Irina – one of our coolest meditation instructors! 🙂
“Hey, I thought you would be too detached towards everything and everyone because you meditate,” a close friend said to me when I expressed genuine concern for her. She didn’t expect me to feel anything for her. She thought that people who meditate are completely void of feelings unlike “normal people.” Within ten minutes of that comment, another friend sent me a message saying, “I know you have extreme empathy.”
It felt strange to hear two exactly opposite comments about myself from two of my closest friends within a span of ten minutes. It got me thinking about how often my friends and family have tried to fit me in a box only because I meditate or because I chose to walk on a spiritual path in my life. They created an imaginary box for me and tried to confine me to it. Things often go haywire when I stop fitting in their respective boxes.
The box created for me basically contained all the expectations that people had from me or how they generally expect a spiritual person to behave. When I stopped or started behaving in a certain way that did not fit within the 4 walls of the box assigned to me in their minds, I became an outsider who earned an unfavorable reputation for thinking outside the box!
Below are a few things that some of the box creators have said to me
- What’s wrong with your life? Isn’t meditation something you do when you get old?
- You look too young too meditate. What could a young person like you possibly know about spirituality?
- You don’t eat meat? You don’t drink? Poor you! It must be so difficult to be you. Why are you doing this to yourself?
- Shouldn’t you be meditating in the caves or mountains and secluding yourself from the world to be a real spiritual person?
- How can you speak like this to me? Is this what your spiritual Master teaches you?
- You are too cool to meditate! Aren’t you supposed to be boring and serious to be spiritual? If not, I am sure meditation will make you a boring person.
- Its absolutely OK for you to go through this problem because you meditate and it gives you additional strength to go through the problem unlike me.
- You are not a genuine spiritual person if you are not 24×7 meek and submissive to others.
- You really think nature is your mother and actually call her Mother Nature? (with a sneer) How can you be so serious about recycling and about saving nature’s resources?
- You wear your traditional Indian clothes during the meditation session? What’s wrong with your Western clothes? Are “they” making you do this? Why the restrictions?
- You don’t want to shop anymore? What’s with this new minimalistic approach?
- The other extreme to this comment would be – Aren’t you supposed to have a minimalistic approach towards life if you are spiritual?
Initially when people said these things to me, I painfully tried to explain my situation to them. Eventually, I realized that it didn’t make the slightest difference to them. They had already made up their minds about me. They had formed an opinion and were going to stick to it no matter what. Somehow they had already decided deep inside about how a spiritual person should behave, look, dress, talk, live, and even feel.
They knew exactly how I should be conducting my life because I meditate! They knew how meditation works without themselves trying to meditate even once. Unfortunately, this is a result of how spirituality has been portrayed through media, books, people, and other sources over the years. Over the period of time, I learned to smile about such comments. I knew I could only wait for them to open their hearts. Sooner or later we all open our hearts.
I don’t feel the need to tell them anymore that nobody has forced me to be a vegetarian or not drink. It is completely my choice. I do it because I really think that the animal kingdom is an extension of my own soul and I couldn’t consume them. Consuming them would mean that I am diminishing my own self. I don’t feel like I am sacrificing anything. I don’t want to explain to them why or why not I wear Indian or Western clothes when I sit down to meditate. I am not even thinking about the type of clothes I wear when I meditate. I just want to be comfortable when I meditate. And I really don’t think people need to be boring to meditate or that meditation makes them boring. Also, being so called cool or modern should not be a hindrance to practice spirituality. In fact, I think I became truly cool and modern only after I began to meditate.
Yes, I really call nature – Mother Nature and recycling is the least I can do for her. Speaking of nature, we all know that nature has gifted each and every organism it’s own mechanism to defend and protect itself from predators. So is the case with us humans. A spiritual practice does not mean I have to be scared and submissive all the time. Everybody faces situations in their lives when they have to defend themselves. There are times when standing up for yourself is the last resort. When a spiritual person defends himself or herself, it does not mean that something in their spiritual teaching has gone wrong. If anything, the practice of meditation actually has taught me to defend myself correctly. It is difficult to explain that standing up alone for the right thing takes a lot of courage and it does not mean that a person is being disrespectful towards another human being.
A close friend put it very beautifully when she said, “Meditation gives you exactly what you need for your own personal growth. I used to be a doormat but due to meditation, I learned to stand up for myself. On the other hand, another person who may be aggressive may become a mild and calm person due to meditation.” I totally agree with her. There is no “One Size Fits All” solution when we practice meditation. The effects it has on us are customized according to our own spiritual needs.
This is exactly why we cannot fit everyone in the same spiritual box. Actually, there is no box, mountain, or cave to practice meditation. One learns to create this sacred space within oneself by living among others. I have no need to go to the caves and mountains if I can create that condition inside me. There never really are people inside and outside a box. There are no two groups of people who meditate and people who don’t meditate. I believe that we are all traveling towards the same source; only with different speeds.
Our external makeup, age, profession, color, country, language, food, and clothes do not define us; the love in our hearts does! Can meditation create that love in our hearts? I am going to say yes! But I don’t want you to believe me or anybody else. I want you to experience it yourself. True understanding can only come through practical experience.
Feel it; Don’t Simply Believe!
Fun Facts 🙂
I am sharing a few pics of my friends who are cool and spiritual at the same time and not to mention – also professionally accomplished. Being cool doesn’t stop them from meditating or meditation doesn’t stop them from being cool. 🙂
Roopa – Acing the marathon… and also conducting a meditation session in the heart of the downtown.
Suzanne – That cool red sports car is not the only baby she has! She lives on a spiritual retreat ranch with her 9 peacocks.
Simha – Zip lining through the Smokies may be his passion but it doesn’t stop him from having his feet on the ground and being in tune with Nature.
Irina – Whether it is a cup of frozen yogurt next to a bike or a cup of chai next to a fellow meditator in India after a satsang (meditation session), she enjoys it with the same passion!
And here’s me! 🙂 Be it sky or the sea, meditation has taught me to embrace all the elements of Nature with love.