I get asked to investigate many things, interview many people, and I have found it best to resist the temptation to pre-judge what people will say or do until I get there.
Of course that is easy to say. It is difficult not to bring some preconceived notions to an interview. It is all too human to begin “figuring out” what the story is and where it will take you before you come to it.
Being invited to a group meditation session certainly piqued my curiosity.
And I have to admit I had a few preconceptions when I got a phone call from Dilip Mehra. He has the mellifluous voice of a South Asian and matched with his infectious enthusiasm, he convinced me that I should attend a session of what he called Heartfulness Meditation.
It is not a religion – at least by Western standards – but a way to be in touch with your inner self. Of course, the big question for me is: If I need to get in touch with my inner self, who is this outer self I have been hanging out with all these years?
But Dilip convinced me to come to a Sunday morning session. I was intrigued because of what he said and where it would be – The Cottage School in Roswell.
My daughter attended TCS and the school would certainly be idyllic for meditation.
A note of disclosure here, in my youth I was seeing a young woman who was “into meditation” and it pleased her that I gave it a try. Transcendental Meditation was a trendy thing in those days. Alas, the young woman did not last nor did my trendiness.
But I was curious and so I agreed to meet with Dilip on a Sunday morning. To my surprise there by my count were more than 80 people of several nationalities already deep in meditation.
By tuning in to our heart, we learn to be centered in our highest self…
Some sat on the floor but most were in chairs. I was invited to meditate too, and so I did, recalling my mantra from so many years ago.
It was a peaceful and restful experience. The school is near Ga. 400 and the faint buzz of traffic audible from the open door and windows was like hearing the ocean from a distance – a faint purr that was calming.
I was rested and felt content when the session ended – about 40 minutes or so. But now it was time to do my job.
I was introduced to Victor Kannan who, in addition to his day-job, is director of the Atlanta Heartfulness Institute. He told me the Institute is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Sahaj Marg Spirituality Foundation. There is a video of Sahaj Marg in which he gives a soothing talk on the virtues of meditating.
Strengthen that connection and cultivate an inner knowing that wisely directs and guides our lives …
Kannan told me Heartfulness is an offshoot of Buddhism, but he said he tries to avoid “isms” as they tend to bring religion into the discussion and Heartfulness is not that.
“It is about self-awareness, focus, compassion. And there are many physiological benefits to meditation,” Kannan said. “Scientists have discovered meditation helps neuroplasticity – that is it improves brain function.”
What Heartfulness offers is free and is taught globally by volunteers. It is a set of principles and practices.
“It has several layers in terms of participation and benefit. On an individual level, it can be practiced at home and at one’s own convenience.
“Or you can connect with a trainer and use it as an app,” he said.
Meditation has found a growing audience among colleges, corporations and even government organizations and human resources departments.
“In Gwinnett, programs are in senior centers, parks, hospitals and schools,” Kannan said.
Asked just what is Heartfulness, Kannan said there is no ready definition.
“Words blur. There is no religion without spirituality. There is no spirituality without humanity. John F. Kennedy said, ‘On earth, God’s work is Man’s work.’
“So religion, spirituality, humanity and service cannot be separated,” Kannan said.
The meditations are usually done alone in the morning and at night. They recommend at least 20 minutes each time, but many meditate much longer.
The idea is to empty the mind of thoughts and allow just being. Thoughts stand at the door and crowd in, but shoo them out again to just be.
Grow to face the challenges of life with courage and acceptance. Live by the heart, and become what we’re meant to be.
Delip said he became a disciple of Heartfulness after a conversation with a man on a MARTA train.
“He gave me a book. I read it and now I meditate. To me it is wonderful,” Dilip said.
Paul Lu is a devotee who lives in Cobb County. He rides his bike to Roswell to meditate with the group. He said it changed his life.
“I was born in Taiwan and came to America when I was young. In America we are very blessed physically and materially. But it is a vacuum for the heart,” Lu said.
“Belief in Jesus was the founding of this country. But others have other choices, other beliefs. But behind belief is the real God,” he said.
I asked him what Heartfulness did for him.
Lu said, “It ended my thirst.”
To borrow the lingo of my youth, this was pretty heavy. I know meditation can be cathartic, especially in times of physical or mental stress.
But Dilip Mehra and Victor Kannan – and Paul Lu – gave me much to think about. I googled Heartfulness and found my subheads in this column. I also found this quote below:
Buddha was asked: “What have you gained from meditation?”
Buddha replied: “Nothing.”
“However,” Buddha added, “Let me tell you what I lost: Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity and Fear of Old Age and Death.”