A Chit-Chaat with Meditation Teacher, Rucha Tadwalkar
How do spiritual practices differ from meditation?
One is not required to view meditation as a spiritual practice in order to meditate. There could be numerous other reasons someone would create a meditation practice for oneself. However, with a steady practice, one will naturally find that the benefits of meditation go beyond anything temporary, and it is here where we can see the intersection of meditation with spirituality. After all, spirituality is a way to come back to ourselves; our true, higher nature. So, it is really up to the individual how deep and consistent they want to be with meditation. Of course, the more regular a practice, the more long-lasting the benefits and the greater the positive changes one will see within oneself.
Does practicing meditation make you a spiritual or religious person?
Again, this is an individual viewpoint. It can if you choose to identify your practice in those ways. What may happen is that you do not start a meditation practice with affiliating to any spiritual/religious philosophy, but then through your own internal realizations you find that you are able to relate to a certain set of beliefs or practices, which may or may not come from one particular philosophy, but maybe even several. What is important are the changes you experience within yourself.
Do you need an altar, a mantra in Sanskrit, or say Aum to meditate?
I highly recommend creating a home altar for several reasons, including 1) an altar helps you to stay consistent with your meditation practice because you have a designated place to meditate, instead of say your bed or the chair in your family room, which you use for other activities, 2) having an altar will motivate you to go there and meditate because it has been specifically created for this purpose- to meditate, and 3) an altar is a daily reminder of our higher-consciousness, our deeper ability to love and live in calmness and peace; each time we walk by, we cannot help but be affected by it.
Sanskrit mantras and chanting are tools to bring us into an elevated state of mind. They are not required, but no one has ever said that they make them sad or leave them feeling negative. So, you can try it and if it doesn’t work for you, then there are many other tools to help bring you out of your mundane thinking and into a higher frame of mind and feeling.
Do you need to believe in God or follow a religion to meditate?
Not at all. The only belief you have to have to meditate is that a higher state of being exists within you. Do you believe that you can always be a better person, find more love in your heart, grow your compassion, and live a happier and more peaceful life?
Is the primary goal of meditation to transcend?
The primary goal of meditation is self-realization, which is the ultimate state of bliss. This does not mean that everyone has the desire to reach there or will work towards this goal. However, this state is where you find the kind of happiness and peace that cannot be taken away, it is permanent, not dependent on anything external. BUT, any amount of meditation one does, will benefit them, so it may not be to the extent of transcending or enlightenment, but one will definitely notice positive changes within themselves with a meditation practice.
If the mind can’t stop wandering, do you stop and start all over again?
No, absolutely not. This is the number one challenge that all people experience. It is a given that your mind is going to wander when you sit down to meditate because your mind is so used to thinking during the rest of the day, so it is unrealistic to expect it to stop thinking all of a sudden just because you have now decided to meditate.
So, let’s say you start with a 1-minute meditation practice each day. During that time, you are practicing bringing your mind to one-sole focus- whatever your chosen focus may be, let’s say the breath, mantra, an image, and you are noticing when it starts to wander and then intentionally bringing it back to your focus. When you become comfortable with this, then you will naturally want to increase the time you sit.
It is important to remember 2 things here:
1) it is NOT about how long you sit, but how deep you can go in your meditation. If you can sit for 1 entire minute without your mind wandering, then you have really progressed, as opposed to sitting for 30 minutes and your mind is wandering the entire time; 2) it is VERY important that you choose the right meditation method for you because this will make meditating so much easier (for example, repeating a mantra may work for me, but it doesn’t resonate with you and you find yourself getting frustrated by it instead, however, holding an image of the sun in your mind while meditating, helps you to focus, feel calmer and uplifted), so it is really, really important that you experiment and find a meditation technique that works for you and then stick with it.
Do I need to maintain a sattva diet, meaning no animal, onions, or garlic, chilis, processed/refined foods for a successful meditation practice?
It is not required, but again, these guidelines have been realized by yogis in their own meditations to be helpful, resulting from self-disciplined, rigorous, consistent practices. If you can follow them, you will see a marked difference in not only your meditations but in your life. However, they are not mandatory to begin and continue meditating. If you stick with a daily meditation practice, you will come to realize on your own what you need to eat and what kind of diet is optimal for your body and mind.
Rucha is a Certified Level I and II Meditation Teacher and Certified Yoga Instructor. She serves as a Spiritual Coach, inspiring others to simplify, reflect, and make time for silence. Visit Shanti Path to learn more about Rucha and her services.