When I first got into meditation, I expected some kind of magic to happen. Seriously. I thought I would sit in the lotus position and experience peace of mind right away.
As if my good intentions combined with the magical/painful crossed-legged position would automatically shut down that non-stop noise in my head. I imagined I would slip into some sort of parallel dimension and reach Nirvana in just a few minutes.
I guess I was a little too confident. Or naive. Probably both.The truth is, I struggled. My mind just wouldn’t leave me alone and I was constantly battling it. I was constantly trying to think about nothing and would get annoyed by every arising thought.
Over time, I’ve learned that no, meditation is not about shutting down my mind. At least, not right away. Meditating is the process of accepting whatever arises, and letting it go.
And there is not just one technique, but a myriad of them, to acknowledge thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, without labeling them as good or bad, and then letting them go. I try and experience a different one every now and then, but my meditation routine doesn’t really change much: I get in my bedroom, close the door, kneel on the floor, burn an incense stick, find a comfortable position, close my eyes and focus on my breath. I focus on the air getting in…and on the air going out. At the same time, I focus on my third eye and on my right ear—a wise man once told me, “The mind will always talk to you in your left ear.”
I acknowledge every single thought that arises, let it go, and return to my breath, third eye and right ear. 90% of the time, that’s all I do. Letting go of one thought after another. There’s no “Aha” moment. No magic. No Nirvana. Just thoughts coming in and going out.
Except for the remaining 10%, when amazing things start to happen. Things that are beyond my understanding. I don’t know what causes them. Better focus? Better environment? Better time of the day? All of the above? No idea.
I especially remember that night, when I laid down on my bed, closed my eyes and all those blue beings appeared right away in front of me. No I was not dreaming. I was fully awake with my eyes closed. I saw those big, blue Indian deities – Ganesh, Shiva, Gayatri ) adorned with gold , coming towards me one after another, and passing me by, like I was watching a 3D movie (and no I wasn’t high on drugs either). And at the end, Buddha’s peaceful face appeared right in front of me…before vanishing into the darkness. I don’t know how long it lasted. Probably no more than just a few seconds.
There was this other time, not that long ago, when I started meditating while practicing asanas in my living room. After about an hour, I could feel it. This feeling of absolute peace. You know, when you feel like nothing can bother you or hurt you, and you realize that everything is perfect just the way it is. I felt like something was getting anchored in my solar plexus. All of a sudden, I felt deeply connected with something bigger than me. Everything was crystal-clear and I started asking questions, because I knew it was the right moment to do so, and I would get all the answers I needed. And I did.
Those spiritual books I read were right: when you sit long enough in silence, you’ll get all the answers you need (ok maybe not the lottery numbers). You just have to wait until you are ready to get to that place of absolute peace, and pay attention. It doesn’t happen that often, but when it does, it is magical, comforting and liberating. What better feeling to know you already have all the keys to make your life work?
And yes, I once experienced an “Aha” moment while meditating. After just a few minutes in meditative state, I felt an intense joy in me, like a fire burning in my chest. It felt so good, I couldn’t help but lift my head towards the sky and smile. I realized the joy I was experiencing had always been there, within me, and that it could never leave. It was just hidden, buried under layers of pain, fear, doubts, whatever. For the first time in my life, I fully realized our spiritual nature, our everlasting joy and light, are smothered by our worldly experience.
Having those experiences during meditation is a blessing, they open our eyes to the true nature of things and to our own true nature. But the most important thing is to not leave those insights on the mat. It is to bring them out, live them and use them in our every day life. “Aha” moments are great, but if we leave them behind closed doors and keep going on with our lives like nothing happened, then we are definitely missing something. We are forgetting that everything is intertwined.
Our life is our practice, and our practice is our life.