by Pasko Vrbat
Who are you? No, I don’t mean your name and occupation, or your age and gender. Rather, I mean your ‘essence’ – the stuff that propels you from, say, one job or relationship to another – that’s the focus here. So, do you know who you are, really?
Maureen Cannon might be able to tell you. A teacher at a meditation centre in Sydney’s inner west, Maureen organises short and multi-day meditation courses for the public. Last Tuesday, she conducted a 90-minute class on positive thinking and meditation.
“It’s very good for the soul,” she said, during a break.
Judging from the variety of people who attend her classes – from 30-something professionals to retirees – the benefits of meditation continue to appeal to a wide spectrum. Beginning in India around the middle of the third millennium BC, meditation has now spread far beyond the subcontinent to become an integral part of treatment programs for cancer and other illnesses in the west.
But its benefits may also be felt at a more personal level. Various meditation techniques have been adopted by mental health professionals in their treatment of depression and other mental illnesses. While acknowledging that it isn’t appropriate for people with schizophrenia, Maureen believes people who face other mental health issues, such as those with depression, “will find meditation very helpful”.
Whatever the reason for attending a meditation session, the goal of a session is always the same: to bring people closer to their true selves.
“Peace, love and happiness – these three things we all look for in life,” Maureen says.
A stroll through the self-help section of any bookstore indicates the popularity of these prized qualities. So, too, do the numerous meditation classes that are held elsewhere in the city. Jen Sionillo, a meditation teacher at a suburban community centre, includes various breathing techniques and the chanting of mantras in her classes to help her students achieve the mental clarity they seek.
“If you’re stressed out too much, you can’t think clearly,” she says. “Meditation can calm your mind, help you to connect with yourself.”
Perhaps it’s this yearning to improve our lives – and its implicit belief that we’re able to achieve this – that lies at the essence of a person’s identity. By investing the time and effort to practice meditation, Maureen says, it’s possible to take greater control of your thoughts and emotions and, in turn, your life.
“If you change the way you think, you can change the way you feel,” she says.