My hands glide to and fro at my side as I slowly walk back to the edge of the grove in Redwood National Park. Groups of visitors come streaming in through the forest pathway, but immediately fall silent when they enter the inner enclosure. Massive tree trunks like enormous pillars loom overhead, so tall you can barely make out the canopy above. No signs to admonish anyone for talking here but all fall silent as if they are walking into a sacred space. It's almost like being in a cathedral, except the distance is measured in acres, not feet. Instead of stone columns, you are walking among these colossal beings, with the undergrowth crunching softly beneath you.
The still and quiet pervades the entire space and a deep feeling of calm wells up inside me. I feel totally in sync with my surroundings and continue to gaze at these marvels of creation with a mixture of awe and reverence. How many thousands of years would they have witnessed here in this grove during their continued quest skyward? How many like me would have come here and pondered on the vast secrets these ancient trees carry inside them? I slow my gait and begin to watch my breath. I notice a park bench near the edge of the thicket. I sit down, folding my legs underneath me, and take in my environs once more -- the sunlight streaming down through the crown of rich foliage, the damp earthy smell of the forest floor, the all-pervading stillness teeming with life. I take a deep breath and close my eyes.
Isha Kriya is a guided meditation created by Sadhguru, a modern-day mystic who established the Isha Foundation, an international organization working towards the raising of human consciousness through meditation and yoga.
The practice, while simple, is remarkably powerful and profound. I've tried a few different meditations over time, but this is something I could immediately connect with. After you sit in a cross-legged posture, all you have to do is coordinate your breathing with the repetition of a certain mantra: "I am not the body. I am not even the mind."
When you inhale, you mentally say the first thought to yourself. When you exhale, it is the second thought. This first part of the meditation is for seven to eleven minutes, during which time you disregard whatever is happening in the body or the mind.
Being there without responding to your inner workings and just simply sitting is the toughest part for me. For a few months now, Isha Kriya has been a regular part of my life, and though I find myself sinking deeper into the meditation each time, I still struggle keeping my mind focused on the mantra.
I think that comes with practice though and the key to making it work is being able to sit still during the process and go back to the mantra every time your mind wanders off. It's not always easy but every time I sit for meditation, it happens a little more effortlessly. Apart from making me feel closer to everything around me, I feel it has helped me see how to overcome fears that I create in my mind by being more aware and present with what is happening.
The silence within
When I open my eyes, a family is walking into the grove, just on the cusp between conversation and the ineluctable silence of this forest realm. Still pulsating from my meditation, I watch them keenly and see the transformation on their faces. The connection with nature brings about an obvious change in everyone who crosses over that threshold of modernity and let themselves soak in these pristine surroundings. But for me, meditation is a way to connect with that wherever I go, regardless how noisy or polluted my surroundings may be. It would be very difficult to bring that peaceful atmosphere into the city, but through meditation, you can carry the calm of the forest within you, no matter where you are.