Life is all about experiences…and I am all up for trying out new things. Whether it’s zip lining down the world’s longest urban zip line or taking professional chef courses at SCAFA, or even taking part in a movie trailer at Bollywood Theme Park, I feel my life is enriched because of these experiences.
Two weeks ago, I tried out meditation, a unique experience that has completely opened up my mind towards this art of practicing stillness and relaxation.
I’ve never really understood the concept of meditation. So many people harp on about the immense benefits of meditation, and the wonders it has for the human body and soul. There are lots of words associated with meditation: breathing, mindfulness, relaxation, quiet among others. But for me, I just brush away. I associated new-agey stuff with meditation. It’s not for me, I would tell myself. I honestly would think of those doing meditation as those people who can’t handle their issues, thus resort to meditation, as an easy way out to sort out their issues.
However, today, I realize how totally and absolutely wrong I’ve been my whole life. I was a skeptic, but now I am a believer.
You see, I didn’t buy into the fact that one can achieve peace and stillness by sitting on a yoga mat and do some deep breathing exercises. What good would that do? Apparently, if done properly, it can do absolute wonders. I didn’t realize how wrong I had been my whole life till I myself personally did a meditation exercise.
It was a dinner when a friend asked me whether I had considered meditation. After explaining how I didn’t really buy any of it, he encouraged me to try out a meditation session happening at Soul Space- a studio in Lahore that conducts some great sessions on yoga and meditations. I signed up for the program, just for the sake of signing up.
Once I got to Soul Space, I found myself feeling very relaxed as I took off my shoes to enter the studio. I sat down on the yoga mat right at the front of the room. There were three other people in the room. Our instructor, Jawad, was right at the front. Behind him, on the white wall, was a huge mandala painted. (In common use, “mandala” has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe.- wikipedia).
As an architect, I find myself checking out the interiors on a new place and found myself being drawn to the mandala. There was just something so soothing and calming about the painting– a huge circular pattern that sort of drew me, almost as if it were a hypnotic wheel spinning.
Once we settled down, we went around the room, introducing ourselves and why we were here for the forgiveness meditation. I talked about a friend who had recently hurt me a lot, and in many ways disappointed me. I wasn’t angry per se but just hurt. It turns out that the others in the room also had certain people in mind who they had wanted to forgive in order to move on with their lives.
The first part of the meditation required us to sit upright, with legs crossed. While I sat on my mat, the others rested against the wall. With our eyes closed, Jawad led us through breathing exercises. Breathe in, hold your breath, breathe out. Once I did this several times, I started to realize how incredibly different I felt, in a great way, with these deep breaths. It was almost as if I was pampering myself to give my lungs oxygen properly, instead of taking quick breaths. My mind also felt more at ease, thus relaxing my body a lot more. I was not stiff anymore, and actually felt a calming presence over me.
This exercise lasted for a mere five minutes, but being here in this quiet space, it felt a lot longer. Just taking out a few minutes to do this deep breathing exercise made me realize how easy it is to merely remain calm and stress-free in the crazy busy routine of our lives in a stressful world.
We were then given a sheet of paper, upon which we were to write a short letter or note to the person who we want to forgive. I don’t know what overcame me, but I started writing and writing and I filled up both the front and back sides of the sheet. We were asked to look at it once more and while I was re-reading my letter, I was asking myself why I wasn’t able to confront this person directly to the face. If only things were easier, I would have done so.
The next part of the meditation proved to be more fun, and a whole lot more productive.
With all of us lying down on our mat, covering our eyes with a mask, we felt at ease. We were required to keep our palms facing upwards– because apparently, all the energy flow occurs from here (at this point, I just went along with the flow, still being a skeptic!) Jawad led us through the meditation, which actually required us to do a lot of visualization in our minds.
There was background meditation music too- -which we were later told formed a very important part of the meditation process — for the music that it played at the right frequency can have a positive impact on the meditation experience.
In short, we were asked to imagine walking down a tunnel and then coming to the end where there is an elevator. We were to take the elevator down to the lower floor. Once we come out there, we were asked to walk to the garden.
Now, the aim of these steps was actually taking ourselves down each level into our subconscious– and with each level going down, I actually felt more disconnected from the world and more connected into my inner self.
There came a point when Jawad talked us into releasing negative energy from our subconscious. So, in effect, I started imagining all the negative thoughts I had against this person and expelled it from my system. Jawad had said that all this negative energy will be released through our palms, and if we wanted to, we could raise up our right arm and palm upwards to let go of this energy.
Now I don’t know what happened, but there was a tingling sensation in my right palm. I could literally feel pins being pricked in my palm. Shit, I thought, what’s going on? Why is my palm going all tingling? Is the negative energy actually being released?
It turns out later, when I talked about the tingling sensation to the group, that Jawad was actually drawing away the negative energy from all of us– through his reiki method!
We were eventually asked to walk back from the garden to the elevator, and go back to the upper floor and walk back through the tunnel, back into our consciousness– at this point, we all sat up and opened up our eyes.
Having gone through this, I can only say that I had mixed feelings about my meditation experience. Forgiving another person is not done so easily. There is a lot of resentment, hurt, disappointment and it will take some time. However, this forgiveness meditation has set me on that path and made me realize that the discord has nothing to do with me, but with the other person. I needed to work on myself, allowing myself to stay away from the negativity of this person, and actually move on with my life.
However, I cannot deny the power of meditation and deep breathing. I had encountered another stressful situation at work, and for a few seconds, I started deep breathing, and I felt immensely relaxed and somewhat powerful to confront the stressful situation with clarity and focus.
One of my major misconceptions was cleared when talking about meditation after the session. Meditation is not related or pointed towards any God, universe or religion. It’s simply a method to bring yourself into stillness and calm. So while I was meditating, I was not focused on any God or universe, or religious figure– nothing of that sort, although some people like to meditate towards their chosen faith system, be it God, or the Universe. History has also shown the benefits of meditation throughout the ages, practiced by people from all faiths- whether it’s a Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or Hindu, spending few minutes in prayer, that is essentially meditation.
At the end of it all, I will say that I am not a convert per se, but I am definitely a believer!
For more information, do check out Soul Space on Facebook.