Sunday, August 8, 2010

My journey into meditation

I had heard about meditation as a child but it seemed something esoteric and "out there" and I never really bothered exploring it.

Fast forward to 1993-94. I was in graduate school and trying to deal with the pressures of it. Someone asked me to look into meditation saying that I needed to practice detachment. Since I didn't know where to start, I asked for some recommendations and was told to read "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki. Having had no prior exposure to meditation, I found the book very hard to read. However, I got through it and tried to start practicing. I practiced for a few minutes for a couple of days. Then life got better, I stopped practicing, and I forgot all about it.

Fast forward again to 2002. I was going through a lot of stress in my work and personal life. As a result my physical health started to get affected. A myriad of stress-related symptoms -- high blood pressure, hormonal imbalances, etc. started appearing in my body. I experienced mild panic attacks. The message from the doctors was clear -- I needed to de-stress myself. But how do I do this? Some doctors recommended getting on anti-anxiety medication. I thought it was too early in life to start taking pills that would probably have to continue lifelong, in increasing doses over time. There had to be a better solution.

Around that time I visited India to get checkups from specialists there. They found the same things as the doctors in the US and some said I needed to start treating the symptoms aggressively before they get worse. Rather than starting treatment, I decided to seek some wise people to discuss my problems with. One of those people recommended that I read "Many Lives, Many Masters" by Brian Weiss. I bought the book and read it cover to cover on the flight back to the US. I was so inspired by the story, that I got on the net and searched for Brian Weiss. On his website, he had listed his book titled "Meditation: Achieving Inner Peace and Tranquility in Your Life". Included with the book was a CD with a 20-minute guided meditation. I bought the book and started listening to the CD. The first couple of days I listened to it in the morning and evening. After that, I only listened to it in the evening after work. In the morning, I started practicing "watching the breath" which I had learnt from "Zen Mind, Beginners Mind" several years ago!

A few weeks into this simple practice and I did much better on my health checkups. They started showing normal results, even though they were borderline. This encouraged me to stay with the practice. Since then I've taken other meditation courses. And through the years, I've tried to maintain a regular practice even though the technique used may vary. I'll write about some of those techniques in future posts.

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