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Free Spirit

September 28, 2012 by  
Filed under lifestyle


Free SpiritThe telltale ting of the sitar provides the soundtrack to my first meditation class. A wooden flute weaves its way through the track and already I feel like my preconceived notions about meditating are being met. The sounds are coming from a stereo in a simple meeting room at the North York Public Library. I make my way to the back to avoid standing out in a crowd of about 20 presumed masters that seem far more attuned.

Despite my cavalier best efforts to camouflage myself, I am quickly discovered. Someone hands me an informative diagram for beginners on how to raise the Kundalini (a dormant, corporeal energy at the base of the spine viewed as a motherly spirit) and a biography on the founder of Sahaja Yoga meditation. A gentle-looking Russian man stands at the helm of the room, anxious to begin. He introduces himself as Vassili Grigorev, and this is is where preconceived notions end.

Everyone remains seated in folding chairs so I resist the temptation to sit cross-legged on the floor. The class begins with a tutorial on the origin and importance of Sahaja Yoga meditation, highlighting the process of awakening the Kundalini and achieving self-realization. Grigorev explains that in Sahaja Yoga our bodies have seven symbolic chakras that are interconnected: innocence, creativity, peace, love and compassion, collectivity, forgiveness, and integration. The goal of meditation is to balance the body’s energies. We begin by stating positive affirmations and attempt to attain self-awareness through a series of subtle motions.

The class comes to a close around 8 p.m. Before I have a chance to move, a woman in front of me whips her head around and asks, “Your first time?” When I sheepishly say “yes,” she offers to “work on me.” I’m not sure what she means, but I embrace it. “Close your eyes,” she says. For the next five minutes she paces around my chair, waving her hands. A part of me admittedly finds the experience humorous, but I’m reminded that the goal is to remain in the present. She tells me not to think, which seems impractical, but suddenly I find myself thoughtless. It’s the most relaxed I’ve felt in years.

One of my pamphlets explains that the discovery of self-realization is an experience that even the most renowned intellectuals have found difficult to translate into words. Understandable, but I decide to see if Grigorev can give it a shot. “I felt that I was completely transformed,” he says of the epiphany he had eight years ago. “I thought, ‘this is what I’ve been looking for all my life.’” Grigorev, a massage therapist by day, admits he was initially skeptical of the idea but was intrigued by a free class that could potentially sharpen his intuition. It wasn’t until his second session that his doubts dissolved. “This is not something you have to believe in. We’re not trying to convince anyone of anything. We’re just saying, ‘OK, let’s experience it.’”

A study published by Yale University researchers last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences handed the act of meditating an olive branch. It found that mind-wandering, which is “present in roughly 50 per cent of our awake life,” is “also associated with lower levels of happiness.” Through self-awareness, meditators become more involved in what’s happening now, which may lessen the unhappiness associated with daydreaming. “Meditators practice noticing when they are identifying with an object, and when this occurs, to ‘let go’ and bring their attention back to the present moment.”

Sahaja Yoga meditation is practised in more than 90 countries and, in a world where everything seems to come at a price, all public programs are free. “When we start thinking about material gain,” Grigorev explains, “the sincerity and purity ends, the love is finished, the Kundalini does not rise.”


1. Vaughan – Maple Community Centre, Rm. 3, 10190 Keele St., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
2. Brampton – Bramalea Civic Centre, 150 Central Park Dr., Thursdays at 7 p.m.
3. North York – North York Central Library, 5120 Yonge St., 2nd floor, Mondays at 6:30 p.m.
4. Beaches – Toronto Public Library, 2161 Queen St. E., Mondays at 6:30 p.m.
You can also listen to live online meditations every Tuesday at 9 p.m.


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