Ashlee Lala at Verve Magazine recently shared the following interview with meditation teacher and author Jogyata Dallas, reprinted here with the magazine’s kind permission
Is meditation of relevance to everybody?
Indeed yes. Is inner peace, a calm mind, a happy heart relevant to everybody – certainly!
Meditation simply tells us that we are on a journey of self-discovery, that we can leave behind the things that limit and bind us, we can become happier, inwardly stronger, more loving and more calm. We can see our life more clearly, what is really important, what is not important, and move on into a brighter future.
Is meditation the same as religion?
Each religion usually has a unique set of rituals and practises and beliefs, offering a prescribed path towards the goals it is dedicated to. Meditation invites you instead to simply believe in your fundamental spiritual nature, to believe in what you find to be true through your own deepening self-discovery, a belief that what you are today can be transformed into something liberated, boundless and free.
People on religious paths of course can meditate, just as those who are not adherents of a religion can also meditate. Both will benefit greatly, as wisdom and happiness are inner achievements.
The inner hunger to learn and grow is like the sap that keeps the tree alive. Religion needs this inner sincerity, the urge towards God or knowledge or inner peace – without it the tree will die, only the empty rituals remain. Meditation does not require the beliefs or practises of organised religion, only the hunger to blossom and grow. Both are authentic paths.
How are meditation and physical fitness connected?
The effort to become very still requires the co-operation of both the body and mind. If our body is restless, unwell, unfit, it will be much harder to meditate – a common problem! The body needs to be a body-temple, not a body-dungeon. Hatha yoga addresses this, a preparation for the further branches of yoga; jnana, karma, bhakti yoga and so forth. So does any regime of physical exercise.
As we move up the ladder of increasing well-being, we automatically fine tune the body – the intuitive intelligence of the body tells us what to eat, best nutrition, disease avoidance and cures. But everything in our humanity needs to re-align itself and support the effort towards stillness. I shifted to a vegetarian diet 50 years ago, and from there found many further discoveries to support my meditation.
Tell us more about the Free Meditation courses you offer, how do we access these and what can one expect?
Our group, the Auckland Sri Chinmoy Centre, offers year-round free courses that cover a wide canvas of meditation skills – breath, heart meditation, mantras, visualisations, and further on some of the deeper secrets of meditation and the paths of yoga. This gives participants a good overview and a wider understanding of the spiritual journey we’re all embarked upon, and how to expedite this growth. There’s an incoming tide of change in the world, a widening interest in spirituality evident everywhere. I love to freely share my belief in meditation with others who are awakening to this.
Feel free to call me regarding other questions or about classes around New Zealand : Jogyata 0221887432
What would you say to someone very new to meditation and looking for an accessible entry point?
Just start! Your sincerity is a magnet that will bring to you the people and opportunities and knowledge you need to proceed. Never be discouraged by the restless mind, the endless stream of thoughts – this is the starting point, and everyone’s experience at the beginning.
Find a group to meditate with, either us or others – the kinship and team effort of like-minded people will double your progress.
Spiritual books will inspire the mind, fitness will enable you to keep the body quiet and still, and find a space in your life dedicated to your practise – 10-15 minutes at the day’s start is best.
Have a meditation shrine in your room – a low table with a flower, candle, any other things that for you embody the meditation journey. Set a goal – can I meditate every day for a week?
Can you share anything personal that has shifted in your own life that you attribute to your regular meditation practice?
A long time ago my life shifted from looking for happiness in outer things – people, places, careers, material gains – to an inner quest through meditation. I travelled to over 50 countries, a nomad, and my past was strewn with abandoned jobs and discarded dreams. Everything led me within. I read somewhere ‘No ship exists to take you from yourself’ and that has always proven true – it is in the inner world that we find a desireless happiness and fulfilment.
I shifted from atheism to an understanding of an intelligent universe, a benign intelligence behind everything; an understanding that we have been around for countless incarnations and largely unremembered other lives; and that the only really important thing is our own enlightenment and Self-discovery. This truth lifts our lives up into the sacred, reminds us of what is most important in our lives. Everything else is straw in the wind.
Everyone’s life is already their spiritual path, we just need to find the hunger and discipline to step out of the everyday distractions, the social media, phones, computers and toys, and think of our soul as a beautiful child, a divine spark – we need to feed it every day with our meditation, or it cannot grow.