Why I Meditate?
People ask me “why do you meditate?” It seems like a very natural process for me knowing the great benefits and having meditated for so many years. I find it interesting that I never really asked myself that question. To answer their question I have to go back to 1968 when I was initiated into yoga and meditation by Swami Satchidananda in New York City. Initiation is a ritual that made me a member of Swamiji’s lineage and a student of his teachings. I also received a personal mantra to repeat during meditation. Being a Manhattan office space realtor, I needed a way to calm my mind and experience my deeper sense of self, which I was seeking. Swamiji had the answers my parents and friends couldn’t give me.
In 1969 I moved from New York to northern California where I met another yoga teacher from India. Baba Hari Dass spent 12 years in a cave surviving only on milk. He was extremely knowledgeable on all the yoga techniques and philosophy. In fact, the first day I met him, he had me passing a waxed string through my nose and out my mouth. (String netti) This is one of the yoga purification techniques. I attended silent retreats, fasted and practiced silence once a week. I became so interested in meditation that I chose this topic for my doctoral dissertation. I studied all the current research, which claimed amazing results. Researchers found that meditators with such psychosomatic diseases as headaches, insomnia and asthma found relief. Once they stopped meditating the symptoms returned. Also noted was improved physical and mental health. I decided to deepen my meditation practice, so with Babaji’s help, we designed a meditation program. I appreciated having a teacher to guide and direct me through this process. After each meditation I would journal my own experiences, which became a chapter in my dissertation
I built a wooden box just big enough to sit in. I lined the sides with foam rubber, which would prevent me from hitting my head on the hard wood, just in case I fell asleep. I drilled a hole in the box and put a dim light on the outside, which became my meditation focus. The box, which I called the Samadhi Box, was located inside an unused sauna. It was very quiet and dark. I started meditating for 20 minutes and after several months I found myself meditating for 2 ½ hours. At first it seemed that the greater part of my meditation sessions was taken up with 2 types of thoughts. Everyday concerns (money, bills, relationships) and deep impressions and beliefs floating up from my subconscious. My mind tended to gravitate toward problems, fear, worry and judgements. It became my job to retrain it. Eventually, I was able to improve my focus and dissolve more quickly into deeper moments without thoughts. Mindlessness seems to be a more accurate term, than mindfulness. I had to become comfortable not thinking. I continue to enjoy that challenge.
After having one very deep experience I wrote Babaji. He replied “You are getting realization of meditation. Your experiences in meditation are very close to Samadhi.” Samadhi is a Sanskrit term used to define meditative absorption when the mind becomes still. It is a state of being totally aware of the present moment; a one-pointedness of the mind. This occurred when I became deautomotized and transcended the duality of my mind as I merged into the light. There was no good or bad, right or wrong. Only an experience of being home in a thoughtless void and experiencing myself merging into everything else. My mind ceased attaching to and identifying with anything it has seen or heard. Jeff, the personality did not exist. I was taking a break from my ego and who I thought I was. This feeling of merging into oneness motivates me to meditate daily. I become free of past automatic programming which allows me to have a new, fresh perspective. I enter the realm of all possibilities, with no limitations. I realized that by observing my mind, meditation helps me to understand my emotions and reactions to situations and thoughts. It’s not what happens to me, but how I choose to react to situations. I have become more objective and have the ability to observe thoughts without eliciting negative reactions.
As I evolved in meditation I began to realize that I am much more than my thoughts. In fact when weird thoughts come up, I say to myself, “ that’s not me.” My thoughts and ego is not who I am. The more I make contact with the peaceful, spiritual aspect of myself during meditation; it becomes a bigger and larger part of who I am. Here I attain freedom from the trappings of my mind and its limitations, which liberate me. I experience peace, clarity, and a reality that is free from judgment, attachment, desperation and personal interest. My challenge is to bring this state into my everyday life. So that’s why I meditate.