10/29/2014 03:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What The Mindful Revolution Means To Me (Part 1)


A Moment:

I am laying on a park bench in a valley in Nichols Arboretum, staring up at the canopy above. Sunlight strikes the dancing leaves, turning them a translucent gold. On this Saturday afternoon in late October, the wind is peelings away hundreds of leaves every minute. They swirl and spiral to the ground, aligning on the forest floor without a sound. The trunks of the massive trees groan as they sway.

After a while, I swing my legs around and plant my feet on the forest floor. I sit with my legs spread slightly and my spine erect, my forehead tilted slightly skyward. My palms are open, and rest on my thighs. I take another moment to ingest the many tumbling leaves, and I close my eyes.

The Meditation:

"Isha means 'that which is the source of creation.' Kriya means 'an inward action towards that.'"

The Isha Kriya meditation is the invention of Jaggi Vasudev, more commonly known as Sadhguru, an Indian yogi who founded the Isha foundation, an international organization promoting the elevation of consciousness through yoga and meditation.

It is a remarkably simple practice, which is part of what makes it such a powerful tool. Once one is sitting in the correct posture, all one must do is synchronize their breathing with the recitation of the following mantra:

"I am not the body. I am not even the mind."

On the inhalation, one takes in the first thought. On the exhalation, one expels the second thought. You do this for seven to twelve minutes, ignoring during this time all other notions of the body or the mind.

Ignoring your other feelings, I've discovered, is the hardest part. The Isha Kriya has been part of my daily routine for almost two weeks now, and still I find my mind wandering away from the mantra at least once every minute.

The key to making the meditation successful is to have the discipline to keep your body still and the persistence to return to the mantra every time you're distracted from it. It's difficult, but the more I practice the easier it becomes.

The Destination:

The goal of all mindfulness practices is ultimately this: to make one more present in one's own life. The pace of living and the burden of memory both make being present a remarkably difficult thing to do. We feel anxiety about getting things done. We are plagued by guilt, resentment, and boredom. So focused on looking forward, that we forget to look up.

On that bench, in those woods, I felt for the first time in a long time absent of all of the above.

I felt a connection to a part of myself that was buried deep. At the same time, I felt a connection to everything that was happening around me.

"I am not the body. I am not even the mind."

My sense of hearing expanded. The rush of the wind through the trees took on a whole new meaning, because I could hear it not just in the trees in my immediate vicinity, but in all the leaves in all of the thousands of trees in the arboretum. It was a sound like the tide coming in or the crash of waves on rocks.

I heard laughter in a distant meadow. I heard a small animal rustling through the litter of leaves in search of food. And, what's more, I didn't feel that these things were happening in the forest, an exterior realm. They were happening within me.

What is Oneness?

Oneness is perhaps the most universal and least talked-about feeling on the emotional spectrum. It is a something that cannot be quantified or explained, but is understood by anyone who has ever had a spiritual experience.

It is felt in churches, mosques, music festivals, group therapy sessions, and anywhere that people allow themselves to be vulnerable to the power of each other and the power of God. It is the feeling that there is no separation between us, and it is the understanding that a conscious being is the universe experiencing itself, and that this is the greatest possible miracle of creation.

What mindfulness practices teach us to do is to stay connected to this miracle. To not allow the obstacles that inevitably disrupt the trajectories of our everyday lives to distract us from the present moment, which is a product of a glorious grand design that is far beyond our comprehension.

"I am not the body. I am not even the mind."

I opened my eyes when I heard the child's voice. He looked to be just slightly taller than my knee, with a head of dark curls and a royal blue jacket. He waddled along next to his father, chattering excitedly,

"If we can catch a wild animal and train it and make it learn how to..."

I smiled as the father shook his head in bewilderment while the little boy explained the magical means by which he would befriend the creatures of the wood. I watched a leaf spiral down in the air behind them, and I was struck by a certainty that we were the same, that we had met before and would, one day, meet again.