This is the first in a series of interviews I am conducting with some of my meditation students. My intention is to showcase and highlight their experiences in order to inspire and inform others about the benefits of meditation and the personal journey of growth that it supports.
I am delighted to introduce one of our dear students, Mira, who has kindly agreed to be the first to contribute to what I hope will be an enlightening series.
When did you learn to meditate?
I learned to meditate in February 2010.
How did you come to meditation? What got you interested in learning to meditate?
I heard about Vedic meditation from a friend who had been meditating for a couple of months. She described emotional benefits that sounded very attractive to me – she talked about increased happiness and better relationships. I started listening very intently at that point, because I could really use this happiness that she was describing! And I liked the idea of a technique that could deliver more happiness naturally. But I still didn’t go for it at that time, because I didn’t think that it could work for me. A few months later, when things in my life became really painful, I decided to try it. By that time I was ill and extremely stressed out, so I desperately needed a solution.
Was it something you had been thinking about for some time?
Yes. In fact, I had tried different meditation techniques in the past. In every case, I hadn’t felt any real benefits. Of course, I’d blamed myself and thought… “This is supposed to work – something must be wrong with me.” So I had given up on meditation until my friend spoke so highly of this technique.
What changes and effects did you notice in your life when you started meditating? e.g. in terms of physical and mental wellbeing, energy, work performance, sleep
First I felt the physical benefits. Within the first week of meditating, I started waking up before my alarm. This happened consistently every day, whether my alarm was set for 6am or 8am. This was completely unheard of. Previously it had been a huge struggle to wake up in the morning, hitting the Snooze button several times. I also started feeling increased energy. I was dealing with an illness when I learned to meditate, so I had very low energy. I would start meditating at 5pm, often feeling exhausted and wondering how I’d make it to the end of the day. At 5.20pm, at the end of my meditation, I would feel rested and have enough energy to tackle the evening ahead. It was a significant difference in only 20 minutes.
The emotional benefits followed soon after. I started feeling less stressed at work. My workload was the same as before, but now it felt manageable. Even though I was very busy, I no longer felt overwhelmed by my to-do list and I got through my tasks more smoothly. I noticed that I became more articulate; for example, if I was in a meeting trying to make a point, somehow I would phrase my argument much better than before. I remember thinking that my language skills had improved overnight! Of course, my mind had become clearer after shedding some stress. I also felt much more confidence than before. If I had to meet with directors or VPs who were senior to me, I felt confident around them and didn’t get intimidated as I had done previously.
After meditating for about three weeks, I also noticed a big shift in terms of relationships. When something bothered me in a relationship, it became much easier for me to confront the problem. Previously, if something bothered me, my tendency had been to suffer silently. But now I found myself naturally taking action to address the issue directly with the other person, and feeling much better as a result. This happened for both professional and personal relationships. And to my surprise, in every case where I confronted such an issue, the other person was receptive to my feedback and willing to resolve any problems. I was amazed at this particular improvement, especially considering that I had been avoiding certain problems for years, and now I felt empowered to tackle them for the first time. Learning to resolve problems in relationships is still an ongoing process. But it was meditation that enabled me to start this process after years of avoidance, and gave me the clarity to know where I needed to take action in my life.
How easy or not have you found it to integrate this technique into your life?
I’ve found it easy, especially because I can do it on trains, buses, etc. The morning meditation is simple to fit in, as I can wake up a bit early to do it, and to my own surprise, I want to wake up early to do it. The afternoon meditation can be a challenge to fit in, but occasionally if I know that my afternoon will be completely full, I meditate at lunchtime. Every now and then I miss a meditation, but there is always the next meditation to get back on track.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about learning to meditate?
I would say, just go to an Intro Talk and see how you feel about it. And if you feel like trying it, don’t get distracted by thoughts of “It won’t work for me.” That’s what I thought at my intro talk – but I’m glad that I was desperate enough to take the course anyway, despite my doubts. I was still having those doubts during my four-day course, when the other students were reporting immediate benefits that I hadn’t felt yet. I did feel the benefits soon enough – it’s just that it took a few more days than other people. Everyone has their own unique circumstances, so don’t compare yourself with others and don’t get caught up in “It won’t work for me”.
Any advice for those who may not be finding it so easy to fit it in to their life?
My top advice is to plan your afternoon meditation at the beginning of the day. If you know you are going out for the evening, you can plan to meditate before leaving your workplace, or meditate before lunch. If the weather is warm, there is usually a park within walking distance that serves as a great place to meditate. In chilly weather, you can often find a church or other building nearby. A bench in a shopping mall is a good option. As for the morning meditation, I suggest making a commitment to wake up 20 minutes early for one week, and see if it works for you. That’s what I did when I learned to meditate – I told myself that I would try it for one week, and before the week was over, I felt such a benefit that I knew I was going to stick with it.