Why did you decide to start Shanti Path?
I wanted to share with others what has helped me find real happiness and peace of mind- meditation. To let people know, that it is possible to be free from anxiety and worry in this lifetime. To guide others in finding out for themselves that they already have the tools within to be rid of the emotional cycle of pain and pleasure, and instead live with a balanced mind. We have this incredible, transformational power inside of us, yet the majority of people look outside for happiness. I created Shanti Path to remind people that Truth is already living within us, it is who we are in our essence, we just have to tap into it through meditation.
When did you begin meditating & how has it benefited you?
My father taught me meditation when I was around 10-11 years old. I have been meditating for most of my life, with gaps in between of completely letting go of the practice only to find that no other activity provides me with the same peace of mind as meditation. So, I have had this experience of noticing the difference in myself during the days I meditate and during the days I do not meditate. I felt more centered, balanced, and aligned on the days I meditated. So, then I decided I have to make meditation a part of my everyday routine. Once I became committed to a daily practice, the changes became rapid, more apparent, and long-lasting.
With almost 4 years of meditating every single day, not missing one day, I am a completely different person. I have let go of negative thought patterns. I am stronger, confident, and more secure in myself. I have become more selfless and compassionate towards humanity. I spend more time on my personal growth and much less time watching television, scrolling through the Internet and social media, and accumulating material items. There are certain unhealthy emotions that do not arise in me any longer. I have naturally become a calm person in the majority of situations, without trying, I just am. My life has completely transformed as a result of my daily meditation practice.
How have the challenges you experienced when you first started meditating changed?
The initial challenges that everyone experiences can be overcome with a steady practice. Yes, my mind wandered in the beginning and it was difficult to hold my concentration. Yes, I experienced discomfort in sitting for long periods of time. Yes, I entirely stopped meditating, only to practice it again with more dedication and focus. I have been able to remove all of those barriers that are common in anyone who wants to develop a meditation practice, but only because I created an everyday practice that I have maintained for a few years. These days, it’s about sustaining my ability to say no to things, enforcing my boundaries, and putting myself first, so that I have time for my meditation practice. So far, so good!
Aside from meditation, what else nourishes you?
Reading spiritual books, writing (currently: my book), spending time with family & friends, eating fresh foods, practicing asana (the physical aspect of yoga), being in mother nature, traveling, meeting and connecting with like-minded souls.
You recently went to India, your homeland, to study with meditation. Can you talk a little about your experience?
I had been wanting to go to my roots to study meditation for a while now. To me, this meant going to India. I was able to take a proper teacher training course in Vedic meditation. I learned a lot, and it also confirmed what I already knew through my own personal practice, reading, and study. It’s amazing because the yoga (meaning all aspects of yoga-philosophy & practice) teachers in India learn from real Himalayan masters, they are educated through university in yoga and meditation, their practices span many, many years. To go to India for a month and call yourself a yoga teacher is a bit laughable and insulting when you compare it to the amount of knowledge people have spent their lives understanding through their own practices. Some of these people come from generations of spiritual teachers and practitioners. I feel immensely privileged and lucky to have learned from such genuine individuals. However, I know that my own self-study and daily meditation practice are what is most important to not only my own spiritual development but also in helping guide others on this path. And as wonderful as it is to attend these educational courses and gain these certifications, nothing compares to your own inner learning through consistent practice.
With meditation and yoga being part of your life from a very young age, during a time in the United States where neither word was as common as it is today, what excites you about this shift, and what concerns you?
I do have my concerns about how yoga is perceived, learned, taught, talked about, and practiced in the U.S. The more popularized it becomes, the more it continues to be removed from its roots, intentions, and philosophy. I think soon we cannot call it yoga anymore, but it should instead be given another name. Especially when I see things like “Christian yoga” or “wine & yoga parties,” I realize how hugely and profoundly yoga has been misunderstood in the U.S. At the same time, I think yoga has gained such mass appeal because the U.S. is living in a spiritual poverty and so people have been attracted to something that nourishes their souls. So these interpretations that yoga have been given, although incomplete, are what people are taking from the practice, and it is at a level that can be understood by them without having grown up in the culture or religion that yoga comes from originally. I think it’s a good beginning, but that is all, a starting point. Doing the physical practice of yoga without meditation is like making a gourmet meal and not eating it. The entire reason you practice asana is to prepare your mind and body for meditation. It’s unfortunate if your entire yoga practice begins and ends with just the physical aspect of it. You are missing out on an entire path to true happiness.
Since beginning to meditate regularly and consciously implementing spiritual practices into your day, how has your life shifted?
Something *magical* happens when you start focusing on your spiritual practices. 🙂 I pray when I get up in the morning. I sing mantras in the shower. I try to meditate twice a day, but always once a day. My entire life has become my spiritual practice. When you are putting your energy into developing higher thinking and living, who has time for anything else? Your mind doesn’t become occupied with gossip or jealousy. You do not have time to be lazy. You do not want to give yourself to toxic people or situations. You live with more awareness of your decisions. You live in harmony with yourself and the world. You find that happiness is within yourself. That’s how my life has shifted. I never want it to change.
How do you define spirituality?
Practicing spirituality helps us move beyond the confines of our mind. Spirituality moves us into a feeling. Spirituality transcends daily life and gets us out of ordinary thinking. Spirituality lifts you up and helps you feel lighter. When you are in that spiritual place within yourself you are free of worry and your mind feels no tension. You are figuratively floating. Spirituality goes a step further than self-care. Spirituality changes us from the core. The longer you can stay in that spiritual space inside of you, the more peace of mind it brings.
Can spiritual practices differ from meditation practices? How can they be distinguished?
Spiritual practices can differ from meditation practices because everyone is different. Each person has their own personality and interests which will determine what type of spiritual practice will resonate with them the most and bring them to a state of peace. Any spiritual practice you adopt should help transpire in you a feeling of calmness, tranquility, and happiness. That being said, I personally believe meditation is the best form of spiritual practice to reach an elevated height of happiness and to quiet the mind. Meditation brings you within, but some other kind of spiritual practice may not necessarily provide that opportunity. Only when we are able to completely remove ourselves from outside stimulation, can we focus on the inner workings of our mind.
Do you feel content in new/different ways since you started meditating regularly?
Absolutely! Daily meditation has allowed me to see myself as I really am, everything- the good, bad, and ugly. Only when I was honestly able to look within and accept it, was I able to move past whatever was holding me back. That is when major changes began to happen naturally, organically, on its own. I live a more simple life because my material desires have lessened. Since I do not require as much, the energy that I used to spend on accumulating things and taking care of items, I now spend on my spiritual practice. And because I am going more inward and finding happiness inside of myself, I do not feel obligated to spend time with people who do not keep me lifted or commit myself to activities that do not serve my life purpose. And since I know who I am and what I want from my life, I feel more focused and guided by spirit. And following my truth allows me to live my life with freedom and without fear. Being more confident helps me to not feel the pressure of what others are doing and saying and keeps me reassured that I am on the right path. Meditation has transformed me from the inside out and made me more happier than I could have ever imagined.
Who inspires you? (no need to keep this to one person)
My parents, because they are just amazing! Also, the true swamis and gurus who lived their lives with such exception, never tainted by the material world, maintaining their equanimity under all circumstances. Their ability to find the Truth within themselves on an earth that does not always cultivate and support real spiritual development continues to impress me beyond words. They are truly awe-inspiring! Some of these swamis ran away on their wedding days when their families would insist they marry and live a householder’s life- they were run-away grooms! They knew that their lives were meant for self-realization, and no pressure from their families or the community would make their minds waver from following their own paths. That kind of dedication to spirituality is very, very rare to find. How many people never question the expectations of others and the societal standard that is placed on us? Even more so, how many people give in to it and deny their own calling? I am continually inspired by these authentic swamis’ stories. Check out the lineage of swamis at Ramakrishna Mission: https://belurmath.org/
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.