An Interview with Jogyata Dallas of the Sri Chinmoy Centre
Why meditate…what is the purpose?
Most of our efforts at happiness and the usual solutions to our unhappiness rely upon external things that are unreliable and changeable…like better jobs, new relationships, material things, travel plans and so forth. But simply changing one set of circumstances for another does not solve our anxieties or loneliness or discontent, for these originate within ourselves and will never be satisfied by the ephemeral things of the world.. A Greek poet once said: ‘No ship exists to take you from yourself..’ – and it’s so true! There is nothing wrong with having these things, only the mistaken assumption that they are enough to fulfill you.
Meditation is an inner search for happiness and gradually brings about a desireless contentment that has nothing to do with where you are, who you are with, what you own…it is an inner achievement, the reconnecting to our deeper spiritual nature that many of us have forgotten even exists. With practice, meditation will bring about an inner peace, a life free of stress and anxiety. Real happiness is like the fragrance of the soul.
What are some of the practical benefits?
They are numerous and often emerge even after a short period of sincere practice. They also cover a range of positives from the physical to the spiritual. At the physical level you can expect to sleep better as you gradually eliminate stress and negative thought. And because our physical health is so connected to thoughts and mind –holistics! – increasing our sense of calm brings about a renewed vitality and life energy.
You’ll laugh more, become more heart centered and intuitive! You will simply feel more happy. You will slowly develop what is really an inner poise, a growing calm in the face of life’s endless challenges. This is really something! And as our practice deepens the benefits flow out into all of life, into how we understand and deal with each passing moment – it is a life skill that changes our existence from the inside out.
At the highest level, meditation reconnects us with our deepest potentials, unveils the great mystery of who we really are – and this is not just mind, body, personality or gender. We really are spiritual beings and the great quest for what is called ‘enlightenment’ or self-realization becomes increasingly real to us as we glimpse and feel the great joy and freedom of our souls.
How does a beginner get started?
Start with a modest and achievable goal of simply creating a space in your life, perhaps ten minutes in the morning, to practice one or two simple exercises in stilling the mind. Take it one week at a time, set an initial goal of sitting once a day for seven days. This sounds easy, but adding an uncertain new habit into a life which already prioritizes other things is a challenge. You need to have real sincerity! Come to one of our free workshops and learn the ABC’s, or go to some teacher or group to get properly started and inspired.
Create in your room a special place, a shrine with a flower and candle, as a focal point. Incense helps to add atmosphere and inspiration. Work with exercises to quieten your thoughts – breathing techniques, visualizations, mantras – and don’t have expectations or evaluate your progress . Each effort is progress, and the wanderings and restlessness in the mind will gradually subside. But you have to make a start!
How do we know what form of meditation is best for us?
You won’t at first, but as your practice progresses you will start to zero in on the methods most suited to your nature. We are each temperamentally inclined toward a certain type of practice, of yoga, and will naturally veer towards that quite instinctively. There are many ways to meditate but most share in common the effort to still the mind – eventually the different paths all converge at the top of the mountain, reach the same goal.
One of the secrets of meditation is that all sincere effort seems to attract what I can only call grace – all the difficulties melt away, our path finds us, the universe shows us our way forward simply through our willingness to try.
Another secret of meditation is that this ability is already inside us – we are not learning how to be peaceful but remembering ! Practice is simply creating the time and space out of which this knowledge can emerge. Our spirituality is the most natural and wonderful of our gifts and simply needs to be awakened – it has been neglected and eclipsed by our busy outer lives yet remains the greatest determining factor in the quality of all our life experience. Everything begins within!
How long before I can begin to feel some of these nice things ?
A day, a week, a month…who knows? Just make a start and find out! We are all at different points on different journeys, though we share the same challenges to master the mind and find our way back to our deeper nature.
Remember though – don’t meditate to simply have nice experiences but to make progress, as though you have embarked on a long and wonderful journey. Some days are rewarding and easy, others difficult, but rise above all thought of good and bad and commit to the quest of self-discovery. And remember that where you are struggling to quieten the mind, there also is the greatest possibility of enlightenment – that is the coalface of progress! If you practice every day, then every day is another step closer to the great joy and the great happiness that lies at the end of all striving.
Jogyata has taught meditation for 27 years and is the author of several books about the subject and his encounters and experiences with Sri Chinmoy. He lives in Auckland but teaches in many other countries. His workshops combine humor, personal anecdotes and guided meditations and reflect his sincere love of his subject.