A young man learns to meditate (A story on the benefits of meditation)

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.

Surya the Water Carrier (a story about love and respect in the family)

Story about love for primary school children of 6-9yrs.

SURYA THE WATER CARRIER

Children of the world all feel the need to be loved. We all hope that our parents love us and that our brothers and sisters love us. But is that enough? I am going to tell you a story about a child called Surya who was about eight years old. She lived in a small village in India and had two brothers. Surya was usually a happy child. She would often help her mother to carry water back from the well to her home. Each day this task had to be done – once at sunrise and once at sunset. It was quite a long walk to the well. She and her mother would carry the water jars on their heads.

surya-pic.jpg

Surya’s mother could carry a larger jar than Surya, but Surya knew the water she carried was just as important. “All the water you carry will be used. So however much you carry, it is all useful,” her mother always reassured her.

This made Surya feel important. She knew that without water her family would not survive. She knew that her family depended on her work so that they could wash, drink and cook their food. She was pleased to be able to help them.

They would smile at her and call her, “Our water carrier”. Surya liked this. It made her feel nice and warm inside. Even if she was tired and weary, when they smiled she felt better.

One day she asked her mother about this feeling. “Mother, what is it in my body that makes me feel warm and happy when I bring back the water and daddy smiles at me? Something inside me seems to get bigger and get warm. “It feels so nice. It doesn’t happen when people turn their heads away from me and don’t notice me. It feels like a little warm animal inside me. When someone smiles, it gets up and turns round, and fluffs out its fur and snuggles down. When no-one smiles, it just lies there and doesn’t move. It just stays there very quiet, waiting and hoping for a smile.”

“Ah, I see, my child. You have begun to notice your heart. Yes, it is just like a little animal. It likes to give love and to be loved. When it can do both, it is very happy. When it gives love and nobody notices, it does not feel so happy. It waits quietly until someone notices it and then it wags its tail and turns round and round and is happy. And so it is with everyone. We all have a little warm feeling which comes into our hearts when we know we are loved. When we lose someone we love, or maybe our pet dies, then we feel very heavy inside. Our little warm place changes to a cold stone sitting in our chest, and our little furry animal seems to have gone away. We feel all alone. But it is then that we need to remember that everybody has love somewhere in their heart. If we need love, we must give love. Give a smile and a kind word to another person and you will make them feel nice and warm inside. In turn they will smile at you and thank you for your kindness and you will not feel alone any more. Love is what we all need and in order to get it, we must be sure to give it. Children are very good at giving love. It is something they do very easily and it is something that they need to remember to do as they get older. No matter how hard life is at times, if you can love people, you will never feel lonely.”

 

Surya and her mother

QUESTIONS:

1. What is the story about?
2. What name would you give the story?
3. What made Surya happy?
4. How did she feel when her father smiled at her?
5. How did she feel when no-one smiled at her?
6. How did you feel as you listened to the story?
7. Does the story remind you of anything in your life?
8. What does the story mean to you?

Mother’s Quiet Time (a story about the importance of meditation) for age 12 to adult

The Seventh Limb of Yoga: Dhyana,Meditation from my book Yoga Philosophy for Young People – a collection of stories and guidance.

Many people in the West think that meditation is very weird indeed; something done by religious fanatics and those who have cut themselves off from normal society.My story is to show you that meditation can be a part of normal life. The story is told in the voice of Guptananda, an old Indian Guru.

Mother’s Quiet Time

When I was a child and my father worked in the temple, my mother, my brother, my sister and I would be at home.Mother had several servants who helped with the work in the house and garden, and who looked after the animals.Every day mother would have a meeting with the servants before they started their work. We children would still be in bed, but sometimes if I got up early I would see them all sitting down outside in our courtyard.

Mother would greet them all with “namaste” and bow her head and they would also bow, then they would all sit in silence for a few minutes.They would close their eyes and no one would speak.The silent period would be ended with the ringing of a little bell, which my mother always had with her.It was the same bell she used to summon the servants when she needed help.After ringing the bell my mother would tell each person what she wanted him or her to do that day and would ask if they had anything to say.Sometimes they brought up problems they were having with some aspect of the work, but usually they would just bow and smile and thank God for being healthy and strong and for the gift of another new day. Thus it was in our house, peaceful and contented.

However, one week when my mother’s sister came to stay I remember Mother decided not to have the morning meditations.Her sister was about to give birth and had come to us for her confinement.Mother told the servants briefly what to do at the beginning of each day and listened to their problems, but had no quiet period before the start of the working day.What a terrible week that was!Everyone seemed to be arguing with everyone else.Nothing was going right.My mother forgot to buy the dahl (lentils) at the market so we all had to eat nothing but chapatis (bread) and some tired vegetables.Mother was so preoccupied with her sister that she seemed to forget about us.This was to be my Aunt’s first baby so this was a very big event for her.Meanwhile my brother fell off the horse and broke his arm and my sister nearly fell down the well!Two narrow planks of wood, which had been carelessly placed over it, saved her.She was very shocked.Mother blamed the servants for not covering the well properly, but I knew it had been me.I was to blame.I had been watering the animals, drawing the water up with a bucket when Raja had bolted.I hastily threw two pieces of wood over the brick work hole and chased after my horse.After several days everyone was extremely irritable and exhausted and my father couldn’t understand what had come over his family.

“Surely your sister is not so important that she be allowed to upset all the family and servants with her new baby, which isn’t even born yet?”

Then my mother explained how she had stopped organizing a quiet period at the beginning of the day because of being so busy.

 

“Ah, I see the problem now,” said father.”Everyone thinks they are so busy that they have no time to sit and reflect on the day, on their work and on God’s gifts.Well you see what happens when we don’t spare ourselves just a few minutes of peace – we get chaos.Surely we can find five or ten minutes at the beginning of the day to be calm and thoughtful and to ask the Lord what it is that we need to know and do each day?In future let my family return to its previous ways and the baby will be born into an atmosphere of calmness and contentment rather than one of anger and chaos!”

The baby was born two days later and she was named Shanti (Peace).

 

 

 


 

A yoga story about compassion and sympathy

Aunt Ushma Becomes Very Ill

Compassion and Sympathy

When I was a small child I had an aunt; she was my mother’s sister. She used to live with us and help my mother look after us children. She would wash us and rock us to sleep if we were unsettled. She was always available to help in any way and never asked for anything in return. She was one of the family, so she was treated as such and not as a servant. My mother used to say to us, “You must look after your Auntie Ushma as well as she looks after you!”

A time came when we did indeed have to carry out our mother’s wishes. Aunt Ushma became very ill. All she could do was to lie in bed and drink water and sometimes a little fruit juice. Every one was very worried about her. I used to like to go and visit her and stroke her hair as it lay on the pillow beside her. She would turn her head and smile a wan smile.

“Ah, Ramu,” she would say, “How nice it is to feel your cool hands on my forehead. No one has hands like yours. I am sure you will be a great healer one day.”

Well, I didn’t know what she was talking about. I just knew I wanted her to get well again quickly, so that we could enjoy our usual pursuits, our walks along the riverbank and playing hide-and-seek in the woods. She was ill for a long time it seemed to me. She grew so thin that her skin looked like paper drawn across the bones of her face. No one could help her. The priest visited her and so did the wise woman who sold the herbs in the market. The Guru who lived in the nearby mountain was summoned, but he refused to come. Instead he promised to pray for her each day until he had news of a change for the better. Aunt Ushma finally died after several months of illness. On her last day she asked to see the family all together. She addressed them saying:

“I am going home soon, do not weep for me. I will return as indeed we all do. I hope my next life will shine with a few more jewels than this one. However, in this life I have been blessed with a good number of jewels until recently. I would like to thank you, all of you, for your kindness to me during this tiresome illness. You could not have looked after me with more care or consideration than if I had been the goddess Shakti herself.” And with that she closed her eyes and fell asleep. She never uttered another word. She died during the night.

I always remembered what she said about my hands and if members of the family were ill, I made sure I was there to stroke their brows and hold their hands. They always appreciated it and in later years I indeed found that my healing gift was called upon by many.


Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What kind of effect does an understanding smile have on you?
  • Think of a time when you felt compassionate towards someone. How did you show it?
  • When someone is unsympathetic towards you, how do you feel about him?
  • A friend is looking for sympathy, but you think she is just being pathetic. How can you deal with it and show you are still a good friend?

The Pebble (A story about the meaning of life) for age10 to adult

THE PEBBLE

.The context of this story is of a young boy who lived many years ago in India. His family were Brahmins and they lived and worked in and around the temple.

In the old days when my father seemed like a god to me and I was perhaps seven years of age, a young man came to stay with us. He was a distant relative and father had told his parents that he would be welcome to live with us for a while to discover whether he liked the work in the temple. He would go in with father every day and be introduced to all the other temple workers. Father would instruct him in calligraphy, the careful writing of the scriptures, and would explain the meaning of the verses to him. He would be with us for six months.

Now I had two ‘gods’ in my household. This young man was so clever it seemed to me; so beautiful and so funny. I followed him everywhere hoping to learn a trick or two perhaps. When he smiled I felt that I would melt. His face became radiant like the sun. Everyone loved him. Father had great hopes for him. Not only could he write beautifully, he could also draw. When he had finished his writing he would often draw a beautiful design at the bottom of his work. On his days off he would take pen and paper and sit in some corner of our grounds and draw the flowers and the trees; sometimes he drew us, the children in my family. He gave me a beautiful picture of myself and my sister sitting by the well. How I treasured it. I asked one of the workmen to make a frame for it and I displayed it in our house for all to behold.

Late one evening a messenger came to call the young man away. His father had died and he had to return home to look after his family. We were all distraught. Our lovely visitor was leaving. How we would miss him! My little sister didn’t really understand that he would be leaving forever. Maybe nobody told her, but they told me. I wanted to cry. Perhaps I did cry. There would be a large gap in my life. Who would teach me all the games and jokes now? Father was too busy, Mother didn’t know many games or jokes and the servants’ jokes never seemed very funny to me.

Father had told us that our friend would be leaving early the following morning. I ran away to hide my sorrow and wondered what I could do to show him how I loved him and to make him come back. I couldn’t think of anything at all. I couldn’t think of the words or any present that I could give him. Then I remembered a story he had told us. It was about a stone in the stream that ran past our stables. It was a lovely smooth stone and he told us that when it started life it had been rough and ugly. Through its life it had learnt many things and its rough edges had been worn away by all the other stones it had met. Gradually it became more beautiful. The smoother it became the more its lovely colours shone through and when it lay at the bottom of the stream with the sun shining on it, it glowed like a jewel.

I picked up a very smooth stone out of the stream; it had amber and red stripes running through it. It was very pretty. I decided to give it to our friend. I wanted to tell him the truth about what I felt for him, but I couldn’t find the words. The stone would have to do it for me.

I shyly gave it to him before he left. His eyes lit up. Thinking of his story he said, “I shall keep this to remember you by, Ramu. To me you are already like this pretty stone. Many lifetimes have already rubbed the rough edges off you, but there is still much to learn. Unlike this little stone you will grow bigger. It would be dishonest of me to say that you will have no rough edges to be rubbed off. Every boy of seven has a whole lifetime of experience ahead to polish him up, but I think you will not find the polishing process too painful as you are quite well rounded already.

I didn’t really understand the truth behind my friend’s words, but I always remembered them. Now looking back I see that my struggles were not as difficult as those of many I encountered and for that I was grateful.

When troubles came to me I would think of that stone and think of the troubles as another step in the process of being polished up to a beautiful finish!