Yogin meditate, practice asceticism, perform sadhana, basically live our lives on the path of Yoga all with one goal in mind – liberation. Liberation from the incessant cycle of birth and rebirth, the cycle of life known as Samsara.
Pan Nalin, a Gujarat-born Indian film-maker, directed a stunning, award-winning movie back in 2001 by the same name – Samsara.
The protagonist of the film is a young monk named Tashi. When the movie begins we find him ensconced in a cave, hair and beard flowing down his chest. He is emaciated, having been sitting there for some years.
Why the villagers came and removed the stone at the opening of the cave, why they awakened the young monk – none of this is ever revealed. But awaken him they did and after tenderly nursing his atrophied muscles, brought him to the river for a much needed bath.
The cinematography is spectacular and the audience is left with a small semblance of bliss ourselves as we are lead to watch this Eastern Christ-like figure being brought home from his long penance. We are deeply looking forward to watching the story unfold from here as the young monk is carried into the village on horseback and the people begin to gather. But who’s this now? The camera brings our attention to a rather picturesque young woman and, what’s this now? Our young monk has just given her the most casual of glances – you know the ones we mean boys – those quick glances that take absolutely the entire picture in from top to bottom and everything in between including the plans for courtship and what we might say to her mother if it ever came to that. That kind of glance. It was subtle, but it was there. And herein the audience is given its first taste of the lesson we will be subjected to for the rest of the movie.
Arishadvarga – The Six Internal Enemies of Moksha, are not to be trifled with. They mean serious business and a mere several years of sitting like a stone in a cave is not going to do the job. Even just one of the enemies, in this case lust, is enough to send the steady mind of the most earnest of monks into a tailspin. And thus the moral of the story is already abundantly clear and we are left with a conflicted romance for the next two hours.
I am meditating for years, yes. But my Guru prepared me for those infernal enemies of mind early. He told me they’d come, told me what to beware of, and most importantly, He instructed me very precisely in how to handle them. But I suppose that would be food for an entirely different article. So I’ll just move on to what kind of meditation I do.
Forgive me, though. I’ve really no idea what kind of meditation I do. Baba was an Aghori, a Jnani, a magical-mystical sage of a fellow who taught me Kriya and Karma and Bhakti and Tantra and all without ever putting a name to anything. I was taught by the fireplace from the deep midnight blue of early morning into the wee hours of the night and all the day through in a strictly oral tradition. He wasn’t a professor. There was no this pranayam is called Bastrika and this mudra is called this and this mantra – oh wait a minute. Come to think of it now, He did put a couple names to the mantras… Okay, moving a long then.
I still don’t know what kind of meditation I practiced or practice today. If I’m ever so active to resemble something like Vipissana then I am certainly closer to Vajrayana Tantra – but only when I have a great goal in mind. Otherwise neti neti quickly sees me go still and dark so bright I’d need shades if I weren’t already awake in a dreamless sleep characterized by the most comfortable shades of soft myst.
But let me tell you what I achieved, ‘cuz I think this is pretty cool and everybody ought to be able to have at least this trick under their belt if they’re looking to get something tangible from their meditation. I think we can probably categorize what I’m going to describe under stress management.
I don’t recall why I had to do the test – I think it was just one of those things it was time for – but I’ll really never forget it. It does make quite a good story after all. It’s called an EGD. That stands for Esophago-gastro-duoden-oscopy (hyphenated for ease). Basically it’s a camera on a long tube inserted into the esophagus and pushed down into the stomach to check for stuff there and along the way. Cool bananas. I wasn’t intimidated in the slightest, but I did look at it as a kind of test.
There’s all kind of prep for a test like this. No meds or food for twelve hours prior. Dentures have to be removed lest they become dislodged and the patient chokes to death – but jeez, what kind of shaking is the doctor going to doing with that thing anyway? I was told that they were going to spray a local anesthetic into my throat before giving me the real pain killers and muscle relaxants for the procedure and that I should wear a mouth guard to protect my teeth. (I’m not of denture age just yet).
I was told what to expect; there was going to be an IV dripping meds into me throughout the procedure and the tube might be removed and replaced sometimes if tissue samples needed to be collected from my insides for biopsy. Okay, all clear. Just one thing. I wanted to do this without the meds and I asked the doctor if it were possible. He just kind of looked at me. ‘Well, yeah. It’s possible. If you can relax enough..” He said. How bad could it be, I thought. Time to put my money where my mouth is, I thought. Walk the talk so to speak. What kind of master relaxer would I be If I couldn’t put my stress management skills to work here? So I signed the release and laid down on my side to meet my destiny.
Maaaaaan, that was scarier than I would’ve liked to admit! Particularly with all the pretty nurses standing around me. But I used that to my advantage, too, and grabbed the hand of one standing close as the doctor slid that black snake deep into my throat and encouraged me to breathe gently through my nose. My body was as tense as plywood. My breathing raspy as I forced it into long, slow patterns through my nose. I didn’t realize how hard I’d been holding onto the nurse until the moment of clarity dawned on me and I found my meditative center.
Quite all of a sudden I remembered that I was able to relax, recalled that I really needn’t involve myself in any of this drama happening here on the table or around me. I detached abruptly and in that moment my body went as limp as rag doll startling my audience so severely that a very real panic ensued momentarily until I was able to calm them down. My eyes and a gentle nod spoke to the doctor. The gentle pressure of my reassuring hand spoke to the nurse. My free hand raised a thumb for the ladies working the monitors and when their own adrenaline-induced giggles had subsided they got back to work.
To be honest I really don’t remember anything after that point in the story. And this condition also quite resembles my meditations. One moment I am there, then next I am not. Though I am. Because I Am. But I could fool you, precisely because I Am, and you’d sooner think that I’m not. Unless I decided to engage you. As I did. As I do. As I am doing now in this moment, too. And that condition – this condition – of mindfulness, or mindlessness – oh, there’s just so many names to it – is probably one of the more practical and useful achievements of my meditation.
…is a Saiva Tantrika, Gyana Yogi and founder of Uma Maheshwara Yoga & Ayurveda. David has an MA in Semiotics, lives in Japan with his family and works as a coach in L & D, devoting his time to developing science-based tools and programs that help people reach the fullest potential of the human condition.