Meditation for modern man
In this article, Charles Shahar offers the possibility of interweaving meditation with your work and family life
Not every person can join an ashram or withdraw into a life of spiritual seclusion. Many adults have obligations related to family and work. How is it possible to juggle these demands with the regular practice of meditation? If you are in this situation, how can you find time on a daily basis when the children are romping around the house or the job involves working late and you are too tired for a sitting? Even if you sit, you may find it difficult not to keel over as you struggle to remain awake.
Meditation and work life
A job can sap your energy in many ways. If all you want to do when you get home is slump in front of a television set for the rest of the evening, too tired to meditate because the job is so draining, perhaps some adjustments should be made to your lifestyle or occupation. Consider that your nervous system may be too sensitive to handle this type of strain. Alternatives may include working fewer hours or simply taking quiet breaks during the course of the day.
If it is possible to meditate in the morning for ten minutes, consider this an excellent start to the day. Even this brief time in silence will set a calming tone. You will notice the difference because when you walk into the work environment, you will have less of a sense of urgency and agitation. If you can’t meditate at home, you might want to spend a few minutes in silence in the office. Just close the door. If people can take coffee or cigarette breaks, why not make time for a dip into the sublime?
The office atmosphere is not the most conducive for travelling inward. The vibrations there are wired; there is a buzz created by the din and by busy minds at work. Some days are more unsettled than others. If the office space is too hectic, or if you don’t even have an office, find a spot in a local park or temple during lunchtime.
Try to find people at work who will meditate with you. Once you start practising meditation, you will attract people with similar vibrations. You can find a place that is quiet, perhaps someone’s office, or reserve a boardroom. You may want to play a mantra or chanting tape, or light a candle to clear the atmosphere. There is no need for anyone to lead the meditation, although you may want to say a few words to ease everyone into the space.
For the working person, it is very beneficial to meditate in the middle of the day. You will then float through the afternoon. To do without a quiet break for the entire day means that a lot of tension will accumulate in your body. When you are finally sitting in meditation at home in the late afternoon or evening, it may take a while for the nervous system to settle. This may be the cause of some frustration, but keep in mind that it is also a normal reaction, given the pace most people maintain in their life. It is difficult to shift gears after experiencing a frenetic workday
People who merge their spiritual practice with their work are truly blessed. Those who teach yoga and meditation, and are able to support themselves financially through this activity, are living very favourable karma. Those who have enough money and do not need to work at all are, likewise, fortunate but only if they spend their time wisely in uplifting pursuits. There are many wealthy people who have not necessarily pursued deeper, more meaningful lives, although it is difficult to generalise in this respect. The bottom line is that having money can free up your time and eliminate financial struggles or exposure to stressful work conditions, but it does not guarantee that you will make spiritual expansion an important focus of your attention.
As a further reflection on the demands of work, consider that some spiritual souls who are currently incarnating here are not used to the pace and intensity of Western life. They have spent previous lifetimes in the East where the rhythm had been more gentle and serene. If this is the case, they will likely feel out of place, longing for a quieter existence, and even suffering imbalance or illness as a result.
Their souls may be reeling from the shock of such a displacement, and they will likely not have a choice but to search for spiritual succour in this lifetime. A desire to visit the East, or to feel some strong connection with an Eastern religion or people, is often indicative of this situation. Often spiritual souls incarnate in the West not to be encumbered by difficult material conditions, such as lacking the basic necessities of life. Ironically, the demands of their work life may also turn out to be a burden for them.
Of course, not all work is burdensome. Many people find their occupation interesting and enjoyable. They may be helping others or simply finding challenges through their jobs. The point is to have a well-rounded lifestyle and to pursue the inward journey as well. I have never known a meditator to pass through a midlife crisis or depression. There is too much richness in the quality of their experience to feel any lack in or remorse about what they have done or where they are headed.
Meditation and family life
Aside from work, raising a family can have a different set of obligations that are no less demanding. If you decide to incorporate meditation into your lifestyle, there is no doubt that it will benefit everyone around you: not just close family but friends and relatives as well. For those who are most immediately in your aura, subtle changes will take place in them, whether they themselves meditate or not. The presence of a meditator in their life will always be uplifting if they are open to it.
A particularly desirable situation is when both partners in a relationship are meditators. They can provide strong support for one another. Their practice will become more focussed, and the relationship itself will develop in ways that transcend the limited bounds of two interacting personalities. The vibrations in the home of such a couple will have a quality of softness and serenity, which visitors will immediately remark on.
If only one of the partners meditates, the situation is still favourable provided there is an attitude of mutual respect and cooperation. For instance, one partner may be engaged in the working world but will come home each evening to a meditative atmosphere that has been created by the spouse. This is a karmic arrangement where the meditator provides a connection or bridge to the meditative space, while the partner provides material security. Ultimately, those who engage in worldly occupations must assume the practice for themselves if they are to find that inner peace which meditation brings.
A different situation occurs when one of the partners has difficulty accepting the spiritual practice of the other. Some people may consider it foreign to their culture or religion, while others are simply resisting change in their partner, perhaps due to their own insecurities. There is still room for reconciliation if trust and respect come to the forefront. Otherwise, strains may begin to leave a mark on the relationship. Such a situation may be difficult because the two parties may be headed in very different directions. A relationship should represent a dynamic rather than a static arrangement. If one person feels held back, frustrations and tensions will ultimately result.
Sometimes, both partners discover their spirituality at the same time but choose different ways to express it, perhaps joining different groups or adopting different practices. The consequences depend very much on the maturity of the individuals. Those with greater awareness will make every effort to maintain harmony but not at the expense of their dignity or peace of mind. It is unfortunate that such situations lead to strain, but it is likely that the differences between them would have eventually surfaced, perhaps in another context.
One thing to keep in mind is that meditators should not force their ideas on anyone. This may be difficult when they first get excited about their meditation experience. Sometimes, it is harder for the people closest to us to recognise our spirituality. There is a certain familiarity based on the interaction of personalities, rather than a deeper connection of two souls. Patience may be required, because as one partner sees positive changes in the other, they may eventually follow their lead or at least accept the latter’s spiritual direction.
It is appropriate to say that the strongest relationships are spiritual ones where the recognition is on the soul level. The meditator develops a respect for the inherent greatness of all beings, but the partner is the person with whom they have decided to travel hand-in-hand along life’s path. If there is mutual encouragement, the relationship is worth maintaining and becomes an important source of support and inspiration.
Two spouses or partners meditating together is likely the best quality time they could spend with one another. In such a situation, there is a oneness felt that cannot be achieved on a physical or emotional plane. On the one hand, it represents a detachment from worldly or physical existence, but on the other, it also represents a shared peak experience. To dive into the deepest silence with someone is a special experience, representing a spiritual bond that touches both at the deepest levels.
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