Archive for Meditation 冥想

The Joy of My Father Lives on

Father-70s

My father was a silk textile designer in the early half of the 70s.

Father was always painting, painting and painting, getting so much joy from his art.

Father was always painting, painting and painting, getting so much joy from his art. Left: dad in front of one of his paintings in the 80’s; right: taking part in an art exhibition in the 90’s.

In my morning prayer today, the thought of my father suddenly entered my mind. It was his soul paying me a visit when I was giving thanks to the feeling of happiness—the exact word written on my chakra candle with a frankincense scent. Then suddenly I remembered how my father, when he was young and I, a child, always exuded a sense of calm joy and optimism. I always used to wonder how he managed to remain calm and find happiness inside of him, no matter how rough and stormy the circumstances in life were. To me, he was like a rock, solid and unmovable. It had remained a mystery throughout my childhood.

Fond memories of him making jokes, making us kids laugh, of his gentle ways, his love for his pot plants and for Nature, and all those walks in the mountains he took me to… they flashed through in my mind’s eye, like snapshots in quick succession.

Fast forward to the last decade of his life, this joy gradually eroded. I believe that his marriage with mom had taken a heavy toll on him. Mother was always nagging and criticizing him, complaining that he did not make enough money for the household and not being truly appreciative of his art. He eventually resorted to having a secret extra-marital relationship to regain that joy. But within the family he was miserable. He probably felt imprisoned—a free and lighthearted spirit being tied to worldly responsibilities. All his life he pursued art and beauty. He just followed his heart to do what he loved to do. Of course it had not been easy on the family in terms of material comfort, but he was nevertheless such a responsible family man, guided by traditional Chinese values, that he did all he could to raise us and keep the family a stable place for us to grow up.

At nearly 75, he got lukemia, which, according to Louise Hay’s book, “Healing Your Body,” could probably be caused by the thought pattern of “What’s the use?” and the process of one’s inspiration being brutally killed. It is not too difficult to see the linkage there from hindsight… but no one in the family noticed back then.

I feel sorry that his sorrow and sense of futility took over his joy toward the end of his life. But my memory of his joy remains to this day and it is this memory of him that stays with me as the most vivid part of him, after his soul has returned to the realm of pure being and pure love. Tears swelled up in my eyes as I ruminated on how I can now feel a strong sense of joy inside of me, sans the mystery. In fact, after I started practicing Transcendental Meditation, I have been able to constantly tap into the bliss that I didn’t realize was always there, inside of me. And recently, with the use of an amazing new technology, the orgone generator, created by Karl Hans Welz, this bliss has been given an extra boost. It is an amazing experience.

Why I Chose TM and Have Stuck to It

Someone once asked me to explain, in two words, why I meditate.

My answer: “Blissful Existence.”

Yes, as simple as that.

But think about it: How far do most people go to get that experience? They would trek the mountains or dive the oceans, in search of something that is already within them, something that is their birth right. The source of happiness is never as far as 1 nanometer next to your heart.

The bliss is there, but how do you get it? By “diving within,” David Lynch is known to be saying. The famous director is an outspoken proponent of Transcendental Meditation (TM). He has been practicing it for more than 30 years, and so have many of the creative celebrities who have one by one come out to support the work of Lynch’s foundation—to bring the gift of calmness and bliss to the most downtrodden people in society.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi started bringing this gift to the people outside of India in the late 50s, and to date, several million people are practicing the simple technique of meditation and enjoying the bliss that comes along.

There have been more than 600 studies on the effects of TM, a third of which are independent ones published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Among the positive effects of TM are:
* Increased happiness
* Reduced stress
* Increased intelligence
* Increased creativity
* Improved health, including reduced high blood pressure, reduced cholesterol and reduced risks for many diseases and psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression
* Improved relationships
* Increased energy
* Reduced insomnia
* Reversal of biological aging
* Reduced crime and improved quality of life in society

For a summary of those studies and their validity, click here and here.

My first-hand experience has found all of the above positive effects to be true.

The reduction of stress level is one that I particularly appreciate. When I first started to meditate, I was working as a journalist and later as a Web producer in New York. The jobs involved long hours and tremendous pressure. Besides, I had a busy private life on top of having the entire stress bundle of “New York living” to deal with. I never slept for more than five hours a day.

But as soon as I started to meditate, my sleep pattern changed automatically. I remember waking up and having overslept. I had slept seven hours for the first time since years! Just as my TM teacher told me, the body adjusts and returns to its natural functions as one starts to meditate. It does whatever the body naturally needs. So in my case my body recognized that I had a shortage of sleep. It automatically adjusted my internal alarm clock after I started to meditate.

Since then, I have always felt a strong sense of calmness within and extra energy to boot. A flat mate once asked me, “How come you are so energetic the whole evening even after work?”

This was just one of the immediate benefits of TM that I can recall. Overcoming clinical depression was another great step, which I achieved after practicing for about two months (disclaimer: everybody’s condition is different, so my case does not necessarily apply to other people).

At that time I had been on an antidepressant, Zoloft, for about a year. The psychiatrist strongly suggested me not to get off the drug on my own, but I had misgivings. I felt artificially hyped in new drug-induced happiness. Something must have been wrong. I knew intuitively that I could not go on like that. I did not feel like myself. So after having started to practice meditation, I felt a gradual return to my own self. I got closer and closer to my soul and what she wanted. And yes, she did not want this drug influence anymore.

It took about a week for me to go through the terrible withdrawal symptoms of Zoloft, but TM kept me anchored. Through the dark tunnel I emerged to be a new person. Since then I’ve never sunk back into that abyss anymore. TM has kept me not just afloat, but thriving.

Over the years, I have also noticed that my memory has become sharper and my learning ability has improved. In the past, I went through my life as if walking in a dim mist. Not anymore. Every moment feels to me to be painted in full “technicolor”! I remember things in a much more vivid light. I don’t just go through my life like a walking zombie.

As for learning skills, I have, after the age of 30, picked up a new language (Swedish) and became fluent in a relatively short period of time. I have also started to learn ballet as an adult and making good progress, despite my age. These are contrary to what conventional “wisdom” would tell you—that our brains degenerate after we have reached adulthood.

Scientific studies have proven that TM actually improves brain function:
Keeping Your Prefrontal Cortex Online: Neuroplasticity, Stress and Meditation

It’s not just this new found happiness, health and intellectual development that I treasure so much since I learned to meditate 12 years ago. In a very subtle but real way, TM opened up my consciousness, my third eye. The transcendental consciousness and restful alertness that I experience during the 20-minute, twice-a-day practice spills over to my daily existence, so that I become more refined in my choices from moment to moment, staying true to myself rather than drifting along blindly on the surface of the ocean.

As a result, I started to go deeper and more passionate about new interests that “popped up” inside me. I also began to believe without a doubt the infinite potential that lies within me, just as it lies within every single one of my fellow human beings. My search for the truth has also been guided by an inner light, leading me to knowledge that is many layers deeper than “conventional,” mainstream knowledge that most people around me seem to accept without questioning.

The clarity of who I am and what I want to be has increased over the years. The practice of TM has allowed me to develop a sense of intuition that helps me move toward the right path for myself (finding my own dharma), while staving off negative influences and setting up boundaries to people who try to invade my integrity. Instead of the weakling that I was, always trying to please other people in order to establish my own self-esteem, I have grown stronger and more certain of myself. The inner voice is talking to me ever more clearly and I am consciously in touch with the core of my being, my soul.

In this sense, TM has not only benefited me in terms of health and happiness, but also helped me move toward spiritual maturity and enlightenment.

Some people wonder if there is any difference between TM and other types of meditation. Well, there is. My TM teacher in New York told me he studied zen meditation back in the 60’s. But he found out after learning TM, that what would take a zen meditator 30 years to achieve, would only take 20 minutes for a TM meditator to do so. I and many TM meditators I know can attest to that.

Have a look at this article, which addresses this common question:
Are all forms of meditation and relaxation the same?

There is nothing difficult about learning how to meditate, when you have the right technique. And TM is just that. After the very first lesson, you will already be able to experience that “boom”! For me, it was like taking a mental shower. My brain had never felt so fresh in my whole life. It was also like taking an elevator and all of a sudden, it dropped to the right floor and you are there. You know you are there when you are there. But this is all experiential. Unless you actually take the step to learn and do it, no amount of words can truly do this fantastic experience any justice.

Lastly, let me include a beautifully written article about meditation and how it fits into the concept of yoga, the union with Devine Intelligence:
Samadhi is the beginning, not the end of Yoga

My Spiritual Path

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been asking myself, “Why do we exist?”

I love philosophizing. As a kid, this was one of my favorite activities whenever I had an idle moment.

The constant search for a meaningful answer to this question first led me to the Bible, which was readily available as soon as I entered secondary school. In fact, it was a mandatory subject, taught by Irish Catholic nuns who ran the school. Every morning I had to chant the “Lord’s Prayer” and “Hail Mary” with the whole class. I also had to go through some unfamiliar chanting, singing and kneeling rituals at weekly masses in the school hall. Very soon I was discontented with what I saw as a kind of religious hypocrisy. Some of my classmates who were baptized as Catholics would engage in despicable or unrighteous behavior in my eyes.

But I liked the messages in the Bible, as least some of those from the stories of Jesus, like when he healed the sick, fed the poor and stood up for the downtrodden ones. “There must be more to this,” I thought. So I followed a classmate to a different type of church, a Protestant one, with Baptist as denomination. Well, it was a bit less formal and people seemed to be engulfed in a sort of “goodness trance.” But I was still unsatisfied. Certain things just didn’t make sense to me.

Then I got swept into an organization that was considered by many a cult, Jehovah’s Witnesses. I subscribed to many of their beliefs, such as not celebrating birthdays and refusing to practice religious rituals like saying my morning prayers at school. Despite my fervent, I remained a passive member, which meant that I did not go out and “preach.” Still, I felt very self-righteous and different from everybody else around me. But my parents, being atheists at the time, were very much against my involvement in religious activities, especially in a cultist organization like this one. They even threatened to disown me if I continued. Seeing my father’s wrath and not wanting to become an orphan, I eventually gave in.

I did not give up my search for the truth though. When I was attending college in America, I made friends with some girls in my dorm. They were evangelical Christians. They invited me to a Christian fellowship and I was suddenly surrounded by super friendly people who spoke English slowly and clearly enough for me to follow. My host family also took me to an inter-denominational church, where I eventually “committed” to be a Christian. Being in such a friendly and safe community appealed to me a great deal and eased my awkward feeling of living in a foreign place where people did not understand where my country was located and why my hair “got so dark.”

Fast forward…. I never became a full-blown Christian, although the label or the lose concept of being a “committed one” actually made me remain a virgin throughout the five years I lived with my ex-boyfriend! Anyway, no regrets there, as our relationship was a dark chapter in my life. As I blossomed into my womanhood, it became clearer and clearer that the Christian values that I knew conveniently dove-tailed with the conservative Chinese traditions that I grew up with. Both of these value systems felt like a straitjacket, choking me almost to death.

In my quest to be a “good person,” I lost my sense of freedom and joy for life. “How can this be?”

Then one day I came across the name Maharishi Mahesh Yogi during my research at work. I was writing an article about Sthapatya-ved and how that transformed a sick building into one in which people thrive and became healthy. Little did I realize that this name would resurface when I met my future husband in Marseille during a back-packing trip. He asked me if I had heard of this man and told me that he practiced transcendental meditation taught by Maharishi.

This name and the meditation technique remained in the back of my mind until one day I read about them in Conversations with God by Neales Donald Walsh. In the appendix of his very first book, he wrote that TM, which is transcendental meditation in short, successfully reduced the criminality in Washington D.C. and created a peace effect in society.

Being an idealist, I was immediately attracted to the idea. I had been testing the water with meditation before, but failed to appreciate its benefits because I was trying to focus my mind on my breath, or the image of a candle, which I found impossible for any length of time longer than 20 seconds!

So I looked up the TM Center in New York, where I was living then, and went to their introductory lecture. I was so impressed by what I heard—all the benefits that TM promises—and they all turned out to be true. I will write about the benefits in another post but it suffices to say that I am extremely happy that I “stumbled upon” this spiritual practice. It is such a simple technique. Anybody, even a child, can learn it and reap great benefits in their daily lives. As I enjoyed the new-found calmness and clarity in my head, I gasped at the positive, guilt-free feeling that spirituality could actually give me. From then on, there was no looking back.

TM is not the be-all-and-end-all stop of my spiritual journey. In fact, it kicked started an exciting journey ahead.

A couple of years ago, I started to get really interested in Vedic literature and picked up a book called The Secret Teachings of the Vedas by Stephen Knapp. In the book he explored the concept of religion. He wrote that the word “religion” comes from the Latin word “religio,” which means to bring back or to bind. Similarly, the Sanskrit word “yoga” means to connect with or to unite—with the Supreme. Meditation is part of the practice of yoga, which unfortunately has been reduced to a form of stretching exercise due to the corruption of its meaning in the West.

Anyway, it is a delight to know that the goal of religion and yoga are the same. Somehow, human beings have for thousands of years allowed ignorance, faulty interpretation, greediness and blind rituals to overshadow our true spiritual longing for the devine union. But I believe that through gaining Vedic knowledge and practicing the purest form of meditation that allows us to experience transcendental consciousness, we will achieve self-realization and enlightenment.