This week we hear from Hasmita, living in Mumbai, India. Hasmita shares how she is building spiritual fellowship by sharing passage meditation with her friends.
Hasmita writes about sharing a recording of an hour-long introductory webinar, which you can watch for free on YouTube.
Hi, I'm writing to share about how I set up a little get-together to introduce passage meditation to a few of my friends in Mumbai, India.
Spiritual fellowship is something I missed very much when I started practicing the 8-point program (8PP) a few years ago because nobody I knew had heard of Eknath Easwaran. I gradually discovered that there is a satsang in Chennai, but didn’t know if it was functional. By the time I discovered that it was, 1.5 years went by. My fellowship meanwhile came from Easwaran’s books, as well as books on the mystics he recommended.
An Urge to Share
Having discovered by my experience what a priceless treasure this practice is, I have a great desire to share it with anyone who’s sincerely interested. I posted quotes of Sri Easwaran on my social media page and shared a little about the value of his program with a few family members. Slowly, friends and family have come to be familiar with his name. My sister took up passage meditation, so we have informal satsang now and then. I also participate in programs set up by the BMCM, including the eSatsang—so that, through these avenues, I have gained valuable spiritual fellowship.
In November last year, I went finally to Chennai to meet the meditators there at a day-long retreat. After that, my interest to share was rekindled. The coordinator there asked me to consider setting up a satsang in Mumbai, but that has seemed too big, especially for a sprawling, crowded city like Mumbai. Still, I began to think about introducing passage meditation to a few friends.
I wasn’t sure whether to give this thought attention or not. I examined the idea to see if ego played much of a role in it, as I try to follow what Swami Ramdas says in the passage “Unshakeable Faith” (God Makes the Rivers to Flow pg. 157) to "make no plans". After waiting several days and observing that ego did not contaminate the idea, I began to give it more attention, then eventually shared it with the BMCM. They were supportive and gave me some suggestions and helpful handout files.
Plan and Invitations
A spiritual friend's suggestion was great: to use the recording of a webinar available on YouTube, because it answers many common questions beautifully, and that way, the instructions would come from the BMCM, rather than from me bumbling about or mis-communicating anything. A plan began to form, to set up the meeting for an hour and a half—an introduction for about 15 minutes, the 1-hour webinar, and 15 minutes of Q&A.
I thought of whom I'd call, and came up with a list of 7 possible people, of which two were the teen/young adult (YA) children of my friends. I selected the people carefully—those I felt were open minded to explore something like this, who had the discipline/enthusiasm/steadiness to get into it, and who were in touch with their inner selves. Some of them were also familiar with Sri Easwaran through my social media posts and a shared Easwaran book. I messaged them asking if they'd be interested in attending a session at my home on meditation the way Sri Easwaran taught it. Four of them said they'd come, including one YA.
Anxiety Comes Calling
Until this point, I had managed to keep my ideas at bay, telling myself there was time yet, and to work with one-pointed attention on my daily tasks. As the meeting date neared, though, I realized I'd have to start organizing whatever was required. One of the BMCM Programs team members agreed to a call to discuss. During the call and after, my mind got excited, throwing up ideas, concerns, what-ifs of all sorts.
What if only 1 person actually turns up? I answered myself, that's good, too.
What if nobody turns up? Answer: It’s okay, you would have given the idea a try!
What if I say something to offend someone's religious beliefs! Answer: The Lord will help. Trust yourself and go with it.
What do I say to start the session? Should I serve refreshments or would they be a distraction?
Questions about the future came up—what if this introduction led to setting up a regular satsang: could I handle a weekly meeting along with my other regular commitments? What if the group eventually grew? I wouldn't have the space at home to accommodate them. I'm such a private person, would I be able to handle the social aspect of regular satsang meetings?
These and many more thoughts started twisting me into anxiety. After working on slowing down, one-pointed attention, and many mantrams, I decided to take only one step at a time—as things came up, surely the Lord would help. If I dwelled on these things I'd never be able to do much. In fact, even my meditation practice came about by simply doing it one day at a time, never thinking about sustaining it, which brings pressure to an anxiety-prone person like me.
Getting into Action
Thanks to the mantram, I was able to release the anxious energy into getting things done for the event. I got printouts of the handout sheets, sent the friends two short passages—“Let Nothing Upset You” by St Teresa of Avila, and “Invocations” from the Upanishads (“May the Lord of Love protect us”)—telling them they could memorize either one before they came, though it wasn't necessary. I also printed out the passages in large font.
I downloaded the webinar onto a thumb drive, checked that it worked on the TV, where I planned to play it, and also watched it, which helped me recall the points it covered. I was happy to see that everything was clearly explained on it, so I wouldn’t need to explain the actual method or benefits and the like.
The day arrived. I re-checked the thumb drive and printouts; got some snacks ready; put the cats in another room, fed and happy. I instructed my little assistant, my daughter, to come in quietly now and then and take photos of the session, so the pics accompanying this post are by her.
The first friend arrived a few minutes before 5 pm, perfectly on time. We talked while we waited for the others. Fifteen minutes later another friend, with her YA daughter arrived. Three were here, and since it was 20 minutes after the starting time I decided to start, so that the ending didn't get too delayed for them. The last friend arrived by the end of the first sentence, so everyone was there.
I did the introduction—a little about how I got started with the practice myself, and a story to illustrate how I found it useful in my life. Then all of us settled down to watch the webinar together.
Watching the webinar together.
I paused it now and then when audience interaction is requested on the webinar, and interacted with the friends. When it was time for the sample 5-minute meditation, I told them they could use the passage they may have memorized, or else do the cheat (looking at one line, closing eyes and going over it slowly, etc.). It was good to see that most people had memorized a passage. One friend had memorized both! So they were able to use this.
We did the sample meditation together, some sitting on the floor, some staying on the sofa. The atmosphere seemed to change after that. I could sense an increase in their comfort participating in this. We continued to sit where we were and watched the rest of the webinar.
When it was coming to an end, I served snacks and after the webinar, we began to chat, and everyone reflected on what they’d heard. One friend was drawn to the slowing down point. She recalled how she used to be the go-to person for calming her friends in college, but after marriage and kids, she'd become speeded up. She said she'd like to work on slowing down. Another friend spoke of putting others first, how she had done this and found it hugely helpful in her life. The third friend said she used to use a different kind of meditation decades ago and found it useful but the practice had tapered off in a few months. Her daughter, the YA, had been urging her mom to take up meditation again. In fact, this friend was intrigued about why I had chosen to call her for this session because we’d never spoken about anything spiritual before, yet she herself had been considering returning to meditation!
I mentioned the resources printed out for them on where to get further info should they choose to explore further, and that they could do the online course on the website, or that I could conduct an in-person course guided by the BMCM if they were interested. No one committed to any of these right away.
Impact and Developments
Everyone appreciated the session, which was gracious of them, since I'd called them quite out of the blue. One friend called me shortly after leaving, and described how she'd immediately practiced slowing down when she stepped out of the session. Her usual tendency is to hurry up to get back home, she said, worrying her daughter would be alone and bored, but she stopped that thought and reminded herself that her husband had been with their daughter for the last couple hours, so where was the need to hurry? She walked home slowly, observing the scenes on the street, appreciating being there at that time of day when she would be normally busy with her own routine. She said she felt wonderful and light.
A few days later, the YA's mother said she had tried meditating for 2 days, and that she hoped to try again at a different time of day to make it work better. One friend’s son has his board exams next month, so she will probably give this thought only after the stress of the exams is over. She, too, had a positive outlook, saying she would *like* to try it and see how it goes, even if she tried and stopped and then took it up again a year later. Absolutely!
In a surprise development, when I went to a get-together a week after the session, I met a friend I hadn't been in touch with for a while; she turned out to be an eager seeker actively looking for a way to explore her spiritual side! I called up the next day and explained the 8PP to her, and how it could help her work toward the goals she had mentioned. She went to the website the same day, read about the method, and started a 15-minute meditation practice the very next morning, on the Prayer of St Francis! From what I hear, she has been practicing every day for more than a week when I write this.
My instinct is to get elated with such news—one more sincere spiritual aspirant who can begin to experience truth, love, and peace, and contribute to it in the world! But I turn my attention away from the excitement so that I may allow each person to grow at their own pace instead of putting pressure on them with my enthusiasm. Still, I’m stabbed by impatience now and then wondering if it’ll stick, if they’re really going to be into it, so that we can meet for satsang regularly some day soon.
I heard again recently from the friend who had immediately implemented slowing down—she has been practicing passage meditation daily for 10 minutes for the last couple of weeks or more! I gently encouraged her to build it up gradually to 30 minutes so that she can get the full benefit of meditation.
Yet another new friend came over yesterday and expressed interest in meditation and I explained the 8PP and benefits. She said she’d like to attend if I conduct another session in future.
From the time the idea germinated in my mind to the developments a month later, quite a bit has happened. Where it will lead to: another intro session? the in-person course? regular satsang? No idea, nor do I want to think about it. As I mentioned, I’ve been trying to take one day at a time, from the hymn I learnt in school, “One Day At a Time”, so I hope to continue doing so. Stay in the present, practice the eight points, do what I need to do minute to minute and by the hour. What will come, will come, and the Lord will give me whatever is required to handle it. For now, I am grateful for the way things are going and wish my newly meditating friends all peace, joy, and love!