At the train station „Gare de l’Est” which is one of the major train stations in Paris, businessmen and -women are hurrying home, visitors are looking for their hotels and bar and restaurant owners are serving a hungry and thirsty crowd. Not very far from these busy surroundings, you can find the yoga and meditation Center Centre Sivananda de Yoga Vedanta.
An oasis of peace, silence and rest.
Still a little tense from the train and subway ride, you walk through an enormous wooden door and enter a bright backyard where you automatically leave all the traffic noises and any other burdens behind.
The entrance to the meditation centre is located on the left side of the backyard. Before putting on comfortable clothes, you leave your shoes in the entrance area and you pass the reception desk of the center. Having taken some refreshments (tea and cookies), now you are perfectly prepared for some peaceful rest of your mind.
So this was the beginning of my first meditation experience. Up until then, I used websites like www.headspace.com or I followed breathing exercises on Youtube in order to give my mind 10 minutes of conscious rest. Inspired by a dear friend of mine, I decided to research a more personal meditation session which led me to a Satsang in this unique building amidst one of the largest metropolitan areas in Europe: 12.2 Million people, which represent nearly 19% of the French population, live in and around Paris.
A Meditation in Three Parts.
Tonight’s Satsang would consist of three different parts: 30 minutes of silent meditation, 30 minutes of chants, and 30-50 minutes of “discours”. I was surprised about the length of the session, but I was assured that I could always leave in between breaks.
Meanwhile the majority of participants already found a comfortable position on one of the provided pink yoga mats. I joined the others and tried to sit down comfortably on a little pillow, which wasn’t that easy – on that day I wore a pair of jeans.
The first part of the Satsang started with 30 minutes of silence. Since I expected a more guided meditation, it was first pretty hard to not wander off in a fantasy world but to consciously focus on being present, on my breathing and my body. In any case, it was amazing to experience a 30-minute silence in this room full of participants. …I also realized that you shouldn’t wear jeans to a meditation session – it is just not possible to sit cross-legged without getting minor leg cramps.
However, the silence during the meditation was interrupted when the meditation instructor softly started singing. This was a sign to announce the second part of the Satsang, which is all about the collective singing of chants by means of a little book full of mantras. The chants were accompanied by someone playing a special type of piano-accordion. The fact that most of the mantras were not in English nor in French or German, initially presented a slight challenge.
In the last part of the Satsang, the meditation teacher gave an inspiring speech that discussed values, ways of living and situations among another. This time, the meditation teacher used a letter of Swami Sivananda as the basis for her 30 minutes of “discours”:
Sit less, serve more.
Hate less, love more.
Take less, give more.
Talk less, think more.
Preach less, practice more.
Worry less, laugh more.
Rest less, work more.
Sleep less, meditate more.
I found this part of the Satsang very inspiring. When you read the letter, it seems so trivial. Living a balanced life, full of awareness and happiness suddenly seems so simple and ordinary. But then when you think about yourself, do you serve, love, give, think, practice, laugh, work and meditate? Or…
– Do you sit nearly the entire day?
– Are you full of anger most of the time?
– Do you talk thoughtlessly?
– Do you not really put things into practice?
Laughing is contagious.
Let’s start simple with one last advice of the meditation teacher, which can pretty easily be put into practice. Go through life with a simple smile. Smiles are attractive, compelling and you will affect your friends, family members, and colleagues positively. Also, I am pretty sure that one day you will definitely reap the rewards.
Many questions – still looking for some answers.
After 1,5 hours of not looking at my phone, not being on my computer or not talking to anyone but being in this conscious state of mind, I felt surprisingly balanced. However, when actually leaving the center, there were so many questions popping up in my head.
I could have researched them all, but then everyday life returned and there were a million things more important than finding answers to them.
Thankfully, my personal Mastermind-to-be sinjaanna offered her support.
As someone who has already had the opportunity to travel around India and to work with Swami Shyam itself, she will share her insights on meditation and everything else that is closely connected with it. Stay tuned for another blogpost that is responding to all the questions I listed below. Sinja, thanks a lot for taking the time, guiding me on my first step on this road to enlightenment.
Here it is, the actual list.
Spirituality, Yoga and Religion.
How can you define Satsang?
Can you meditate and take part at a Satsang as a Catholic Christian? What is the role of religion?
What exactly is the role of yoga in the spiritual context?
What exactly means Swami and why are there so many different communities?
Questions about the meditation.
How can you find a comfortable position in order to be able to sit 1.5 hours?
What exactly is the goal when meditating? Why exactly should you be able to think about nothing?
Is it ok to not focus on something but to let your mind wander off during the meditation phase?
Questions arising from observations.
Why do you have to take off your shoes at all times?
Why do some women wear scarves around their shoulders? Why do some people wear a very long glass-pearl necklace?
What is the meaning of the sweet cake at the end of the Satsang and how is it made?
Did these observations and questions make you curious to try meditation for yourself? Keep an eye on our Meditation section for more stories, resources, and information to nurture your journey inward!
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