Spirituality for a significant number of us is nothing more than a product of complicated books and philosophers, with scarce practical applications. Most of us treat spiritual insights as temporary method of escapism, meant to be forgotten at convenience. However, spiritual insights are not merely theories. They are techniques that, if applied with faith and persistence, have the potential to solve or mitigate significantly most of our practical difficulties such as stress, depression, work/life imbalance, insecurity, etc.
Meditation is one such technique that is a powerful strategy of the spiritual tradition to counter the negatives of our modern lifestyles. Meditation is the core of practical spirituality.
People often confuse meditation with rigorous yoga regimes. However, I firmly believe that these are distinct, though meditation does form an essential part of a yoga regime. Any form of meditation which is compulsive or which tends to drive people out their comfort zones is meaningless. Meditation can neither be forced nor mechanical. The entire purpose of meditation is to enable every individual to establish a connection with his or her higher self and embark on a journey inwards, which will be defeated unless the individual indeed enjoys
Amongst the several methods of meditation, the one which has always worked for me is the one that aims at establishing a relationship with the divine. All of us do have a mental image of the Almighty: Lord Shiva, Goddess Durga, Jesus Christ, or Guru Nanak. These various human manifestations of the Supreme Being enable us to connect with Him/Her in a more realistic manner. Meditation takes this one step further, when it enables us to establish a distinct relationship with the Divine.
For instance, having lost my father at an early age, I always manifested God as the ultimate father figure. This manifestation enabled me to cope with the vacuum in a far more effective manner and over the years grew into a relationship. While meditating, I always concentrate on God as someone holding my hand and guiding me through; an image which has powerfully combated all my fears, complexes, and insecurities. It arouses in me a distinct sense of constant proximity with the Almighty, my father; a feeling of being constantly looked after; a feeling which gives me immense confidence to face the challenges of life.
While my own personal experiences are a reason behind this technique having a distinct importance for me, it is as universal in its appeal as meditation itself. The reason is obvious. All of us, when young, enjoy a sense of security and well-being because of the presence of our parents and elders. As we grow up and are left to our own devices, this sense of security is gradually lost. A sense of deep and unknown insecurity pervades our senses, which results in extreme stress and other related problems.
Establishing a relationship with God through meditation can be extremely effective to counter all such insecurities. This form of meditation enables us to realize the brooding omnipresence of the Divine in the real sense. This realization alone can do wonders for our confidence, warding off the fear of the unknown. It is a way of replicating the safety and security of our childhood; the confidence that someone loves us dearly and will take care of everything.
It also enables us to move beyond the image of God that most of us usually cultivate in childhood—that of strict watchman, who is ready to punish us for the slightest of our wrongs. We often, if not always, fail to perceive Him as the loving guardian, who will see us through the difficulties of life, teach us what we require to learn, and embrace us despite all our shortcomings. Such an image of the Almighty triggers a negative self-image and deprives us of all the security and love that our Creator is willing to shower on us.
Meditation requires us to shut our mind to the external hustle and bustle. This shutting out will be much easier if it opens our mind to a positive, all embracing image of the Almighty. We may share any relation with Him: father, mother, brother or friend; the result will always be an extremely positive and affectionate image. Meditating on such an image is not only enlightening, but also extremely delightful, opening up the channels of positive energy within us.
Runjhun Noopur is a student of National Law School in Hyderabad, India, and a regular columnist for the Times of India. Her work has also been featured in Hinduism Today.