So I thought I’d ease into it this week and start with a Sahaja Yoga meditation class.
It was a beautiful summery evening in Manchester and I was already feeling pretty chilled about going. When I arrived, I was kindly welcomed by Peter, the man who was running the class. There were cookies, grape juice and water for everyone on a small table, surrounded by leaflets about the practice. As the room started filling up, it was comforting to find out that I wasn’t the only newbie. I even met a couple of nice girls (fellow newbies) who had also recently graduated from my university. Furthermore, it was great to see the range of people this class attracted; there was a young guy in sports gear, a businessman in a suit and a woman with loads of shopping bags, amongst others. I liked that. The room wasn’t particularly big but it had these massive windows that were open, meaning I could hear the birds chirping, and could look at a beautiful lush-green tree outside. We all sat down on chairs and were told to take our shoes off and sit in a comfy position with our backs straight. I could smell the gentle whiff of cookies from my seat.
Peter started the class by telling us a bit about Sahaja yoga meditation and its pioneer, Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi. I don’t know enough about it to go into a lot of detail, but here’s the gist. He pointed to a diagram, showing us how our energy starts from the bottom of our spine and different levels of our body are associated with different aspects of our character, or even spirit. We have a channel for emotions, and a channel for action. It’s all very spiritual, which was quite refreshing actually, having just finished a rigidly fact-based (obviously) scientific degree. He then invited us to close our eyes and go through some movements, while asking the mother within us all to help with different aspects of our inner balance. He then let us get on with it; the whole room was silent. I felt relaxed. I focused on my breathing and not letting any thoughts in. I don’t know if this was normal, but I also felt quite light-headed. The chair was comfortable, the room was comfortable. If I’m being really honest, I was also tired so I nearly nodded off a couple of times. He also told us to feel on top of our heads with our palms in case we felt any form of energy there coming from the top. I think I did. I felt some sort of difference in my palm when I went over a certain spot. Although the scientist in me believes it’s down to the position of my palm at that point making the bone feel something, like some sort of strain, I am open to a spiritual explanation and am willing to believe it was an imbalance in my inner energy channels. Because that’s probably true.
One thing that hit a sensitive spot for me was when he told us to put our palms on our heads and forgive ourselves by telling ourselves that we are not guilty. He spoke about how some religions may make us feel guilt, but we are not perfect and we should learn to forgive ourselves without thinking about it too much. Having grown up with religious values and struggling with feelings of guilt, I appreciated hearing that.
We carried on like that, alternating between explanations and periods of meditation. I noticed a lit candle in front of a picture of Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, which was in a gold frame. It reminded me of the shrine my friend’s family had for her father who sadly passed away. I wondered whether Peter had ever met Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi. He seemed like a such a chilled guy, I felt happy for him that he’d found this for himself. It’s crazy how one woman developed this lifestyle that people like him follow religiously. It’s nice to see some good being sent out into the world for a change. We were then shown a video of Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi talking about Sahaja yoga meditation. Again, the scientist in me had to back down and let the more open-minded part of myself take in what she was saying about spiritual imbalances causing illnesses. To be fair, our physiology is closely linked with mental health – she wasn’t wrong in that sense. The session ended with his colleague teaching us about protecting ourselves with some sort of spiritual knot.
Conclusion: I’m really happy I went to this session. Although I don’t see myself becoming a regular right now, it’s good to know it’s there weekly for when I want to go back to it. I definitely feel some potential there. Maybe not in this phase of my life, but I’m not ruling it out for later on.
P.S. If you’re based near Manchester city centre and are interested in this class, I found it on meetup here.