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March 2, 2012

Meditation has become an indispensable entity in my adult life. It is a practice I have become fond of and has proved to be an invaluable shield to many negative elements life is capable of handing to frail individuals, such as myself. It is a concept and a practice that had quietly walked into my life during my mid-20s and had become something more tangible five years later.

I first learned about meditation while I was at a Catholic Young Adult group. A man by the name of Sebastian Temple came to give a talk about establishing a personal relationship with God. He said we could talk to God as though He were standing next to us and interacting with us. We only needed to believe and He would be as real as we wanted Him to be. Sebastian hung around after his talk where I purchased a book he had written called “How to Meditate”. From this book, I had learned the basics of achieving a constant peaceful state and a taste of how I can control my mind, which is responsible for my entire being. I learned these things within a few months of buying this book and had the desire to want to learn more about meditation and to go deeper into the peace and focus of mind. Unfortunately, I had seemed to reach an end to finding any more peace. I had seemed to be peaceful in many daily situations most would find stressful. My focus was better. My mom thought there was something wrong with me–I was under some kind of magic spell. I told her everything was fine and I was experiencing a true connection with God. I had still wanted to feel deeper concentration from the meditations, though, and began wanting to find a place where I could learn meditation, taught by a live person instead of a book.

For five years, I would find nothing. I would look through the local phonebook and various metaphysical newspapers for places I could learn meditation. During those five long years I’d start a failing career in real estate, two other jobs that resulted in quick terminations, I had taken a number of business courses, I worked another short-term job at Home Depot, and spent a second mediocre semester taking college courses. I finally began buying more books about meditation and the spiritual life, but without some specific lessons on how to sit quietly and focus my mind, they’d all be a bunch of words. Then, one evening in the spring of 1990,  as I was visiting my friend and leafing through the pages of the Sunday addition of the LA Times, I came across an advertisement for an Easter service at Self-Realization Fellowship, that famous picture of Paramahansa Yogananda looking directly at me and smiling mentally telling me to go there to learn to meditate. I learned there was a meditation center in Fullerton, California, not very far from where I lived. My life would drastically change after that time. I began attending Thursday Night services which I found very comforting. The practice of meditation was to begin just by sitting and focusing. The book by Sebastian Temple taught us a technique he called the Grand Relaxation Technique, where we spent up to a half hour relaxing our entire body. Self-Realization tells us to just meditate for 10 minutes at the beginning of a service and find the peace. The peace Is already there. We only need to let it into our lives.

Over the next 20 years, I would let the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda be my spiritual guide. Self-Realization offers a serious of lessons that people can subscribe to. Then the temples offer services of long meditations where we can find good company in our efforts. If we had specific questions on how to practice the several techniques that were taught in the lessons, we could write to the International Headquarters, located in Los Angeles, or ask one of the monks who were always at the weekly services. There were times I didn’t know how to proceed into deeper levels of meditation, when the intuited answer I would receive—probably from Yogananda himself—was to just keep sitting and focusing and I will eventually find my way. So, that was what I’d wind up doing. There was an advanced form of meditation, called Kriya Yoga, which all devotees work towards, though I would never reach that stage. I would be stuck in perfecting some of the earlier lessons, and felt it best to continue working on understanding those parts before moving on.

At the time, I would be happy just practicing the basic meditation technique of sitting and focusing, feeling peaceful. Over a number of years of practicing  just this, keeping my focus affixed to the Spiritual Eye (the point between the eye brows) I would experience my mind becoming increasingly clear and focused. I knew mentally I was headed in the right direction. It would be years later before I would experience the mental clarity of my desires. After suffering muddled thinking during my teens and 20s, the clear thinking was very nice as I reached my mid-30s. I had finally established a stronger sense of the person I was, I had better control over the things I said and the words I would use to express more complex thoughts, and I would appear to others as being more intelligent than I was. I felt to be more intelligent. Except for the tremendous limitations I was experiencing in my ability to find satisfactory work, I finally felt to be the whole person I always knew that I was.

Although the presence of Paramahansa Yogananda was a much needed addition to my adult life—his many lessons about treating the material things in life as merely illusion, and not the reality by any means, I have found myself leaning more towards Buddhist meditation teachings as I pass the age of 50. This has come about recently in an effort to grasp dynamics to my mind which have been elusive during other meditation practices.  Despite years of meditating according to the instructions of Self-Realization Fellowship, I have yet to excel in the grasping of spirit as others following that path. This has suggested to me that I am starting from a position where I know little about my own mental (learning) abilities. The Buddha teaches that we start from where we are. Then we sit with the specific purpose of establish something called mindfulness. My need more than anything is to simply to think and remember. Memory in my adult life remains a challenge, which is why I have been slow progressing on the spiritual path. The speed by which one progresses is unimportant. Those in everyday life it is crucial. I needed to establish a better memory and Buddhist meditation seemed to be the better means to have that. We sit and count our breaths. When we lose count, we simply return to the beginning and count again. It is much easier to keep the mind on the breath count, than to practice other taught techniques.  After being on the Buddhist path for almost a year, I can state I am content with it. Buddhist and Yoga meditations seem very similar where I don’t feel I have strayed too far from the meditation I have practiced for many years. I express much gratitude to both Yogananda and the Buddha. I am part of an impenetrable team .

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