COLUMN: Jessica Iron Joseph — Feb. 1, 2013

Jessica Iron Joseph
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For the past year or so, I’ve been slowly leafing through a volume of books by Eknath Easwaran called “The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living.” I came across the first volume in a used bookstore in Saskatoon in the spirituality section. They are beautifully written books which have helped me maintain a daily meditation practice and work towards being more selfless.

It’s not easy to meditate every day, and in fact, the first few times were excruciatingly difficult. To sit cross-legged for 20 to 30 uninterrupted minutes with your eyes closed, focused on your breathing, or God, is incredibly hard to do. The mind wanders. Legs fall asleep. Sometimes you itch, and it’s all you can do not to scratch. Sometimes the phone rings and if you’ve forgotten to turn it off or unplug it, you have to ignore it, even when people decide to leave long, verbose messages while you’re trying to focus on God. Sometimes family members are walking by; making noise, but you can’t break focus. Even when the dogs are barking at the mail carrier, you have to pull yourself back to your meditation.

It requires great discipline, but after awhile you realize you didn’t even hear the ticking clock for that entire 20 minutes. Traffic? The fish tank? You can’t recall hearing those noises either, because you were so focused on your mantra, or meditation passage, that somehow the world shut itself off to conspire with you in your goal.

I can’t tell you how profoundly changed I feel about everything because of my daily meditation practice. It is something you can only experience for yourself. I highly recommend reading Eknath Easwaran’s books to better understand how regular meditation can positively impact every aspect of your life.  You can order his books online, or get them from the library. He delves deeply into the benefits of meditation and how to strengthen relationships and find inner peace using the centuries-old Hindu scripture.

If you’re the type of person who strictly follows one religion and refuses to find any merit in the teachings of another religion, then I’m asking you to step out of your comfort zone. I honestly believe every person would benefit from a daily meditation practice.

I recently read in a Cesar Millan book that meditating with dogs is great for their health too.  I cannot wait to try meditating with one of my dogs. She is overly excitable and could use the stabilizing comfort of meditation. Besides which, I think it would be a wonderful bonding exercise for the both of us.

My mornings always begin with meditation, followed by reading scripture. Right now, I’m reading The Bhagavad Gita. I’m almost through Volume 2, and will begin the last volume soon. Then I plan to continue reading scripture from different religions. I want to read the entire Holy Bible, as well as The Qu’ran and The Torah. Last year, during Lent I began my “religious studies” and read about Scientology and the Kabbalah. Both were very interesting, and one particular story in the audiobook, “The Mystical Kabbalah” brought me to tears. Listening to Rabbi David A. Cooper tell the story about Yossele the Holy Miser was an incredibly moving experience.

I think all religions are paths to God, and that makes them all good. People have debated for centuries over which religion is the best, but I don’t care to enter in those dialogues. I think any path that leads to God is a worthwhile path to take, and from what I’ve seen so far, many of them preach the same things.

Last week after meditation, I paused to reflect on a particularly interesting passage in The Bhagavad Gita. Easwaran stated that we are not our opinions. He went on to explain that when we identify with our opinions, we also associate other people with their opinions too. Then, if someone says something that we do not like, we decide that we do not like that person. As though it were so easy to dismiss someone! But that is precisely what many of us do.

It reminded me of the John Mayer song, “Belief” -- how people fight and die for their beliefs, which are little more than firmly held opinions.

It’s scary to think that we so quickly decide if we like or dislike someone based on something they say. I once worked with a group of juvenile delinquents in a day program, which kept them preoccupied during school hours while they were on probation and we attempted to re-integrate them into the school system. Oh my, some of the things they would say!

But I soon realized that when I took away what I called their “surface babble” I saw that they were good kids, many of whom appreciated rules, so long as they were all treated fairly. If you judged them solely on their sailor’s vocabulary, you might miss how loving, shy and considerate most of them were.

Opinions and beliefs are always subject to change. They do not define people, despite what some might think. If we waste time judging people on their opinions and beliefs, we will not only be shocked by what they say, but we will set up barriers around ourselves as we attempt to avoid those opinions, beliefs and people that we are trying so desperately to keep out.

The next time someone states an opinion or belief that differs from yours, detach yourself from it emotionally, and watch your heart rate quickly lower. Do not dismiss the person. In fact, don’t even get attached to your own opinion, even if you try to sway the other person in a new direction. Perhaps you will succeed, perhaps you won’t. But if you try this technique, I bet you will feel far differently about the person with whose opinion or belief you differ from. You might even surprise yourself by liking them despite what they have to say.

Geographic location: Saskatoon

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