In the not too distant past, I think my eyes would roll to the back of my head if someone had told me that one day I’ll be meditating. Not because of a lack of exposure to subjects related to metaphysics, self-help, or even the supernatural as I had already acquired an interest in authors like Deepak Chopra, Bob Proctor, and Neal Donald Walsh in my late teens. But that search for enlightenment didn’t last long after I joined the rat race and found dopamine in work. Over time, the gratification that came from excelling in my career became a more tangible pacifier for the mind and I became more sceptical towards this intangible concept of meditation. Yet, it is something that I practise daily in my life now. So what triggered the change?
Two years ago, I woke up strapped to a bed with a tube down my throat, having no recollection of how I ended up there. It took a moment to rule out alien abduction and an organ-trafficking syndicate, before I realised that I was actually in a hospital. I was told that I had been in a coma for six days. The official diagnosis was acute liver failure which led to multiple organ failures, and potential brain damage. But till today, the exact cause could not be determined with certainty. I was back in the pink of health in no time, with everyone who bore witness to the ordeal telling me what a miracle it was. Although it felt like I was brought back from the brink for a greater purpose, I did not experience any epiphany that a person who had a near-death experience “should”. There was no Hollywood production where the light came, the clouds parted, and clarity followed.
I felt lost and confused. As much as I pushed myself to resume some kind of normalcy in my life, I didn’t feel at peace at all. Something had changed within. Something was missing. My monkey mind was on overdrive, constantly bombarding me with questions of what happened, why did it happen, and what’s next? A lack of clear answers fuelled the frustration. I turned to books again, from Ikigai to Kintsugi to The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k. Although the added knowledge helped, I couldn’t shut off the doubts in my head. I had to find a way to calm my mind and focus again. I was aware that seeing a therapist was an option, and I think that more people should be open to that idea, but my gut was telling me to seek a more spiritual remedy. And that’s when I decided to give meditation a shot.
My search for that elusive perfect meditation course began like a crime scene investigation. I spoke to witnesses with first-hand experience. I tracked down information on victims of malpractices, and filtered out anything with evidence of apocalyptic cult rituals. Despite all that homework, the first clue came rather randomly from a friend who took a class from a teacher in Penang who was referred to him by a doctor in his homeland, Germany. I called the teacher and signed up for an advanced class in the same manner I usually pick an item on a menu; why settle for something basic when you can go all the way? I also thought it would be more efficient to cram it into one weekend, although splitting it across two was the recommendation.
I arrived at the class with a mix of anticipation and reservation. After all, old beliefs were being challenged. The class covered breathing exercises, chanting, sound yoga, physical yogic postures, and chakra meditation techniques that originated from Kriya Yoga teachings. And how did I feel after day one? I had a meltdown in my hotel room that night. I mean who the heck has a meltdown after a meditation class, right? There were pockets of calmness in between the sessions but I didn’t feel anything significantly different. There were no eureka moments and I still did not know what my purpose in life was. On top of that, I was fretting over whether I got the techniques right—did I pronounce my Oms correctly or should I have focused my attention on my third eye half a centimetre more to the right? The self-critic within wondered if I was slow or stupid, either of which was equally bad.
The next day, I asked for a timeline, “When will I feel the results and when will it all click?” Yep, even when I was off work, I wanted a deadline. “An indication at least, no?” My teacher looked at me, smiled and told me that it will happen when it happens. I just have to keep at it—pretty much like riding a bicycle, it might be a struggle at first but one day it will feel like second nature and everything will start to flow. I resisted probing further and mustered up enough discipline to see it through. I stuck to it daily for a few weeks and cut myself some slack with the awareness that I didn’t have to get every technique perfect so long as my heart is in the right place. And although there was no voice-of-God speaking to me, I felt evidently calmer with much less internal chatter in my head. I also started to enjoy it, and it gave me something to look forward to each day.
My second meditation course was a lot simpler. Fewer techniques. And no meltdown followed. It involved mantra-style techniques that have their root in Ishayas principles. It’s rather similar to positive affirmations or hypnotic suggestions, and doesn’t require a lot of mental acrobatics to practise. Why another course if the first one was working? I always believe that to really master something, you’ve got to study under the tutelage of different teachers and mentors. Kind of like how one apprentice to be a chef. That way, you gain different perspectives, know what works for you and what doesn’t, and find your own way. That said, if you come across a course that fits you like a glove from day one, it’s fine to stay loyal, too.
I did manage to squeeze in a self-hypnotherapy class and a couple of other short programs along the way, but my third and latest meditation course, proper, was about energy awareness and healing. It was conducted online by a global authority on the subject, whom I stumbled upon during this pandemic. After eight weeks of daily classes, it has helped me understand meditation from an energy perspective and shed a lot of light on the past techniques that I have learnt from earlier courses. Things were finally starting to click, and I felt a deeper understanding about everything around me like never before.
It’s hard for me to pick a favourite as I have benefitted from all the courses. Each of them has taught me different things and I have the utmost respect for every one of my teachers. Right now, I’m using a hybrid of all of them. I apply different techniques in different situations and I feel a lot less helpless and vulnerable as I now have the tools to manage my mind, body, and spirit better. Some days, I feel like a wizard with a bag of spells under my belt. What’s important to note is, you’ve got to start somewhere. I have consciously left out the names of the courses here as I feel that finding the right meditation course is a very personal journey, but know that there are many good options out there and don’t be afraid to try. Even though I’ve done a lot of research, all the courses that I ended up taking crossed my path quite randomly. Just keep an open mind.
Most meditation courses are not that different. Although the style and format differs, they will most likely cover techniques to achieve mindfulness, show you how to observe your thoughts and let them pass, how to ground yourself, be present in your body and tame that monkey mind which we all have in varying degrees. Just don’t expect results overnight. Meditation is like physical exercise, it takes time to build your muscles and stamina and if it hurts a little at the beginning, it just means that you are growing. It will get easier and more effortless but you have to make some time for it. After all, even if you had a darn good workout at the gym, you can’t expect the results to last forever, can you?
When I embarked on this meditation journey, the goal was to calm my mind but meditation can do a lot more than that. I have discovered that you can use meditation to heal, to improve your relationship with others, and to sharpen your intuition. It can even help you manifest the reality that you want—or help you find what it is. It may all sound a bit woo-woo, but science is only just catching up in terms of developing methods to measure the benefits of meditation. You’ll be surprised by how it has more commonality with quantum physics than you think.
What puts some people off is the cult stigma that some of these meditation organisations have. We all tend to err on the side of caution with things that are unfamiliar or foreign to us. If you think about it, almost every major religion in the world today was a tad cultish for its time, weren’t they? Some meditation courses do conclude with some sort of pooja (ceremonial ritual) which pays homage to past teachers and spiritual guides. If you encounter that, there is no need to make a run for the exit. Treat it as a gesture of respect rather than an attempt to convert you. I’ve been meditating for almost two years now, it has not interfered with my faith and I still haven’t sported a man bun or retreated to a cave yet.
Beyond the lessons, I’ve also met some really interesting people from all walks of life and nationalities at the classes. Even though I have not kept in touch with any of them to be honest, it was comforting to know that in that moment we all shared a connection; we all had the intention to improve ourselves, to mend what was broken, to make peace with our own demons and find greater meaning in life. Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if everyone had the same intentions? So, if you are entertaining the idea of learning meditation, make that leap today. What have you got to lose?