Meditating while traveling is always an interesting experience. It is interesting because I feel like the new settings naturally puts you in a naturally new attitude, that you can take advantage of it and explore going deeper where you feel you are stuck in your practice. In the other hand, I feel that only pushing through this “stuck places” on your own home is when you truly overcame a certain step.
In my practice today I felt for the first time a period that I consider significant of silence and being conscious at the same time. I hope I can manage to repeat it tomorrow here at the hotel or back at home. Let us see how it goes.
Last few days I had a lot of celebrations - end of the year parties, goodbyes, etc.
All of them were lived with a sense of freedom and fulfilment, and I have been feeling more connected to people. There are many factors for that, including the time I spent with them which creates more closeness on our relationships. I have felt less anxiety on this moments - and I am trying to see how related is it to the sleeping and meditation and meditation practices or other factors (like being more comfortable with the language, or being more knowledgeable about my social environment here). Now I am trying to observe how these social events take place on the days that I do not sleep well or the meditations is not good - if they maintain the quality I have been observing or not.
My daily schedule has always affected my practice (or the attempts of practice, in the last years). Although I am not completely happy with how the frequency of my meditations, having been doing it more frequently than ever in my life I can start to see it paying off - stressful weeks, papers and even intense celebration on weekends has less effect on the practice itself.
That being said - the warm summer weather and the classes coming to an end eases up the daily burden, and I have been founding myself quieting my mind more rapidly than the usual. I have to wait for another very stressful phase to see if it is due to the practice itself or due to how these exterior effects are still overcoming the effort of the meditation.
Today, for example, in about 5 minutes (I think) I already had silenced most of the thoughts and were able to concentrate on the ‘spiritual eye’ more quickly than usual and with a very different mood to it. It really felt like a sunny meditation, and that is a whole new experience for me. As in the part of Brazil where I live it is sunny and warm most of the time, this “seasoning moods” for meditation is something new that I have to keep observing to see how it plays out on me. So far, I think the contrast between to winter and spring moods feels like give contrast and depth to the experience, and I would like to see it play in a year cycle.
The last few weeks practice has been uneven, not being able to do it every day. In another class, at Harvard Kennedy School, we did an exercise on a book called “Immunity to Change”. Part of the exercise is describing your behavior and watching if there might be a competing hidden commitment in opposition to your claim commitment (in my case, the 30 minutes meditations every day). I was picked by the professor to share my reflections. At night, during meditation, I found that I had one of the deepest meditation during this period. Somehow, reflecting upon my flaws on keeping it as an everyday practice and talking about it, removed some hidden energy that was dragging down the practice. This showed me that talking to the TAs will be a good strategy in case I fall behind again and that small “buzz groups” might also be a good space to interact with classmates and get feedback that might support and boost the practice. Looking forward to seeing how this feeling will play out during the week.
It is interesting to see how the practice evolves.
In the first week, the 20 minute minimum time seems like an eternity, and before the times was up I would peek on the watch or chronometer to see if time was almost up. The following weeks the uneasiness started to go away. Now, the 20 minutes feels like not enough time for calming the mind and start getting into the core of the exercise (the silence and concentration at your breath and the well being that comes from that silence/concentration), and I don't watch the timer anymore and most of the days I expand it for at least more 10 min (if the schedule of the day allows me to).
Monday, is the busiest day of the week, with classes from 10 am to 8 pm. It is also the hardest one to meditate. Today was the first Monday that the preoccupation with the duties of the day did not hijack the exercise and I actually did it in the 20 minutes and expanded it for 10 more. It is the discipline paying off.
I am starting this journal pointing out what I found to be an irony of my choice for the contemplative practice. I decided to do a meditation technique taught by Paramahansa Yogananda. I have know Yogananda's work since I was 15, and from the age of 23 on I really started studying his books and his work.
I always thought interesting how he chose to call the techniques he taught as “scientific techniques of yoga meditation”.
For those not familiar with Yogananda, he is considered the first yogi to move and live for a long time in the west. In W. Y. Evan-Wentz word, in his preface for “Autobiography of a Yogi”: “The value of Yogananda’s Autobiography is greatly enhanced by the fact that it is one of the few books in English about the wise men of India which has been written, not by a journalist or foreigner, but by one of their own race and training—in short, a book about yogis by a yogi.”
I point this out because I think that Yogananda's word choice was more an attempt to make a connection to western values and rationale than actually claiming to take part in the scientific debate (although he would not shy away from that debate, if invited).
Well, the irony is that I've tried many times to discipline myself to make the meditation practice a routine, and always failed to sustain it. Now I have the perfect opportunity, through my master's degree, in the academic environment, to be able to practice for the longest time so far in my life.
And it comes when, more than ever, I see how creating an internal environment is important to guide me through the public challenges that I am attracted to act on. It is important as a way to perceive myself as well as acting in a more effective way.
Here is an excerpt from my application to the class that touches on some of my recent reflections: “Studying at Harvard Kennedy School made clearer to me the importance of a personal commitment to something you profoundly identify in order to promote any significant change. The experience also brought to my attention that many of the agents of change in history, those who became role models and inspiration for the following generations, only became what they are known for after a personal exploration of his/her inner world. Their political action was rooted in the intersection between their public call and their personal consciousness inquiry, may it be of philosophically/existential nature or of religious background.”
After being dislocated from many of my previous certainties and beliefs in the last semester, having this daily practice has been the perfect element for bringing a foundation for transforming this “uncertain/uneven terrain” in which I feel like I am at this moment and make it a little smoother so I have a longer and safer run in this self-discovery process.