How Meditation and Mindfulness can Improve your Life with Arjuna Ishaya
- 19 March 2020 19 March 2020
What led you to discover meditation and mindfulness?
I spent a lot of time in the pool as a teenager, training as a competitive swimmer. My coach would always talk about the power of the mind over the body, so I was always aware of how I was thinking and looking to maintain positive mental attitude. I got injured at 17, and had to stop swimming. That was a huge period of confusion and depression. My whole identity was wrapped up in being an athlete and performing. If I couldn’t do that, who was I?
Partially because of all this, at university I studied psychology and also got interested in Yoga, Buddhism and Zen – I started drawing links between modern psychological theory and what some of the mystics had been saying for thousands of years. I realised I was somehow able to suspend the chatter of my mind and enter a state of Flow. A very complete state of being, filled with satisfaction. No depression, no fear, just an easy, obvious and complete sense of Self: nothing to prove, nothing to hide. I started to look for ways that would bring me that permanently, and yoga classes were the gate-way drug to eventually stabilising a more formal meditation and mindfulness habit.
Can you give us an insight into your path to becoming, and being, a Monk?
I became a monk in a time when I was very confused. I was living by a beautiful mountain lake in New Zealand working as an outdoor instructor. The job paid very well and gave me tons of time off to go adventuring with friends. I had all my boxes ticked in terms of success; yet while life should have felt amazing, I felt empty. I started searching for a meditation technique I could get along with and practice every day. It was when I met some Bright Path Ishaya monks and practiced what they taught me that life started to make sense, that hole started to be filled. They pointed the finger at my heart and asked me to connect with my own source of wisdom and follow that for direction. That’s been the guiding principle for me being an Ishaya monk since then: I, as do you, already know how to live a fully Alive life. You just have to take the time to slow down, tune in, listen, and then follow through.
What does it mean to you to be spiritual?
To me, being spiritual is the foundation for all of life. Spirit has nothing to do with faith or belief. It has to be based on the direct experience of the presence of Now. All the fears of the mind are put into perspective. You start to understand that everything that happens to you, whether it makes sense at the time or not, is for the very best possible outcome. For me personally, spirituality has very little to do with crystals and fortune telling. Spirit, at its core, is the most rational, practical and real thing you can discover about yourself.
How does your meditation practice help you deal with challenges and enjoy life?
I think it’s very important to learn from the past and plan for the future, however humans spend our entire life somewhere else. We take so much for granted; we’re so focused on what happened or what might happen. We all strive for more, yet we’re so unaware of what we actually have, of how much we have, here and now. Panic, anxiety, depression and stress are huge problems at the moment, and that’s not something that is a necessary part of life at all. A regular practice means the important things of life come into sharp focus, and you don’t sweat the small stuff.
What are the top 5 benefits you have noticed to regular meditation practice?
1. You, and you alone, choose to experience peace or pain
We’re all choosing all the time to either experience peace or pain. It may not seem like that but if you look carefully you may see that when you dwell on something, it becomes more and more real. There are things you cannot control, and often it’s not the situation or person you can change, but reaction to these things that can.
2. Not taking things for granted
Life can be so full, so rich, so beautiful, but few people take the time to appreciate what they have and what is around them. When you stop taking things for granted, life becomes overflowing with goodness.
3. As well as giving you energy, you get a clear, balanced and level head
Not only does meditation give me mind-space from reacting in ways I’d later regret due to lack of sleep and exhaustion, it also allows me to take care of my responsibilities without running myself into the ground. It’s an essential part of my life.
4. It gives you peace, but also passion
Meditation gives you serenity and acceptance in the face of things you cannot change. But it is not just a path of inaction. Meditation also gives you the courage to change the things you can and make a difference in the world. It shows you what you are truly excited about, and it gives you energy and clarity to pursue these things.
5. You re-define success, you stop living a life of compromise
You get to decide and define what success is for you and, in so many ways, you stop compromising.
Can you describe some of the mindfulness techniques you use, that others can use easily?
A very simple method is deep belly breathing. Breathe deep into the belly in and out through your nose. Pay attention, be curious about what you are doing. Really get into your senses and be in the breath. Breathe long and slow, starting deep in the belly and filling up the body from there. As you’re breathing, find a spot to gaze at. Don’t shift your eyes off the spot, keep them there, but open up the gaze so you’re aware of the sides of your vision as well. Relax your eyes. Look straight ahead, without strain, and notice everything in front of you. Relax the brain, let it be heavy in your skull. If it’s easy for you, while you’re continuing to gaze, notice your sense of whatever is behind you as well. Keep it easy, don’t strain, but see if you can gaze forward and notice behind you. You’ll be able to find numerous opportunities to stop, be mindful and present, and throw in 3 slow breathes to re-centre. Moments like sitting in traffic or waiting for the kettle to boil, when your mind is starting to race off and get away from you.