A medium size holy lake presented itself in front of me. Lamas, dressed in maroon and gold, circumambulated the entire lake (about 500 meters in circumference, I’d reckon). A white Gurudwara (place of worship for Sikhs) glistened in the evening setting sky. A tourist bus tried with all its might to keep the journey uphill smooth, up near the caves, where Guru Padmasambhava had climbed on foot centuries ago. A 100+ feet idol of the Guru himself, carved along with his Tantric implements, towered to my left. He oversaw everything around Rewalsar, Himachal Pradesh, India.
I heard the ceremonial peace bell ring, followed by a clang from the monasteries below. Goosebumps ran all over me in the midst of all these activities. I decided to close my eyes in meditation. I knew the Guru would guide me.
My ankle and thigh muscles complained.
I felt discomfort from the artificial full Lotus posture (Padmasana). I fidgeted a bit, untangled my legs and placed the right foot on my left thigh and left foot on my right thigh. Bingo! That worked!
“Why do I get myself into these things?” I thought.
Slowly, I focused on my breathing, as I had read somewhere. Slowly in, slowly out. I imagined that a sack full of air entered into my lungs. I followed the air all the way through to the bottom of my lungs.
Now, what? The internet lady had asked me to do this several times.
Yikes, in the midst of all this, I forgot to write down the amount I owed the restaurant guy. May be I should do it now.
“No, Bala, you are in meditation” One part of me told the rest of me.
It was so hot in the bus ride to this place, then suddenly it had turned chill. My luggage surrounded me and in all the tugging and holding, one of my water bottles fell down. My mind wandered to the particular event from the previous day.
“Oh, forget it, I am never going to be able to meditate. This is useless.” I told myself and quit the session. I apologized to the Guru. I went inside the room, leaving the balcony and the wonderful scenery below.
I reasoned out what I needed to be able to focus. Hmm… Fight boredom?
I decided to try out LKM or Loving Kindness Meditation.
I downloaded a video (given below) for offline storage on my phone. I’d set my phone to airplane mode, plugin my earphones and do whatever this new internet lady told me.
This technique worked for a while. My mind actually did something during the 15 minutes. I got another benefit out of this. I became comfortable in the full Lotus posture for 15 minutes time. Cool!
After about 2 years of on and off meditation, trying several things out, I learnt a few things along the way.
To begin with, I’ll describe my way of meditation. It is nothing new for people who have been practicing the Gayathri Mantra for meditation.
Step 0 - Ground Work
Find yourself a poem or song which is about 6 seconds long. You need to say this with your stop watch app on.
Step 1 - Sit comfortably
Now, I find full Lotus posture (Padmasana) comfortable, but that may not be the case for you. Sit as comfortable as possible. Even, on a chair is fine. However, stick to one way of sitting, anytime you sit for meditation.
Tip - wearing a particular costume also triggers and preps your mind for meditation.
Step 2 - Breathing preparation (Pranayama)
This step involves breathing in a certain pattern. First, take your right hand and close all your fingers into a fist. Then, unfold the thumb and the little finger. Now, close the right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril. Now, do this while singing the song (from Step 0) in your mind. Now, close the little finger on the right nostril.
Sing your song again, while holding your breath.
Open your thumb and release your breath, again while singing your song. (You better choose your song well in Step 0 or you are going to be bored by this song for sure)
Repeat the above 3 substeps of inhale, hold and exhale in the opposite way (Thumb open, inhale, thumb close, hold breath, little finger open, exhale).
Combined, do the above process 10 times (5 for each way)
Learning 1 - This step prepares your body and mind for the meditation process. The song helps in balancing and timing the breathing pattern. Traditionally, in Gayathri mantra meditation, one would chant these mantras - http://greenmesg.org/mantras_slokas/devi_gayatri-gayatri_for_pranayama.php
Step 3 - Meditation
In this step, you will have to breathe in and out 54 times each, that makes it 108 (apparently, this is the diameter of the sun divided by the diameter of the Earth. The actual number with modern instruments is ~109. It is also roughly the number of diameters of moon it takes to reach the moon from earth. http://www.stephen-knapp.com/108_the_significance_of_the_number.htm)
So, you inhale while singing your 6 second song and exhale while singing your song. Now, how do we keep track of the number while you pay attention to the singing and the breathing? You use your thumb and the lines in your hand.
This image is one version of it, although I follow a different pattern for tracking the number of exhales and inhales.
Learning 2 - This step is where you attain balance between inhale and exhale as well as keep your bored mind in check by giving it tons of things to track. The repetition of the song/mantra/aum helps you calm your nerves down.
Step 4 - Cool down (Pranayama)
You repeat what you did in Step 2 - 10 Bandha Pranayamas (the nostril thing that we did) as it is referred to.
Learning 3 - This step now cements your focus and brings you back to terra firma.
Now, use a pen and paper to make a cross on your daily meditation routine, so that you make this a habit.
You will be fully charged to face anything the world has to throw at you… :) Personal experience :) From that day on (the day when I tangled and knotted my muscles in this tiny holy town called Rewalsar in North India), my experience in meditation has been very different.
Some videos you may like and get you started with this meditation thing
Loving Kindness Meditation
I liked the explanation of awareness and meditation given by this speaker, Dandapani, on unwavering focus -