As Art of Living participants, we are not supposed to openly discuss our practice with outsiders. You are supposed to be a trained and certified instructor to impart sudarshan kriya or Sahaj Samadhi meditation. The comments here are meant as a general orientation to the practice for those thinking about taking the course. It should not be construed as a recommendation or instructions for the practice.
In June 2004, I took the meditation course from Michael Fishman. Only a few instructors, personally trained by Sri Sri, are allowed to teach the course. It stretches over four evenings with about two-hours each session. It’s less demanding than the introduction course in terms of time and emotional investment. Sahaj Samadhi means “natural enlightenment” in Sanskrit. It is a mantra-based meditation system so you are given a mantra or sacred word that you will repeat silent to invoke meditation. You are not supposed to share it with anyone else.
Sri Sri explains the crux of the practice:
“Meditating is the delicate art of doing nothing – letting go of everything and being who you are.”
Like most of Art of Living’s training, the course provides clear, easy-to-follow instructions, simple dos and don’ts, and a narrow focus meant to lower expectations. The Art of Living Foundation’s approach seems to be to get the maximum benefit of the practice with the minimum risk for relative novices. As Michael Fishman told us, we were not going to be ascetics sitting in a mountain cave devoting our entire day to prayers and meditation. It seems to me that Art of Living is adapting yogic practices to modern life, in which practitioners have to earn a living, pick up the kids from soccer and clean the house. Therefore, we should not be expected to cut off large chunks of time. But still, it’s crucial to have a daily practice so the time does add up and the practice requires dedication and discipline.
How it works
I have a daily routine of 20-minutes pranayama and kriya in the morning so I add another 20 minutes of meditation is added with a cool-down exercise. It’s easy to flow from the breath work into meditation. At the end of meditation, you use atlernate-nostril breathing (Nadi Sodhana) to ease yourself back into normal life. Art of Living doctrine also requires that you meditate another 20 mintues later in the day, at the latest before supper. Always do your Art of Living routines on an empty stomach. In the evening session, I usually do a short pranayama exercise to shift me into meditation mode.
Most people think that there must be something complicated about meditating — there is not. What it does require is discipline and a knack for shutting off the mental babble that passes for thinking. The different meditative methods are really ways of turning off the monkey mind. Insight (or vipassana) meditation, for instance, focuses on the breath as an anchor for the practice. Whenever the mind strays, you focus it back on the breath. In Sahaj Samadhi, the anchor is the mantra.
During the course, there was lots of handholding and patience with the students, answering score of questions that ranged from the operational (“Should I shower before or after my morning practice?”) to ideological (“If Sri Sri recognizes Maharishi Maheshyogi as his master and practiced Transcendental Meditation, why does he now practice Sahaj Samadhi Meditation?”). Fishman provided a framework for meditation and its integration in our lives. He also discussed why Sahaj Samadhi Meditation works and what meditation is not — it is not hearing the voice of God or the prophets; it is not seeing visions, and it is not pondering the fate of the world. This technique is not aimed for a swami sitting in a cave on a Tibetan mountain. For Art of Living, daily meditation is a kind of spiritual hygiene — like flossing your teeth — for relieving stress. At its optimum, it’s an encounter with the divine within us.
I’ve learned a few things that underscore my practice:
- I put in the time. I meditate on schedule and within the alloted time.
- I keep my expectations low.
- I remain open to whatever comes.
My biggest discovery was that I was really in control of my meditation. No one can tell me if I’m meditating correctly or not. If I want, I can still there and count backwards from 100. I can daydream. Only I can calm my mind, move it towards stillness and turn my gaze inward. Of course, it frequently hard to quiet down the monkey mind, a term used by Buddha himself to describe the mind’s
At the other end of the meditative state from monkey mind is sleep. The restful, silent condition of meditation is conducsive to sleep so it’s a kind of stalking prankster, waiting for the mind to lose its wakeful vigilance and slip into slumber.