercise consistently to maintain the body, meditation needs to be consistent, too. Otherwise all that mental cellulite just piles back up.