When I was a young man I had a family – my mother and father, my wife and two sons and a little daughter. My wife’s parents also lived nearby. We were what you might call ‘close knit’. Our house was not very large and it was hard to get away from other people. Indeed if one tried to do that others might ask:
“What is wrong with you today? You are not talking to anyone. You are looking grim.” And so on.
I have always been a person who enjoys my own space. Certainly I wanted my children to be happy. Of course I wanted to please my wife, but I would find the pressures of all these conversations expected of me too great. I needed time for myself.
One day I took myself for a walk just to get a bit of peace. With all the hustle and bustle of the city this is somewhat hard to do. However there is always peace to be had at the Temple. As I was taking my shoes off before entering, I noticed a man sitting cross legged and looking very peaceful beside the line of shoes. He was not paying any attention to all the comings and goings. I could see that his eyes were open but that he was looking at nothing. He looked perfectly contented. I have occasionally had my shoes stolen from outside the temple so I wondered if I dared to disturb him to ask him to watch my shoes. I became quite agitated trying to make the decision. He continued to look ahead, a benign, peaceful expression on his face. His eyes did not turn to me although it must have been clear to him that I was there and that I wanted to speak. I decided to risk leaving my shoes without his protection.
I entered the temple. It was calm and quiet inside, but my mind was still in turmoil. How long could I allow myself the luxury of this quiet place? Would my shoes be stolen? Would my wife be cross with me when I got home? Had I forgotten to do some little chore for her? Would my mother chide me on my return for some act of omission on my part? And so on. After twenty minutes or so I went out into the busy street again. The sounds of the traffic and the people assailed my ears.
The meditating gentleman was still there, looking calm and beneficent as before. I found my shoes and left.
On my way home I hatched a plan. I would tell my family that I was going to become a yogi. Not in a big way. I was not going to strip down to a loin cloth and go and live in the mountains. I was going to become a yogi for twenty minutes a day, at home in my own bedroom. No-one must speak to me during that time. Whatever they wanted it would have to wait. I was going to learn to sit still and quiet until I could feel on the inside what that old yogi at the temple showed on the outside.
My family thought it rather a strange that I would want to do this, but as it is not unheard of in our country, they accepted my desire to meditate. It took me a while to learn how to do it. I did take some advice on the subject. I just thought about my breath and the ‘prana’ or energy flowing into my body every time I breathed in. Gradually I learnt to notice when I was not thinking about my breath. I began to recognise ‘other’ or distracting thoughts, and having recognised them, I stopped thinking them. My mind gradually became calmer. This calmness overflowed into my daily life. I felt less pressured by all the people and the demands of life and work. My sense of humour returned. My wife said I wasn’t bad tempered any more. My boys started to have proper conversations with me instead of always whining and asking for things. Even my mother in law smiled indulgently at me and called me ‘our guru’.
It wasn’t until much later in my life that I started thinking about the state of my body, and how yoga could address that problem as well. But at least working on my mind through meditation had given me a sense of peace and balance, and in fact my wife decided to meditate too and our family life was immeasurably improved.