Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Meditation Concentration

I know as mentioned by one of my commentators here on this blog, only 5% of those who regularly read blogs or just pass through actually leave comments. So I know it's doubtful I'll actually get a comment with this post, but I am hopeful nonetheless, as this particular blog post contains an important question.

That question is: how do I achieve total concentration while meditating? I'm not sure I've been able to before now. Maybe I've managed to do it once or twice before but since then I've been unable to effectively concentrate. I'm not sure how to achieve effective meditation anymore since it seems when I try to empty my mind, just as it gets empty, some errant thought or random idea always pops into my head. I'm not sure if this is supposed to happen or what, but it just seems I can't completely clear my mind. I've tried one particular soundtrack, a Ganesha mantra on YouTube that's repeated 98 times (as 108 wouldn't fit in 10 minutes). Maybe I need to switch up the soundtrack? I'm not sure.

Perhaps it's all the stress I've been through lately. New location for my job, new apartment I have to move into soon, trying to get into a new faith (Hinduism for those that just stumbled on this blog), trying to make new friends, trying to keep old ones, trying to maintain good relationships with family, and others I probably am forgetting to list here. Perhaps all this stress in my life is preventing my concentration. But isn't meditation supposed to reduce this stress? It would seem like a vicious cycle if that was the case - more stress leads to less concentration when meditating, leading to more stress, etc.

I honestly don't know what I'm doing wrong. If anyone out there has any advice I would greatly appreciate it. This is a tumultuous time in my life. I need the guidance and the inspiration of God(s) now more than ever.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Anxiety and the Present

I made another brief visit to the Hindu Temple of Rochester today, as there was a bus that took me close by. Since I could access it by bus route, this time I went by myself. It was during this visit that I both learned one important thing about myself, as well as discovered how far I have yet to go to achieve personal transformation, but with hope that it can be done.

The overall theme of the trip seemed to be anxiety; anxiety about several things at once, it seemed. Not just immediate concerns such as how to get there and back on the bus and the like, but anxiety about my own sense of self. As I was making the trip, and even after I arrived I was asking myself: "do I really belong here?" "Am I doing the right thing?" "Will my presence here be seen as good, bad, or somewhere in between?" "How will people react to me?"

I know one of these days I have got to learn to be comfortable in my own skin, so to speak. That I have to be comfortable with my sense of self and the decisions I make. And while the anxiety I experienced during my visit is indicative that I haven't achieved this goal yet, my short visit overall has left me with a sense of hope that I can conquer these particular demons.

The reason for this is because while I was feeling anxiety during my visit, I noticed it was anxiety of a different sort than I usually experience. Sure, it was still anxiety, but I usually feel anxiety about things more global than just a temple visit. Things like world and local news, my usual interpersonal relationships, trying not to accidentally offend people, etc. When I was in the Hindu temple, the anxiety felt much more...localized, I guess, in the sense that I was not worrying about things outside of my control. I was worrying about my own thoughts and how to interact with the people in front of me, but I wasn't worrying about what they thought of me so much as what they actually did in reaction to me. I hope that makes sense. In short, it seemed like an anxiety about things on a more realistic level.

I did a short meditation session there of about 10 minutes. I couldn't concentrate during that session because the anxiety still lingered somewhat, but I guess that is to be expected. Still, it was good to have a different kind of anxiety for once, and by good I mean a kind that is more manageable. It was an anxiety based on the present.

I left the temple today feeling relieved, because while I felt anxiety about it, I did it anyway. It was a time when I could think about the present, instead of regretting the past or worrying about the future. And that is an experience I'm glad I could take away. I definitely want to come back again so I can work on conquering this anxiety even further.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why Christianity Wasn't For Me, Part 2

Truth be told, I didn't know if I was ever going to pen another blog post explaining why Christianity wasn't for me, if there ever was going to be a "part 2." However, there has been one event I've been seeing in various forms (most notably Twitter and its trending topics) that has caused me some anxiety and thus inspired this post. This event I'm referring to is the so-called Rapture - apparently certain Christian churches have been proclaiming that the Rapture is supposed to happen very soon, perhaps as soon as this weekend.

Let me be blunt here, and I do apologize if this causes offense to some people - I don't believe the Rapture, as described in the Bible and/or by evangelicals, is ever going to happen. But the dichotomy, the psychology behind it is part of the reason I've been turned off by Christianity and migrating towards Hinduism. The short explanation I will say for this is that the version of the "end of the world" espoused by Hinduism (I'm not too familiar with it, but I have a general idea) seems to be much more forgiving than the Christian version.

Now, as for the long explanation...this may take a little bit to explain. I hope you like walls of text.

I've always been afraid of the end of the world, and not just in religious form. Sure, the end as described in the Bible is pretty terrifying enough, but the more reality-based versions are ones I don't know if I can ever see without completely losing my mind. Hopefully you know what I'm talking about: Global warming/climate change. The next World War. An upheaval of the current world order caused by racism, classism, and other ism's and problems of the world. These are all versions of reality that I could never bear to see happen around me. Visions of absolute horror I can tolerate in movies, sure, but if it ever happened to me in real life...I don't know how I'd be able to ever cope.

So what does this have to do with the Christian Rapture? Well, as far as I know, the Rapture is generally supposed to be the following: the good people of the Earth, the pure devoted followers of Christ, are all supposed to ascend to Heaven on a specific day, and just disappear...leaving the rest of us to suffer and rot on an abandoned world. It presents a very black-and-white view of the end of the world - if you're a good Christian, you'll be saved, rescued, etc. when the time comes. If you're not, well, you're screwed.

That seems to be how the rest of these reality-based end of the world prophecies appear to be discussed in our present political climate. You're either good and deserve to be saved from them, or you're pure evil and deserve to burn in the living Hell these scenarios say will exist. Climate change and global warming? Either you're producing near-to-zero carbon emissions and consuming next to nothing, or you're evil and deserve to burn. War? Either you're sacrificing everything in your life to oppose it and purify yourself from a warlike state, or you're evil. Racism? Sexism? Poverty? The same thing. Either you're doing everything to stop them, or you're good for nothing. Us or them. Sink or swim.

To me, these polarized views of the issues of the world seem to get their psychology from the basic idea behind the Rapture - either you'll be saved because you're good, or left behind to suffer because you're evil. No in-between. No shades of gray.

There will be more on why Hinduism presented a good alternative for me to this bipolar world view later, but hopefully this is a good start as to an insight as to how I think spiritually. I hope you enjoy reading this in the meantime before the next post.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Brief Visit to the Hindu Temple of Rochester

Today, in case you couldn't tell from the title of this blog post, I made a brief visit to the Hindu Temple of Rochester. It wasn't a long visit, as the one who brought me there couldn't stay very long, but even in my short time there my experience was profound.

I didn't do much when I was there; when I arrived the one who brought me there showed me the various deities and their relationships to each other. (She started with Ganesha as I told her I was meditating to Ganesha mantras.) I then sat down, as I didn't quite know what else to do. I attempted to do a little meditation, but I couldn't concentrate well enough to do so for very long. There weren't many people around, but still I was focused on what everyone else was doing. As I didn't want to be the odd one out, I wanted to make sure I wasn't doing anything improper.

Overall, though, I felt this palpable energy throughout the place. Maybe it was my anxiety in being in a new situation, but still there was energy I could genuinely feel. I guess this is what some people describe as the "fear of God?" That being in the presence of divinity (or the energy thereof) and just plain not knowing what to do? It was an energy I felt that I just didn't know what to do with. But regardless, I could feel it.

Even though I only spent a short time in there before leaving, upon my exit I felt glad that at the very least I did something as radical (for me, anyway) as this. It was like a step in the right direction for me, I believe. I definitely want to come back, and apparently in June there will be an event going on there that only occurs once every twelve years. Perhaps I can attend that? I hope so. Regardless, just being there, just showing up was a good thing for me to do, as I know now that at the very least I can do it; that even though I felt anxious, I did it anyway. I hope to return sometime (though I don't know when or how since I have no car of my own).