Pyramid Valley, India
Our next stop in India was an interesting one to say the least. An international meditation center, Pyramid Valley is a place on the outskirts of Bangalore where individuals and groups come to have seminars and learn to meditate inside a huge man made pyramid.
The website associated with the place describes it like this:
“Inspired by the vision of our Founder Brahmarshi Patriji’s that “Masters of the World… Unite”, Pyramid Valley is setup with a core objective of providing a COMMON PLATFORM for all world spiritual masters, to collaborate for a peaceful and love filled planet Earth in the shortest possible time”
For us, it was a nice resting point on our journey where we had two days to decompress, hang out on the campus and practice our meditation skills.
So, why the pyramids? Well, supposedly pyramids are storehouses of energy drawn from the universe. There is something about the way they are constructed that gathers cosmic energy and blends it with gravitational force. Claims to pyramid power include being able to preserve foods, promote healing, and most importantly in this context, improve a person’s ability to move into altered states of consciousness. Generally, the gist of it was that meditating inside the pyramid was supposed to make moving into a meditative state easier and to cause you to feel more energized when you left.
Unfortunately, Neither Mo nor I noticed a significant difference between meditating inside the pyramid vs. elsewhere. HOWEVER, I will say that for me, having a regular meditation practice (wherever it is done), has been extremely beneficial :)
The final official stop on our India tour was a place called Auroville. Auroville is unlike any other place in the world and its existence is considered to be an international experiment.
This town was founded by Mirra Alfassa, lovingly called “the mother”, and Sir Aurobindo, a yogi, scholar and philosopher, in 1968. In explaining the purpose of Auroville, the mother is quoted as saying:
“Auroville is meant to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity.”
In a nutshell, Auroville claims to belong to no one. No one owns property there. They also do not promote any organized religion, but ask that residents serve “the divine” and work towards realizing a higher consciousness. No paper currency is used by residents, basic needs are covered and all people contribute to the development of the community through jobs. 50 nationalities are represented by those who live there. It is dedicated to integral education and research, but in ways influenced by the vision of the mother, all of which promote the development of a higher consciousness, unending learning, and unity.
At the heart of the city, which is designed in a circular fashion, there is the Matrimandir. This structure is used for meditation purposes, is a symbol of the universal mother or divine consciousness, and is considered the soul of Auroville. In order to prevent visitors from treating it simply as a tourist attraction, there is a process one must go through before being allowed to enter. First you must sign up to view a video about the town and it’s vision. Second you must complete a viewing of the structure from afar. Finally, you are allowed to come back the next day and enter.
Although we completed all these steps, on the day we were supposed to enter, it rained. Rain meant no one could go inside (too much mud and dirt tracked in?). We had to leave the next morning and never got to see what was described to us as a spaceship like interior with stairs winding up to a completely white room crowned by a crystal globe illuminated by a single ray of sunlight representing “a symbol of future realization. There are also separate “pods” one can meditate in surrounding a lotus garden over which the entire structure is suspended. As trippy as sounds, we were excited to see it and gather another clue to understanding the vision of Auroville. It was too bad we missed it :(
In the limited time we were there it was difficult to really get a feel for what was going on and what the real vision was. Someone once explained why this is. He likened understanding the Matrimandir and the vision of Auroville to understanding someone’s soul, and a person does not bare their soul to others right away. Makes some sense. Interestingly, if a person is open to the vision of the town and wants to learn more about its soul by living in the community, they can stay at a hostel/guesthouse for whatever they can give (even if it’s nothing and they stay for free) and contribute their talents to the town for indefinite amounts of time.
If anyone is interested in more information on this experiment in the humanities, their website goes much more in depth: http://www.auroville.org
So How To Meditate?
Since meditation was a central theme to both of the above destinations, and when something is helpful to you you want to share it, I thought I would add a little more information on the process and how to meditate at home.
There have been many scientific studies done on the benefits of meditation, from relieving anxiety and pain, to creating positive emotional and behavioral changes, to even physically modifying the way the brain functions! There are also many books and CDs with guided meditations and different techniques to learn, but it doesn’t have to be too complicated.
Three of my favorite (simple) ways to meditate are described here:
1) Seated meditation: Sit up straight in a cross legged position or in a chair with feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Breath normally. Focus on you breath moving in and out of your body. Initially I like to take a few “complete breaths” first, imagining the air moving in this way: filling up my stomach, lungs, then upper chest, then leaving the body the way it came, deflating my upper chest, lungs, then stomach. After a few of these I let my breathing normalize. If focusing on the breath is too hard, you can put your focus in the middle of your forehead, at the “third eye”.
2) Mindfulness meditation: This involves simply observing your thoughts. Begin a meditation as above. Any time a thought comes into your mind, do not judge it or try to push it away, simply make note of it (I.e. Hmm, I’m thinking of an Oreo cookie right now..) then move back to focus on the breath or the third eye.
- NOTE: The purpose of this one is to build mindfulness and presence. This makes remaining in a meditative state easier in the long run, but most importantly, it builds an increased awareness of our thoughts. This is a big goal of our meditation practice: to live more mindfully. If we cultivate an awareness of our thoughts, we gain more control over our minds and can begin to understand how our thoughts affect our actions. This brings increased awareness and consciousness into the behaviors we display during our everyday lives, which usually manifests in more positive interactions. Amazingly, this very simple practice, done frequently and with intention, is very effective.
3) Walking meditation: This can be done anywhere, but ideally somewhere closer to nature. It includes three parts that can be practiced independently or simultaneously:
- Part 1: Walk slowly. Put your intention into feeling every movement of your feet as you take each step. Feel every inch of the ground beneath your feet. Bonus: do this barefoot (like in the grass or something, not somewhere where you will get hurt ;) ) most of us are very disconnected from the earth and this practice is grounding.
- Part 2: Try to “listen with your skin”. Hear everything that makes a sound around you, especially the small things you usually tune out.
- Part 3: Try to see EVERYTHING all at once. This requires a sort of blurring of your vision. You are trying to not only see what is right in front of you, but what is on the periphery as well–all at once and in context with the whole.
- NOTE: When attempting all of these parts together, it is almost impossible not to be entirely present in the moment. This is another one of the big goals of a meditation practice: to stop the constant and unnecessary wanting for the future and regret for the past, and instead cultivate presence, acceptance and happiness in the current moment. This can only happen by experiencing that current moment fully and with mindfulness.
So, if you’re game, pick one and try it! Don’t be discouraged if your mind seems impossibly busy, this is OK, just do what is described in #2, continue on, and remember this is a PRACTICE :)
Good luck and let me know how it goes!