Do I need sanskrit mantras, chanting, mala beads, and or statues of Hindu gods in my bedroom?
For the longest time I was totally out to lunch when it came to the practice of meditation. I thought that if I didn’t have a statue of Ganesha next to my bed that I would never be able to meditate.
And so for the longest time I didn’t meditate. Then I bought a very big statue of Ganesha. It was a great decoration, but it didn’t do anything for my practice.
I have experimented with all different types of yoga practices ranging from Kundalini to Bikram hot yoga. Those two systems are essentially opposites of each other. The Bikram system concentrates on a precise dialogue of instruction while one is looking in the mirror with eyes open moving swiftly from posture to posture with precise form.
You’re in a blazing hot room, half naked and sweating as if you were melting into your towel. No chanting occurs. The closest thing connected to India happens when the teacher calls the name of a posture in both English and Sanskrit. Most teachers at the end of the practice will say very few words of a spiritual nature, but they will say “Namaste” when they conclude to keep with the tradition.
In Kundalini yoga you’re generally asked to wear white clothing and are surrounded with every possible fetish from a specific sect of the Sikh practice created by a Yogi named” Yogi Bhagan.” You may not like that flavor of ice cream, but it’s a great practice because it can take a distracted mind and force it into a focus. You chant like crazy and you make all kinds of wild noises. In some ways it reminds me of ecstatic dance that ancient cultures would do around the fire. but it’s a little bit more fancy. In Kundalini, astrological charts are used to dictate what the practices for a given day will be.
If a person uses this as the center of their belief system and they stay fixed and focused on waking up their consciousness, they will succeed. All the pageantry around both the big room and the Kundalini practice are the perfect boundaries to make any individual focus and say, “Here I am, I am in this moment.”
But both systems are also perfectly arbitrary. They are not necessary. There’s no dogma claiming that their way is the only right way.
I could start my own yoga system tomorrow and call it “Crystal Dancers.” I could make it very elaborate, with a meditation room lined wall-to-wall with all kinds of crystals, 150 lit candles, and chants that I’d write myself.
I could then bring soft, fresh bagels into the meditation room. I’d subsequently tell my disciples that we all must sit back and toss the bagels at the crystals, trying to make them land on the crystals in the same fashion as a ring toss game.
People might be attracted to me and I’d then build up a following. I’d need to tell people to focus, focus, focus, and concentrate, using my method, in order to become just as enlightened as they’d become if they practiced Kundalini or Bikram hot yoga. The more people that would practice my system, the more sense it would make.
There are so many systems to wake up your consciousness. None of them are right and none of them are wrong. They are just whatever works for whoever’s practicing a particular system. Some people will concentrate and focus better if they go to the South American rainforest and sit with a shaman by a burning fire, drinking sacred plant medicine while someone’s playing a flute. Those medicines could help a person expand their consciousness and see things that they might be blind to. In that setting and with the right instruction, a person could have many breakthroughs. I have no reason to judge such practices.
I also think that going to a peaceful concert, listening to great musicians play your favorite songs and being really happy in that moment can be extremely grounding. It can be a form of meditation. It could be the thing that gets you to concentrate and focus on what you need to do to get inside into the world of your mind.
You could use jumping out of an airplane as a meditation. I did. And man did I focus. My view of the world expanded, and therefore I believe my consciousness expanded. However, I don’t recommend that you put your life at risk in order to achieve mental stillness. It’s not necessary. For the overwhelming majority of people, anyway: Maybe a specific personality type with a specific history would need to do so to obtain a degree of enlightenment.
Maybe the only thing that can make some people feel whole and centered is battle. The great samurais and ancient warriors were all initially enlightened and focused. But they were focused on the art of death, the art of killing. You can’t really be a samurai here in the west unless you intend to lop peoples heads off and end up in prison.
If you were incarcerated for killing people, your meditations would be to keep the warden happy and to not get beaten to death. I do believe that a person with the right intention can make life imprisonment into a meditation. Through that they could become enlightened as well. But that doesn’t suit me—It doesn’t feel right or comfortable, so I won’t pursue that method.
I want to simply say that I want to meditate in a way that fits my lifestyle. I choose my lifestyle. I am in my lifestyle; I am on a path. I don’t have to make my path look like anyone else’s. I do know that meditation is a powerful tool, and I intend to master it. I want to take the most direct path. I don’t want to veer away, I don’t want to curve, I don’t want to sway anymore. So that’s why I wrote this book. I realized that all I need to do is sit for two minutes a day and let nature take its course.
Miraculously, I found it works. The secret is that after a long habit of two minutes a day, I built up automatically to 30 minutes. Now I wonder to myself how I can consider anything in my life not to be a form of meditation, even if I’m moving about in my day. I’ve declared for myself that every moment that I’m awake I am in a meditation state. I am present.
And believe me, I drift away very easily, so I have to bring myself back. The way I bring myself back is to practice yoga. When I’m on my mat I’m really listening to the instructions and being right there in the moment. I still have to work not drift away when I get bored or if the postures become too easy. This type of work brings me a great sense of relaxation and is the foundation for my temperament throughout the day.
I have to say that I’m never going to be perfect. The good news is that neither will you be. That’s why meditation is termed as a “practice.” We all practice. We practice at the things that we do in our lives that we want or need to get better at. For example, being a parent is a practice.
Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes better.