Interview by Susie Ekberg, September 2008
Have you ever wondered if there was something to help you every moment of your life? Something you could count on, no matter what was going on in your life? Like a steady, constant, best friend?
Well, good news is on the way--it looks like there is. What is this wonderful something? Meditation.
Sure, it’s been around for thousands of years, but have you ever really explored it? Have you tried it? Oh, a little put off with all the rules and regulations, the posture, the whole leg-pretzel-sitting thing, the long hours, you may have thought, “Well, those other spiritual people can do this, but I’m just not committed or far enough along on my path to try.
Not true, says Dr. Vidya Anderson, President of the American Meditation Society, and a meditation teacher for 36 years. Meditation is for everyone, it’s simple, and it can give you the tools you need to enhance every single area of your world.
I’ve always loved meditation, and have been a faithful, sporadic meditator for some 20 years.
What’s the catch? Well, getting down on the floor and sitting up straight, taking the time to do it, not being able to shut my mind off.
But as I listen to Dr. Vidya tell this beautiful story, I begin to get a different picture of meditation. She tells me that the way the clothmakers used to dye cloth was to dip it into a deep blue vegetable dye, then put it in the sun. The sun would bleach it out until it was totally white again. They would dip it into the dye again, then put it in the sun again. The sun would bleach it out again, but this time it would be light blue. Again, the cloth is dipped into the dye and put out in the sun. Every time the cloth would be bleached out, but not as much. Eventually the cloth is colorfast, and no amount of sun can bleach it.
That’s how meditation works, Dr. Vidya explains. When we meditate, we are being dipped into the dye, and when we go back out into our world, it bleaches us. So, we dip in to our souls through our meditation, then back out into our world, the sun. Eventually the light and beauty of who we are becomes totally infused with the deep blue dye of Spirit, and our lives will not be able to bleach us anymore.
By continuously dipping into the silence and peace while living your life, steadiness, peacefulness and quiet are now a part of you; you become colorfast.
True, Dr. Vidya is a Meditation Master, but she also holds a doctorate in psychology, which in some ways led her to meditation.
While in graduate school, she contracted an ulcer due to stress, and had to leave to recuperate. When she was finally done with the university program, she says she still had difficulties with stress.
While she was teaching Yoga at the University of North Carolina in 1970, an unknown visitor showed up and began to tell Vidya about meditation.
She decided to give it a try and gradually her life was transformed. She has never had any further problems with her ulcer.
As she continued her meditation journey, she eventually met Gururaj Ananda Yogi, who became her primary teacher.
Meditation is something you do for yourself; she explains. You aren’t reliant on anyone else. You aren’t reliant on pills. It’s available to you 24 hours a day, and doesn’t have any side effects, other than tranquility and peace!
Gururaj Ananda Yogi studied under Swami Pavitrananda, who only took one student at a time. Although Gururaj Ananda Yogi wanted to be a monk, the Swami told him he must get married and have children.
He must go out into the world and be a part of it, not shut himself away. Life is meant to be lived in.
This mindset is carried down through the teachings of Gururaj Ananda Yogi and Dr. Vidya, who traveled, studied, and trained with him for 11 years.
Guraraj says, “The purpose of meditation is to bring about a harmony between mind, body, and spirit. The harmony already exists; all it requires is conscious recognition and experience.
To experience harmony is to feel peace within yourself, so much so that all problems can come and yet you remain peaceful. Everything can go all mad and haywire around and yet you preserve your peace and tranquility.”
Dr. Vidya explains it this way: “Meditation has enriched my life in so many areas. I’ve come to feel at home wherever I am, rather than ill at ease and afraid. I’m more accepting of what is.”
Why is an individual mantra and meditation so important? Otherwise it’s all just generic, explains Dr. Vidya, and we humans are certainly complex and unique, aren’t we? We’re all at different places in our lives. Someone might be shy and need to find their voice.
Someone else might have a tendency to be loud, and may need to learn the strength of silence.
With meditation we all move toward the center point of balance. This is true for our health as well--numerous studies have been conducted on meditation’s ability to lower blood pressure.
But what if you already have low blood pressure? Meditation has been shown to raise it to a normal level. So, it is not necessarily for everything in your body to become lower. If something needs to go higher, it will go higher. Everything becomes balanced, and that is the outcome of meditation.
Imagine that you are a wheel, Dr. Vidya tells me. If you’re on the outside, it’s bumpy along the ground, and you feel all the bumps. If your awareness is in the center, however, the bumps still come, but you can just watch from the center and not be affected by them.
Is meditation a religion? Absolutely not. Gururaj says, “Whatever you believe in, I don’t mind. If you are a Christian, I want you to become a better Christian. If you’re a Hindu, become a better Hindu. If you’re a Buddhist, become a better Buddhist. But more than that, become a better human being.”
The American Meditation Society has an emblem that I found fascinating, so I asked Dr. Vidya about it. It is a circle, with many world religions around it. In the center is a flame. She explains: The flame in the center represents Divine Spirit or Truth within ourselves, and the religions are the paths that lead us to that. The religious emblems are connected with five concentric circles that create a musical staff, reminding us that all can exist in harmony. Gururaj, also a poet and painter, designed the emblem.
Interestingly, Gururaj said he studied all religions in the world, then had this to say after he experienced the reality of God: “I burnt all the books, because the books gave me nothing. They confused me more and more. Mind you, for the beginner these little gymnastic exercises are good, because they will attune you to higher things. But please do remember, they cannot lead you to God. God or Divinity could never be analyzed, only experienced.”
Throughout our interview, I kept hearing Dr. Vidya reminding me that we are all divine, we have everything we need right inside of us, and that’s where we need to go--within. Otherwise we chase those external distractions and are never satisfied.
But how do we start? Just do it, Dr. Vidya urges. I jokingly tell her that’s the Nike meditation slogan, and she laughs. “Just meditate,” she says, “no expectations. It’s about allowing ourselves to be. No trying. Just the opposite of what we know.” I couldn’t agree more.
I asked her how long we should meditate. She said that 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening would be pretty great, but whatever time you’ve got is just fine, and emphasized just letting that silence of meditation get integrated into your daily life.
“We’re here to live our lives, to experience and know who we are. Everything that happens is for us, not to us. We learn from it all. It’s a fullness of experience. There are a lot of things you can’t know with the mind (the finite). When you open the heart through meditation, you begin to know with the heart (the infinite). That is vast knowingness.”
We’re geared to think we are separate from others, to think that our thoughts are real and that our minds are in control. Does meditation do away with our individuality? On the contrary, through meditation we come to understand that we are connected to every other thing in the Universe; we come to understand that while we have thoughts, we are not thoughts.
We learn how to become observers, to watch our thoughts and minds as they toil away, yet not become a prisoner of either.
And me personally? I’m going to be there to meet with Dr. Vidya and study with her. While she was talking a great calm came over me, and that is most certainly a sign that I have stumbled upon a Truth that I would like to be a part of.
Whatever you believe in, I don’t mind. If you are a Christian I want you to become a better Christian. If you’re a Hindu, become a better Hindu. If you’re a Buddhist, become a better Buddhist. But more than that, become a better human being.Gururaj Ananda
Divinity is there--the only qualification needed by a person to find their Inner Self is sincere seeking.Gururaj Ananda
Everything is true – all opposites are true – but you have to go to the full cycle to understand that.Gururaj Ananda
Do not feel guilty of the things that you have done, or the things that you have caused to have done, for you can go beyond it all. It can all be discarded like a dirty garment.It can all be washed away under the shower of that light that is deep down within us.Gururaj Ananda
The purpose of existence is to exist. That’s the purpose. The purpose of existence is not to find God; He is already there. He has always been there in your life. And when you find the purpose of existence is to exist and know the meaning of existence, you know God, because God is existence.Gururaj Ananda
We’re here to live our lives, to experience and know who we are. Everything that happens is for us, not to us. We learn from it all. It’s a fullness of experience.Dr. Vidya Anderson
We’re all divine, and are the light.