Mindfulness, Meditation & Me
About seven years ago I decided to meditate. It was a bit of a whim at the end of a year’s travelling in Australia. I signed up for a ten day Vipassana mediation course in the Blue Mountains as an intellectual experiment to find out what mediation was. I had been doing yoga for years, but mostly for exercise, not for mental clarity and I knew that meditation was a complement to the practice of yoga, although I didn’t understand how.
I had been warned that the introduction to Vipassana course was hardcore, but I’d just travelled Australia diving, surfing, and rock climbing, so I was feeling pretty tough. It turned out to be one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences of my life.
Nine days of silence with no eye contact, no music, no reading, no writing, no yoga, no anything except spending hours each day sitting perfectly still in group meditation trying to quiet your mind, be present, and feel sensations throughout your body. The vegan detox diet that was strictly enforced made matters even more difficult since portions were small and caffeine was considered contraband.
Ten days later, I was a different person. I had learned how to meditate, my mind was wide open to Buddhist philosophies of nature that I had never previously considered, and I had several life changing revelations while in the Blue Mountains. Although I was just starting on my path to liberation, I understood the concepts of presence, mindfulness and equanimity because I experienced them myself. I had a few breakthrough moments while meditating that encouraged me to persevere the days of discomfort, pain, and craving that were driving me to the breaking point.
I started meditating an hour a day almost every day for about 4 months, then I returned home from travelling, integrated back into society and could only find the time to meditate when I really needed it (e.g., when I was stressed, going through a difficult time, or needed to clear my mind).
Several years passed and I got out of the habit of meditating even though I knew it was good for me. I slipped a disc in my lower back which prevented me from doing yoga for about 8 months and as I recovered, I was afraid that I might aggravate my injury again, so I stopped doing yoga altogether for about 2 years.
Then the Sleep Guru came into my life…
I met Alison “Anandi” Francis, the Sleep Guru, for tea and I was inspired by her attitude, her energy, and how approachable she makes yoga and meditation. I started reading her blogs and newsletters and following her online. When I saw that she was in London teaching a Surrendered Breath workshop, I attended. We spent several hours going over breath, the connection of the breath with the body and the mind and doing some simple group meditation.
That morning was pivotal because it gave me the motivation that I needed to focus once again on being present, being good to myself and my breath. I started doing yoga once a week at the gym, bought a yoga mat, and started practicing 2-3 times a week at home.
When Anandi called and invited me to participate in her Primordial Sound Meditation Course online, I must admit, I was intrigued. She sent me an email explaining the premise of her unique online course which all made sense, but I was left mystified by the primordial sound. In later lessons I learned that this sacred sound is based on an ancient Indian algorithm which is used to determine the sound the earth made at the moment you were born. This sounded a bit too new age for me, but I trusted Anandi and I committed myself to taking this course seriously.
Anandi trained under Deepak Chopra and David Simon and is a certified Primordial Sound Meditation teacher. Chopra’s guru was Maharashi Mahesh, who become famous for transcendental meditation. Chopra became a ardent follower of advaita (non dualism) and learned from sages how to use vibrational changes in the universe to allocate the correct vibrational mantras for individual meditation. Chopra matured along his own path and became influential in bringing eastern science to the west. In Ayurveda energy changes occur every 4 hours.
Anandi learned the ancient technique to determine an individual’s mantra based on their birth and she now offers a unique way to learn to meditate online which makes meditation accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Although the instruction is given online, she manages to maintain a very personal feel and can tailor the course to the needs of each of her students.
I’ve kept a journal of my thoughts and experiences throughout the course that I thought I’d share.
6th December 2013
Anandi called to discuss her primordial sound meditation course and sent me several emails to read over the weekend.
9th December 2013
I read through the PDF document for the course. It sounds very interesting, and a bit new-agey, but I am open to the experience and looking forward to beginning. I have never used a mantra before as it conflicts with the Vipassana meditation that I was taught, but I really enjoy meditating, so it will be interesting to learn a different style to see how it compares.
I have noticed in the past that sounds and vibrations have a great effect on me when I am meditating, especially at the Vipassana centre in Australia (e.g. when a train would go by, the OM in yoga, etc.), so I have a feeling that I will respond favourably to the primordial sound meditation.
21st December 2013
Today was Session Two of the course. I created a quiet, sacred space to meditate and I connected with Anandi via video conferencing software. She explained how the session would run and she said a special sanskrit chant to set the mood and make the start of the session more special.
She explained that she would be giving me my mantra which I will use as a meditation tool throughout the course. The mantra is determined using an ancient Indian technique to determine the sound that the earth was making at the exact time and date of my birth. This sound connects me to the universe and makes it easier for me understand my timeless connection with the infinite.
After she said my mantra several times, we said it together a few times, then I said it on my own, aloud, a few more times. After that, Anandi asked me to silently repeat the mantra in my head without moving my mouth or tongue while I meditate. I did this for 15 minutes, while Anandi timed us and meditated with me.
uring the meditation, I was instructed to repeat my mantra without any specific rhythm or tone to it. The intention is not to concentrate too much on the words themselves, but allow them to loosely flow through you like mist rising off a lake. As time goes on, this gets easier.
This was my first time using a mantra to meditate and I found it much easier to keep my head clear of any visual images and to bring myself back to the centre when my mind drifts. My mind was very focused for about 10 of the 15 minutes and I found myself at times repeating my mantra automatically in the back of my head and lightly touching it like a rolling wave. The moments when I was able to do this I felt an intense free-flow of energy up my spine and shooting through my limbs that made me tremble slightly.
When the 15 minutes was up, Anandi instructed me to meditate another 15 minutes on my own and stay tuned for her next email with instructions for Session Three. She also instructed me to take care of myself for the rest of the day, which I thought was a nice sentiment to end the session with.
I moved to a pillow on the floor and meditated for another 15 minutes, but I found my mind already starting to wander more, thinking about the past and future rather than the present. I continually brought myself back to my centre and focused on my mantra being said in the present moment and didn't judge myself for my “monkey mind”. I haven't seriously meditated for about a year (with the exception of the Headspace app on the bus during my commute), so I think it will take time to discipline my mind again.
I'm looking forward to Session Three!
26th December 2013
I've been trying to mediate 30 minutes each day, but it has been difficult with the Christmas break, having an irregular schedule, staying at my in laws, etc. I needed motivation, so I watched the video for Session Three. It did a good job telling me what to expect while meditating, how to stay focused, and what to avoid.
9th January 2014
It's been harder than I expected to find time to meditate, especially now that I'm back to work. I wanted to do 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening, but it is impossible because I get up early, go to the gym, and I come home late, eat dinner and want to spend time with my husband. Instead, I will just try to do 20-30 minutes once a day and not beat myself up when I can't. On days that I know I won't have time to meditate, I'll just try to be more present, conscious, and equanimous.
Thankfully, Anandi got in touch via email today and asked me how my meditation was going. I had to admit that I was finding it harder to incorporate into my life than I imagined. She is sending daily motivation emails which are helping a lot. They are insightful and help me keep my practice up. Best of all, I feel like Anandi is supporting and encouraging me, which helps.
26th January 2014
I've been meditating about 15-20 minutes about 5 days a week. I try to find the time in the morning on days I'm doing yoga at home instead of the gym, or after work before I eat dinner.
I downloaded the Insight Timer that Anandi recommended and I paid to upgrade it. I set it for 5 minute intervals to keep myself on track. I think it helps. I also like the journal and the log features. I've made notes after every meditation session.
Today I watched Deepak Chopra's lecture on higher states of consciousness (Session 4) and I found it fascinating. I could really relate to what he was saying and I realized that since I started meditating, my behaviour has subconsciously changed. I don't feel like drinking a glass of wine when I get home from work like I used to do almost every day. I have switched to fruit salad for dessert rather than processed, sugary foods. I've been drinking more herbal teas. Even though I didn't set out to do these things that make me feel healthy and take care of my body, They are coming naturally with the meditation. This is why Chopra says that meditation isn't just about relaxation, it just starts there. Anandi had said that the practice of meditation will manifest itself in different ways in your life and I completely agree. That is my motivation to keep going, even if it is 20 minutes five days a week.
26th February 2014
I’ve been enjoying the daily emails from Anandi that give meditation pointers and keep me motivated. I also really like her newsletters which remind me to be good to myself. They help me maintain focus and remember what is most important in life.
It’s been almost two months and my meditation practice is engrained in me now. I practice 20 minutes a day about five times a week with my Insight Timer and I am practicing yoga 2-3 times per week. The mornings that I used to want to sleep in an extra hour to help me with my energy levels throughout the day, I force myself to get up and do some meditation and yoga. I find that 40 minutes of yoga and 20 minutes of meditation is much more revitalising than an extra hour’s sleep. In fact, it’s the perfect way to start a Monday morning and face a new week.
I’m happy with my mental state and I feel extremely balanced. I’m encouraging everyone who appears to be suffering to try meditating, even if it is just for ten minutes. It’s funny because it is always the same response – “I don’t have time.” It is precisely those people who need it most.
The clarity I have received through regular mediation has made me more compassionate to the suffering of others. I’ve also noticed how tightly wound so many people are and never make any time to unwind or be good to themselves. I see this manifested in physical pain, strange ailments, skin conditions, and constant worry or fear for the future.
The Primordial Sound Meditation Course will no doubt improve the quality of your life if you let it and you are willing to put in the time to practice. I feel less stressed, more present, healthier, and I sleep better.
I think this course is perfect for someone who has already learned the basis of meditation and needs some motivation and discipline. It is also suitable for novices but it requires more determination. I have no doubt that this course will improve the lives of anyone who practices regularly in subtle, healthy ways.
Words by Spa Samurai