August 3, 2013

Reflections: Like physical exercise, meditation has intensely practical benefits

By ASHOK NALAMALAPU

"I am not going to move out of the lobby until you give me the room for which I already paid," I said. As the hotel manager called the security guards, I wasn't sure whether to run or argue. Instead, I resolved to sit and meditate while five guards surrounded me with their hands on guns.

After 30 minutes, the hotel manager tapped on my shoulder, apologized and gave me the keys. He had refused to give me a room earlier because their computer system had canceled the reservation due to a flight delay. That is just one example of how the regular practice of meditation has benefited me.

Lama Willa Miller, my teacher, says, "The goal of meditation helps one to maintain inner peace in spite of the turbulent thoughts. It changes our relationship with thoughts."

Meditation is turning mind on to itself. It is self-observation with awareness.

As Swami Vivekananda once said, "Thoughts are like the sediments that stop us from being able to see the bottom of a lake. When the sediments settle, then we can see the bottom of the lake. Similarly when we still our mind through meditation, we can realize our true nature."

Some of us take care of our body with regular exercise. When we encounter a pleasurable experience, we enjoy more through our mind than through our body. Similarly, when experience is a sad situation, it hurts more in our mind than in our body. It is therefore equally important to take care of our mind. An effective way of looking after the mind is through meditation.

We cause trouble and run into trouble mainly because of our unconscious reactions. Meditation helps us to be self-aware and make conscious decisions. It helps us to not get upset easily and to be more peaceful.

I am confident that meditation will help one progress in the path of peace, bliss and the realization of self.

The ideal times to meditate are at dawn and dusk during the changes in light and darkness. That is the time when our body's natural state is calm. Beginners could start with just two minutes a day. Dalai Lama suggests gradually increasing the time to five times a day for two minutes.

There is neither an age limit nor a particular faith required to meditate. Also, one can meditate anywhere. For daily meditation, sit in the same place to leverage the vibrations that accumulate there. Likewise, meditating in a group can leverage the collective energy.

With practice, one will realize that meditation is a state of being without any effort. There are many techniques; experiment and choose what works best for you. Krishna Iyer of Tej Gyan Foundation grouped the techniques in this way:

Relaxation. Example: Yoga Nidra in which one focuses and breathes in to different parts of the body to relax.

Contemplation. Example: One takes a situation and focuses on finding solutions for it.

Verbalization. Example: One repeats a mantra such as om several times.

Visualization. Example: One imagines at the heart center, the light of a candle or the image of personal god.

Concentration. Example: One focuses on the third eye, which is on forehead just above the top of the nose. When the third eye is open, we can see higher frequency matter and hear inner voices.

Intention. Example: Holding one's breath between inhale and exhale or not having a thought.

The aim is to meditate effortlessly without dependence.

Let me share with you the two techniques that are believed to be taught by Lord Buddha that I have learned at the Vipassana Meditation Center.

First, Anapana, is to just observe breath between upper lip and bottom of the nose. I found initially breathing intentionally, long inhales to the belly, pausing, exhaling by starting from belly and pausing, was helpful.

Second, Vipassana, is insight meditation. In this method, one scans the body very slowly. I scan my back from the bottom of heels to the crown of the head and then reverse direction and scan the front of my body. While scanning, observe sensations. All of our actions and thoughts produce sensations in our body. Our desires and aversions create these sensations.

In this technique, when we observe a sensation, we train our mind not to react. We tell ourselves that this situation too is impermanent. We continue this practice patiently, persistently and steadily.

To practice, one can sit crossed-legged or in a chair comfortably. Choose a position that allows you to sit for a long time. A cushion can be used to keep your knees below your hips.

One can choose to close one's eyes fully or three-fourths of the way. If you choose to close your eyes, beware of falling asleep. But the eyes are the doors for the mind. I prefer to meditate with my eyes closed. Keep your spine straight and sit tall. Lift your shoulders up, pull back and drop them.

I recommend keeping your hands on your thighs along with Dhyana Mudra. Keep your right hand on the top of the left and form a triangle by touching your thumbs. This hand position forms an energy circle around you and retains the energy.

We gain cosmic energy through the Bramha Randra, located on the crown of the head. Cosmic energy is the life force. Through meditation when thoughts are less, we gain more cosmic energy.

Thus, meditation helps us to understand our true nature and maintain our peace in spite of the challenging situations in our daily lives. May your meditations lead you to realize your true self.

Ashok Nalamalapu is president of iCST -- an IT staffing and software testing firm in South Portland (www.i-cst.com). He can be reached at ashok@i-cst.com or at 772-6898.

 

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