Jogyata Dallas, author, marathon runner, recipient of Kiwibank local hero award and a founding member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in New Zealand, has been giving meditation classes and workshops for over 40 years, both in New Zealand and all around the world.
Why meditate…what is the purpose?
Well, we nourish our body every day with food with great regularity, but most of us neglect to take care of some of the deeper aspects of ourselves. Meditation nourishes our mind and our soul and the spiritual aspects of our nature which also need constant attention. These shape our whole life experience. People who are peaceful, for example, are not disturbed by life’s ups and downs, they have an inner calm and poise. And our happiness – most of our efforts at being happy depend upon external things like better jobs, new relationships, material things, travel plans and so forth, but meditation cultivates an inner happiness that no longer depends on these changing outer things at all.
I remember many years ago travelling a lot during a very purposeless part of my life. But everywhere I went my inner unhappiness followed me, colored in all of my experiences. A Greek poet once said: ‘No ship exists to take you from yourself..’ – yes that is what it was like, I couldn’t escape myself. So meditation changes the inner landscape, helps you to find inner peace, a different kind of happiness and a new understanding about your life. You can pursue all of your outer life ambitions as well, but your happiness will no longer depend upon their success or failure, it’s coming from within.
So what is meditation ?
It’s an inner quest to understand yourself, to reconnect with your soul, to realize what and who you really are. All the big words – enlightenment, yoga, self-discovery, God realisation – refer to this achievement. It’s really our deepest purpose, but we’re so immersed in our life dramas and enchanted by the world that we’ve forgotten about our spiritual nature and how important it is to real happiness. People who have an interest in meditation are awakening – meditation is the response, looking down into the silences to see what is there.
Is meditation of relevance to everybody?
Indeed yes. Each of us, in the many stories of our lives, shares the same longing for happiness and personal fulfilment. We explore so many pathways and possibilities in life to find satisfaction – in people, places, careers, outer situations – yet the happiness that we seek seems often so brief and elusive. Down through the ages the great spiritual teachers all remind us that the secrets of happiness and successful living are in fact already inside us, deep inside the human consciousness, and that meditation is a powerful key to unlock these secrets. This truth applies to all of us.
Is meditation the same as religion?
Meditation is not a philosophy or religion or dogma but simply a way of being, of reconnecting to a deeper part of our selves. It invites us to set aside a little time each day to cultivate our practice, quieten the chatter of the mind, bring to the fore the peace, insight, self-knowledge and happiness inherent in our deeper nature. Anyone can meditate because we are all essentially spiritual beings. In meditation we turn our gaze within to the quiet places of the heart and soul – its practice takes us to a peaceful inner space and can transform every part of our outer lives in a wonderfully positive way.
What are some of the practical benefits?
There are lots! Even after a short period of sincere practice things start to happen, 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’ll 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’re 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.