On Meditation

Shazaf Fatima Haider was a meditation sceptic, but then she actually tried it


It is said that you don’t choose meditation, it chooses you. If you had told me this three years back, I’d have rolled my eyes and thought you were one of those new age ‘I can feel your aura’ enthusiasts. But my experiences have sucked the cynic out and made a believer out of me. It is indeed true that at a time in my life when I was very sad and totally lost, I felt the urge to control my mind. I emailed a friend saying, ‘If there was a way I could control my thoughts, reprogram myself and become a better me, I’d jump at it.’ She sent me to meditation group.

Yoga, it so turns out, means ‘union’; union with the self, or with God or Higher power or the Universe or whatever you believe in. Yogis of yore used to physically prepare themselves to sit still for hours on end through exercise, which is why it’s commonly thought to be just that. But meditation, in the truest sense is something much more profound. It’s a reminder of who you are and where you came from.

If I could just detach from the physical world that gave me so much grief and disappointment and attach myself, rather like a battery, to the highest power source then I’d be comforted.

So I went to this group with my mother’s warnings: ‘Make sure they don’t hypnotize you and brainwash you into doing unpleasant things.’ I was as suspicious as you can get. And then I met my wonderful instructor who walked me through my fears. I was reminded of my true self – not a physical body seeking spiritual experiences but the other way around. If I could just detach from the physical world that gave me so much grief and disappointment and attach myself, rather like a battery, to the highest power source, who for me was God, then I’d be comforted.

It was difficult and it didn’t help that after the first five days of the med ‘lab’ in which we learn the process of meditation (yes there is a step by step procedure, people!) my guide left for the UK for three months as part of his yearly retreat. But I remember feeling a kind of strange peace during the lab and I wanted to hold on to that. I lit a candle and stared at it. My mind wouldn’t shut up at first but when I stopped trying to shut it up and went with the flow, I realized that it was happening. I was no longer conscious of the physical body or the world, just a feeling of gentle warmth. Of course, when I went ‘Yay look at me! I’m meditating!’ I came out of that feeling. But I stuck with it and eventually it started working. I used to come out of my experience feeling light and relaxed and extremely content, even though my life had apparently fallen apart around me.

No, there was no floating sensation. No, I didn’t see strange figures. It was ever so subtle and so easy to miss, but meditation is not a zoning out, it’s a zoning in. It’s intense concentration and it allows you to feel this subtle energy that is all around you, waiting for you to soak it up if you can only feel it, really see it. It’s so close that it’s in your face. Which is why you can’t see it – it’s too obvious.

My instructor enigmatically said ‘When you wash a dirty bucket, it’s the dirty water that comes out first.’ 

Am I imagining things? I don’t think so. I remember that in the beginning, meditation wasn’t a very comfortable experience. I had bad dreams – my past was dredging itself up when I slept – to which my instructor enigmatically said ‘When you wash a dirty bucket, it’s the dirty water that comes out first.’ So I was being washed from the inside by this wonderful, warm, golden glow that always surrounded me when I stilled my mind and concentrated. The nightmares lasted for about a month and they left me drained. And then one day I woke up and realized I had never slept so peacefully before – they had stopped.

The next stage was the fun part. It was like someone had unplugged my mind and it was racing. I wanted to read like nobody’s business (previously, I’d been too depressed to enjoy anything related to words). I read a book a day, 30 books a month. A new dimension opened up with my teaching – my mind teemed with ideas, lesson plans, activities. And I did what I never thought possible. I went, little old, scared me, to Turkey. On my own. And had a whale of a time.

Because of meditation, I recovered from some terrible blows which would leave any ordinary person crippled for years. Suffering had ended and wonderful things were happening all around. It’s like meditation opened up a more positive universe within and without. I’ve learnt that life is a reflection of what’s inside me. If there is negativity within me, I will attract negativity from without. The only way to cleanse myself is yoga, union, a cleansing through the divine.

 I went, little old, scared me, to Turkey. On my own. And had a whale of a time.

I’m at a stage right now when it is most difficult to sustain meditation – the absence of suffering. It’s the same thing as praying – you don’t really feel like praying when the going is good – you just want to enjoy life. And so I have stopped but I can already feel the mind-chatter coming on – the sleeplessness and restlessness that one assumes is a natural part of a busy life, but is actually far from it. But I’m going to stick with it because it rescued me and helped me, in turn, to rescue a lot of people around me. That’s the beauty of meditation – when you feel the energy, the mercy, the beauty of the unseen you want others to feel it too.

My life has changed because of meditation. And I’m SO glad it chose me. It gave me peace and I hope whoever reads this gets to be as blessed as I am. Om shanti!

10 Responses to “On Meditation”
  1. sajid says:

    shazaf fatma, can u comment pls, who got peace or peace of MIND? what is a MIND?Can be put mind at a peace, and how r u sure it will not be momentary?Just controlled,repressed?pls comments.

    • Shazaf Fatima Haider says:

      It’s constant work, Sajid. It will be momentary if you don’t make meditation an integral part of your day. You learn to control your thoughts so that they don’t control you. As for the mind – it’s your thoughts but also your subconscious that reacts to events around it. Hope that helps.

      • vimal says:

        Hi Fatima

        It was a great step that your experienced was allowed to be published. You both deserve applaud. It will help many, thanks to Internet.
        I wish to share my views if I read your article:

        First you are on way to become a world citizen, that means you have the ability to filter and assimilate.
        The path to Yoga(or human life) per se is a part of many things you need to to know and keep yourself healthy and impart the knowledge to others.
        It does not ends there.

        Look we know now, with advent of Modern sciences (whom I don’t follow blindly), that we need to maintain the physical parameters of health.

        Keep TSH(hormone level) within 0.8 to 2.5, take Vitamin B Complex at interval but regularly, enough Vitamin D(best by SUN, that is why in Hinduism SUN is god). These are bare essentials for mental health. Bad time affects your psyche and that in turn affects your metabolism. You will avoid many bouts of drag.
        If you are trying Meditation to overcome deficiency you are overstretching. Nutrition will simply help and Yoga will also help you analyze your past.

        Biggest challenge is to keep the well being permanent, you have seen skepticism by others; it is an observed phenomenon. So they are right in being skeptical. If you show the permanence of your new life, you are a winner and the society will be winner, but you(not they)have to know what other factors are there to keep it permanent.

        If you have had bad past, you must to analyze them, dissect them. The Yoga concept tells you to look into them, not with fear but to sensitize or desensitize both at the same time, for the very duality nature of human existence.
        Here comes… as you said practice them what you have learnt, but GRADUALLY dive deeper. Understand the Structural and functional part of human nature and behaviour.

        The best way to go deeper is to give up one bad habit and you will start seeing how many things you need to correct as structure and function.

        You need to become NOW an example, one can not afford you fail, because it will reinforce the FEARS likes of ‘Shahid Zahoor’ that you are eventually answerable for professing other things 🙂

        God bless you! but keep your self ready for being continually blessed.


  2. Gursharan says:


    There is nothing like peace or peace of mind but absence of thoughts which reveal “True Peace and Joy”. Meditation helps you in attaining peace but until you are established in your true self. it will be momentarily. You do not control or repress thoughts but just remain calm and watch the thoughts and after some time, sea of thoughts become a river of thoughts and than like very small stream of water. The moments you will be in meditative state, you will be enjoying you – The “Existence”.

  3. Good. It works here in Dubai.

  4. Even this changed my life. Meditation is a kind of feeling which you cannot express in words.

  5. Shahid Zahoor says:

    Adorable Ms, can you elucidate whether you’re impressed by meditation, Yoga or Om Shanti (Hinduism). In my opinion, meditation can be achieved by offering prayers, doing Zikr of Almighty Allah and reciting Quran with Khushuh (fully concentration). being a true Muslim one should not be influenced by other so-called teachings. Islam do not forbade Yoga but one should be refrained from adopting, promoting and professing other culture and religion otherwise he would have to be accountable and answerable for his doings.

    • vimal says:

      I could not understand whom you fear? Whom you are answerable to for professing other culture?

      In life you have different level of consciousness. When things are OK you don’t realize the different layers. Bad time affects your inner layer to which prayers, or reciting mantras etc with Khushuh does not help. This very concentration is lost. Here you need individual solution in form of union with higher with certain knowledge often unexplained, but experienced by practice.

      You are putting your religion to test uselessly, if such things does not exists, it is non issue, it exists elsewhere, take from them, fit into your system. You are not answerable to some one after death. Suicide bombers have such mind set.

      This women was not impressed as you try to ridicule of, or promote your convictions. Let people have freedom to choose what relieves their soul.

      Her soul is more powerful then yours, she took initiative and you try to stifle such initiatives to promote collective suffering.

      She has shared enough experience to keep you going.

  6. shashank says:

    Mighty courageous of you to say Om Shanti! Just when I was wondering where are the fundoos came Shahid Zahoor with his grandfatherly advice for you.

  7. It is often hard to let ourselves go, and simply trust our inner being. Kudos to you for trusting yourself, it is always the best path in our journey’s to spiritual enlightenment. Namaste.

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