Meditation Chronicles (Part 1)
A real-world view into the life of a meditation teacher
This morning, I woke up without an alarm at around 6:30am, gathered my thoughts for about five or ten minutes, and then slid up to the headboard of my bed, grabbed the pashmina that I keep at the foot of my bed and wrapped it around me. I then opened my iPhone digital clock app, sat it on one side of me while Peewee, my girlfriend’s pug, snuggled up to the other side, and I closed my eyes to begin my morning meditation.
The beginning of the experience was full of thoughts about the coming day. I glanced at my clock periodically. Peewee began snoring, which kept me more surface than usual, and there was one point about 12 minutes in where I wished the time was going by faster. I remember having to make a conscious choice to stick with it. And the next thing I knew, I had over-meditated by a few minutes.
Afterwards, I felt my usual sense of clarity, relaxation, and inspiration — the meditation equivalent of the runner’s high—with the highlight being the idea I got to write this post, along with a few other small innovations for bringing more efficiency to my life. In retrospect, this morning’s practice was a carbon copy of the morning meditation experiences I’ve enjoyed for 13 years.
Let’s start at the beginning.
I learned how to meditate in 2003 from an independent teacher of Transcendental Meditation. At the time, I had never heard of TM. I was introduced to my future teacher by a friend who had studied with him years before, and I instantly recognized that there was something unique about the man. By all measures, he was the happiest person I’d ever met.
He conversed with an ease and naturalness that only someone who had spent tens of thousands of hours meditating could embody. He was un-rushed, but not in an annoying way. He was real. And funny. And reverent towards his teachers (all of whom he referred to as his “Masters”). He chuckled at odd coincidences, or sometimes at his own unspoken thoughts, as if he had an running inside-joke with universal intelligence.
If my teacher told me that he developed his easy-going state of being from fly-fishing, I would’ve desired to learn fly-fishing from him. But he was a meditation teacher. Learned it when he was 19 and, over the next 30 years, he taught meditation exactly as he was trained by his Indian master.
Our first encounter left me mesmerized by the possibilities of what my life could look like after so many decades of daily meditation.
I had dabbled in meditation before. But the handful of meditation teachers I’d met up until that point came across more as seekers than teachers. Several were people who seemed to be just as confused as I was when it came to understanding the mechanics of meditating.
But this guy was a Master. He spoke, and taught as though he had indeed discovered the fountain of bliss and had been bathing in it for decades.
He was an ordinary man. White. Clean-shaven. Mid-50’s. Non-flashy style. But it was his state of consciousness that compelled me to learn from him. Nothing more.
In accordance with his tradition, I brought fruits and flowers to the first day of learning, and he “initiated” me into his meditation tradition. The entire process was very analog. There was a puja ceremony, utilizing the flowers and fruit that I brought. The apartment was blanketed in the hazy aroma of sandalwood incense.
He stood in front of a table with everyone’s offerings placed in front of a photo of a stern-looking Indian monk, and softly sang sanskrit words, with softly-rolled R’s and drawn-out M’s. Afterwards, I was ushered into the only private room in the apartment (which happened to be my friend’s bedroom) and my new teacher whispered a two-syllable Sanskrit sound into my ear, requesting that I think it quietly to myself and reserve it only for the meditation experience.
Surprisingly, none of it felt annoying or weird. In fact, I found the entire process quite charming and sweet, and it left me craving more, which was a rarity when compared with my meditation past. I returned the next morning, and the morning after that to continue learning the mechanics of how to meditate.
The process was wonderfully simple, and the results deep and profound. I discovered layers of consciousness, and a sense of inner quietude that I never knew existed.
Of course, I’d heard of terms like samadhi and nirvana in yoga class, and popular spiritual books. But I figured they were more imagined states than actual, tangible experiences—until I found myself deeply submerged in the gap, where there were no thoughts. Mind you, this happened while I was perched comfortably on my second-hand couch.
It wasn’t my imagination. I would be sitting there, for what felt like 30 seconds, not thinking about anything. And then I’d look at the clock and see that twelve minutes flew by. But I wasn’t asleep. Bizarre.
(To be continued on Wednesday, March 23, 2016)