I think I am qualified to talk about this. The positive changes I have recently experienced, gives me the confidence and freedom to write. A recent conversation with my gym client also prompted me to write down my thoughts. He urged me to write so that others could similarly benefit.
It’s been more than 4 months that I am practicing sitting meditation. To be sure I am not entirely new to meditation. In fact, my late father and mother both meditated. My older brother also practiced sitting meditation for a brief period. So, at the back of my mind I had this idea that meditation may be beneficial. Thereafter, I had a few stints of practicing sitting meditation. But frankly, every time I did the practice I found it dead boring and quickly abandoned the practice.
However, off late several of my friends who practice medicine recommended that I meditate. The sole reason for them to recommend meditation was that they thought that it might assist me in dealing with my degenerative genetic disorder—cerebral ataxia. My Tai chi master (sensei) also had repeatedly suggested that I practice meditation. But honestly, I never gave it a serious thought, because I had failed so many times to continue with this dull practice. Meanwhile, a WhatsApp group of my school mates was created. Fortunately, I met many of my long–lost friends. In particular, I had desired to voluntarily speak with one of my friends who is a practicing physician. I visited and briefed him about my debilitating and progressive genetic condition. He being a meditation practitioner for 20 years pointed me towards practicing meditation. He also stated that several neurological benefits of meditation practice had been discovered. He insisted me that I start immediately. He proceeded to provide me with a phone number of a practitioner near my house and asked me to visit him. This person, he said, would help to initiate and guide me through a profound technique called Heartfullness Meditation. I was very hesitant because I was afraid I would fail again. My friend probably sensed this lackluster attitude of mine. He then called me and said that he would personally come to my home and initiate me. It was so embarrassing, but I reluctantly shamefully agreed.
Strangely, after my friend taught me the nuances of the practice, for the very first time in my life I could sense that, perhaps, there may be some benefit to all of this After the three-days initiation period, I said to myself that this time I was going to give this an honest try. So, basically, I made a ritual of it. I made sure that I would practice this every day. I wrote to my friend about the delightful benefits I had been experiencing, because my friend had suggested that I jot down my thoughts on the effects of meditation.
It has now been more than 5 months I have been practicing meditation, and I see some of the life-changing benefits it has provided me:
The most profound benefit I have found in practicing meditation is that I don’t need as much sleep. For 17 years I have had the practice of taking a short nap after my breakfast. I get up early in the morning and workout at the gym, and I think that prompted me to take a nap in the morning because I was exhausted. But really, this was a very disgusting habit! I couldn’t help it (I literally was obsessed to sleep more). I conveniently convinced myself that this was the right thing to do. I was dead exhausted! Ironically, it was all false gratification. However, things miraculously changed.
One Saturday, after attending a bachelor’s party, I went to bed very late—midnight. Although I don’t drink very much, when I do, I don’t sleep well. So, it was no surprise that I woke up at 4 a.m. My sleep was restless until 7 a.m. and I couldn’t sleep any longer. So I thought to read for a while (I enjoy reading books). However, I usually can’t read when I haven’t slept well. But, surprisingly enough, I really wanted to read that day and read straight till 2 P.M. (I didn’t even take a nap after my breakfast. Yes, that disgusting habit of sleep after breakfast for an hour). I honestly thought, I would try to sleep less on the next day, and so I did sleep for only half an hour the next day and was bustling with energy the whole day; whereas earlier, whenever I took that cat nap after breakfast, I usually woke up groggy, and it took me a long time to get into gear. Most of the time was spent thinking about how sluggish I was because I hadn’t slept well. How disgusting! However, on the next day, I boldly declared to myself that I would no longer sleep in the morning or in the afternoon. I knew that meditation was helping me to stay awake and agile. I then browsed the internet and discovered that some practitioners claimed that 20 minutes of deep meditation was equal to 2 to 3 hours of sleep. I had practically experienced this. It had been almost five weeks, and I hadn’t felt any urge whatsoever to sleep in the morning. Moreover, I was getting up very early in the morning to practice meditation, as the silence in the early morning is greatly conducive to the practice. Perhaps, there are a few days when I have felt uninspired. On such days I rested. I took a short nap for a few minutes and woke up ready and raring to go.
The Science behind It
When I first experienced these positive changes in my lifestyle, I wanted an endorsement by somebody who knew about it. I thought of what Sadguru—Jaggi Vasudev had said. I am not a disciple or even a fan of his. However, I admire his oratory skills and encyclopedic knowledge. In a YouTube video, click here, the Sadguru says that sleep is not the only state of rest to your body. I had actually seen this message earlier and had brushed off what he had said. But now what he said made sense, as I had practically felt that meditation is indeed relaxing. Perhaps, even close to deep sleep.
Thereafter, I also whatSapped my doctor friend, who had taught me the discipline of meditation, and asked him the same question. He replied: “Undoubtedly yes, meditation reduces the need for sleep. In deep meditation, you go into delta and theta brain wave states that are recorded in a dreamless deep sleep. Afterward, in the wakeful state, you gather fewer impressions, which only rattle the mind means less heaviness at the end of the day and so again good quality sleep. Nothing like experiencing oneself.” I second his views when he says that meditation also improves the good quality of sleep.
High Quality Sleep
In the past, I required pin-drop-silence in order to sleep. No one was allowed to disturb while I slept or even make the slightest sound. I knew that this was outrageous, but I couldn’t help it. Who was I to dictate my terms to others? You see, in my younger days, I had always slept like a baby until one incident changed everything. As soon as I got married I started to practice law. However, I wasn’t enrolled as an advocate, since I had flunked in a subject. I had to wait for 6 months to get through. And that was during my marriage. I probably could have waited for a few more months and enjoyed the time with my wife (after all you are supposed to enjoy the honeymoon period). Nonetheless, I falsely garbed myself and posed as an authentic and responsible man and ignorantly declared that I was going to practice even though I hadn’t yet enrolled. I had convinced myself to enter the rat race. That proved extremely costly. Soon I reluctantly realized that I was not cut out for practicing law. I didn’t belong in that lawyer’s office. Sadly I started to lose that precious quality of sleep that had been bestowed on me. I started having nightmares and wasn’t unable to sleep peacefully. Sometimes, I would wake up during the night, and it would be difficult to fall back to sleep.
Now things have changed for the good. I am happy to say that I am once again sleeping like I did the days before I practiced law. For instance, when I was practicing law, I would get up at least 5 to 6 times to take a leak. Yes, I had developed this gruesome habit and I never thought I would overcome it. But now I am able to control myself and accept myself and receive things much more coolly.
For most of my life, I have suffered an unprovoked short temper. My father had also possessed the same loathsome personality flaw. I used to think it was a genetic trait. But, I really knew that it was possible to control my anger, I didn’t know how. Whenever I shouted on my wife and daughter I would feel miserable and guilty afterward. I would immediately ask for forgiveness. But the damage was already done. My wife and daughter both resented my annoying short fuse. They both had tried several times to curb my anger, but had continually failed and had almost given up.
Unexpectedly, when I started my meditation practice, I literally stopped to get angry within a few days. This was the first positive sign and was a great leap forward. For years I had inwardly battled with my temper and was not able to control it. But now I have seen drastic change in my mood. It’s like my genes have been rewired for the better. Eureka! As I said earlier, I have been practicing meditation for over 5 months and I haven’t shown any sign of immediate anger. My wife, daughter and colleagues at the gym can all testify to my transformation. This sudden improvement has also encouraged my wife to practice meditation.
Sense of Urgency and Irritability
Not staying in the present leads to a hasty sense of urgency and overthinking about the future. I used to worry excessively about the future events. I knew that I absolutely had no control on my future, but I nevertheless continued to fret. But recently things have changed. For example, my family and I recently went to Bandipur. The idea was to enjoy a long and uninterrupted ride. However, ironically, we travelled in a friend’s Mahindra bolero. We wanted to save some money, so we decided not to rent a vehicle. We travelled as far as Madhumalai and headed back via Bandipur to Mysore. We also wanted to see the superbly lit Mysore; it was during Dasara. Unfortunately, we experienced problems with the clutch and the jeep almost broke down. The driver somehow managed to get us back to Bangalore albeit, at snail’s pace, though. By the time we reached home it was almost 11 in the night. However, my wife and daughter had noticed that not even once I complained about the hardship. Earlier I would continue to blame the driver, the vehicle, the road, the situation. etc.,–the harangue would have go on and on and on—unabated, my incessant complaining and irritability has drastically subsided. But let me be honest, I still have a long way to go. In other words, I have only begun to scratch the surface. That indispensable breathing space, which allows me to behave normally in a frantic world–a frantic world in which things happen super-fast and seemingly chaotically. (Waiting for that 2 minute traffic signal…. that 2 minute seems like 2 hours…. shaving my half-grown beard consumes 5 long minutes…. the bucket is filling so slowly—I urgently need to bathe…. I need to walk my dog…. my motorcycle needs a refilling… my wife’s grandmother is old and sick…. I am constipated…. my wife’s lower back hurts….). Now, I feel it’s okay to attend to these daily chores. Yes, I do find them boring, but I better make peace with these things. I can make peace, for I have that required breathing space.
The Rational and Science behind It.
Fewer impressions would mean fewer troubling thoughts and also means less mental baggage. It’s said that human beings typically think 50,000 thoughts a day. Imagine, if I was said that my brain has only certain shelf life? What would I do? Would I not try to reduce the inflated baggage right? Wouldn’t I want to lead a productive life? But on a serious note, don’t think that our brains can continue to think as many nonessential thoughts as possible. Outwardly, it may appear to be so, but there will be a gradual death due to this excess baggage. Thoughts lead to stress, which in turn leads to the accumulation of beta—amyloid thought to cause Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Keep the brain healthy by reducing the inflow of superfluous thoughts. This is what occurs during meditation. Even when I am not practicing sitting meditation, I try to remind my mind to calm down and to not react unnecessarily to various stimuli. Fewer thoughts obviously leads to less mental work, and, perhaps, paradoxically, more productivity—the very thing I have been experiencing. Before, I would get a chance to read only for an hour or so, but now, suddenly, I have time to read for 2 or 3 hours. In addition, I practice writing, practice Tai chi, practice meditation twice a day for 40 minutes, each session, watch webinars, and even take leisurely walks with my wife and dog (an intimidating Rottweiler). The sense of urgency has drastically diminished. I have plenty of time at my disposal and the sense that only the present matters. Thoughts about the past and future are having less influence on me.
There have been many more subtle changes, which time does not allow me to discuss now. However, I will continue to write to my friend about my progress. I will also discuss more with you as the occasion arises.