Last month, I bunked clinic and meditated for 8 days. I went to a place called “Dhammagiri” in Igatpuri, Maharashtra, where i had no access to phone, internet, nor any form of external writing, reading or visual media. The only thing I did from 4 AM to 9 pm was practice Vipassana meditation. This wasn’t something new for me. I’ve been coming to Igatpuri from 2005 and it is probably the single most important decision that has influenced every aspect of my life ever since.
Most psychologists today have emphasized the importance of spiritual growth for the overall development of an individual. Along with physical, mental and emotional development, a fourth component – the spiritual – is a prerequisite for stability in life.
The concept of spirituality has been misunderstood and most people have a very hazy view of what it really means. People associate spirituality with being part of a cult, a certain religion, or doing numerous rites and rituals. True spirituality has nothing to do with any of these.
Another popular view is that spirituality is for older people. You can have a ball, live your life, party hard and somewhere in your early sixties start being spiritual. Nothing could be further from the truth. As we grow older, it is much more difficult to learn anything new. We become grumpier, irritable and more opinionated. The ideal time to learn anything is right now!
Life is difficult. Every one of us goes through situations where we feel miserable, lost and helpless. There are many ways by which people cope with misery. The most common reaction is to mask misery. If you are feeling low, you could call a few friends, hit a pub, get drunk, do something crazy and go to sleep. If you don’t have any friends, you could finish a bottle of whiskey by yourself, smoke pot or watch porn instead.
The problem is that all of these are only temporary distractions and the next morning, the emptiness remains. Once misery breaks through the cautionary barricades that we have erected against it, we can never see the world in the same way again. Life becomes totally meaningless. For someone who is not prepared, this realization can be devastating.
The acknowledgment that life is difficult is the first step towards finding a solution. This might seem like a simple thing but for most people, it is an extremely difficult step. It is much easier for us to blame others or circumstances than blame ourselves. we would rather stick to our comfort zone than think differently. Even though we are unhappy, we do not want to change because there is a certain degree of comfort in the predictable and the mundane. This is the reason why we see people going on complaining about the state of their lives but not take a step towards change. Once we accept that the reason for our misery is within us, we realize that the ability to be happy also lies within us. True spirituality is a quest to discover this hidden source of happiness which is inherent in every one of us.
When are we genuinely happy? We are happy when we live in the present. Most of our frustrations in life happen because of two reasons: we either regret about the past or are worried about the future. The past is gone forever and there is no point worrying about it. The future is yet to come and after all, what is the future but a product of what we do today? This is a concept that is easy to read or lecture about but extremely difficult to practice. Living in the present is an art that must be learnt. Meditation is a tool which helps.
I have tried most forms of spirituality and I am convinced that pure meditation without any religious bias is the only way out. I am not a Vipassana teacher and I do not want to get into specifics. Vipassana is taught in many centers across the world and – this is the best part – the entire course is absolutely free! If you could spend ten days of your life learning this technique, it might just change your life. Check out http://www.dhamma.org for details.
So, does practicing the right form of meditation make you a better person? Off course it does! Does it mean that if someone slaps you on one cheek, you show him the other cheek? Well, that is a very high stage, and someday, we all hope to reach that stage. Today, a counter-punch or a kick in the groin would be a more likely reaction. It takes time to change. But remember; the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.