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How to Seek Enlightenment

By Lucy Lord
Published September/October 2007

When I told my friends the subject of this issue’s column, they reacted with varying degrees of hilarity. I’m not known for my renunciation of pleasures of the flesh, and my spiritual beliefs extend as far as an encyclopaedic knowledge of Christmas carols. That said, they needn’t have found it quite so funny. I’ll show ‘em, I thought. Yes, my life may be shallow, materialistic and pleasure- bent, but – let’s be honest, here –I’m not exactly alone in this. And according to spiritual writer and Nobel Prize winner Deepak Chopra, “the human nervous system has the ability to provide us all with the experience of enlightenment. Self-inquiry, love, karmically correct choices and self-knowledge are the means.” So I embarked on my quest with uncustomary seriousness. And you know what? The results have been quite extraordinary.

…Not knowing what to expect, I went to see Jillian Lavender of Lavender Meditation in London’s Notting Hill. A slim, clear-skinned woman radiating calm, she is certainly a good advertisement for her way of life. “One of the great things about Vedic meditation,” she said, “is it’s not diffiult to integrate into a busy life –it doesn’t involve withdrawal. All it takes is 20 minutes, twice a day. You can do it anywhere – in a plane, on a train. It’s not just for monks living in the Himalayas, but for the average householder. What’s more, it doesn’t require you to give anything up – stop eating this, or drinking that.” So the white wine can stay then – phew.

Although the long-term aim of meditation is enlightenment,” says Lavender, “the process is easy, enjoyable and will bring about positive transformations and benefits along the way.” Both Lavender and Malkani cite research that shows meditation reduces blood pressure, improves sleep, increases blood circulation to all organs and glands, increases mental function – including memory, creativity and learning ability – and slows down the aging process. Call me unenlightened, but who wouldn’t want a bit of that? “The reason it’s so efficient,” says Lavender, “is that it gives the meditator a level of rest that is profound. One early clinical study showed a level of physiological rest much deeper than sleep.”

So far I’ve more or less kept to the 20 minutes, twice a day rule for meditation, which basically involves repeating a mantra (which your teacher will give you) over and over in your head, with your eyes shut. Sometimes you drift into a strange state of semi-slumber; other times your mind will continue to race. Both states are valid, according to Lavender. She advocates incorporating the fist meditation into your morning routine, even if it means getting up 20 minutes earlier. This would normally be anathema to me, such is my love for my duvet, but now I fid myself bounding out of bed, actually looking forward to it as I know it will wake me up far more effectively than another 20 minutes of sleep. I am calmer, yet have more energy. My confience has improved, my emotions stabilised. I am indefiably happier. As for enlightenment itself? Says Chopra, “in the beginning it is an episodic experience but it ultimately becomes a constant all-pervading presence of being.” Well, I haven’t had any episodes yet, but it’s very early days – it can take years.

Lavender uses the analogy of a “100watt light bulb, covered in dirt and dust, shining at only 10 watts. You gradually remove the dirt and rubbish until eventually it shines at 100watts.

Even if it takes the rest of my life to shine at the full 100, I shall certainly continue to meditate. The journey to the destination has already changed my life, and for the better.

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