I Think My Nervous System Is Damaged From My Lifestyle. Can Meditation Help Me?

Question

I am a 71 year old man. I have tried SRF meditation several times over the years, with limited results. Only the aum technique has worked for me. I am a lifelong alcoholic and drug addict, sober for 33 years, with a lifetime of physical labor. I think my brain and central nervous system are damaged from my addictions. If you have any advice for me, it will be appreciated.

—walter, United States

Answer

Dear Walter,

I turn 70 years old next week, though I still do a little yoga (postures) everyday — but I especially enjoy the Energization Exercises. They make the body feel alive and happy, even when there are aches and pains. When you say you’ve tried “SRF meditation,” I think of how challenging it was decades ago to learn these only from pieces of paper with line drawings to them. Nowadays, one can just go to YouTube and search “Energization Exercises” or one can access the Ananda Meditation App from the “Play Store” on your smartphone.

What I am saying is that some yoga-movement will help you to both awaken and relax so that you can enjoy your meditation time. With the AUM technique, do you use an armrest? If you are enjoying that technique, I say stick with it. But what about kriya? If you have learned it but have found it more difficult, then I’d say find a Kriya Yoga teacher who can work with you. With COVID-19, we’ve dissolved space–a year ago I’d try figure out what part of the country you are in and then help locate an Ananda center. But with Zoom (etc.), space and even timezones don’t matter much. I could say more, but I don’t know if you have been initiated into Kriya Yoga. I and any number of meditation teachers from all over are available to help one-on-one or otherwise, using the magic of the internet.

The other resource to energize and inspire your meditation is also a product of pandemic distancing: a plethora of live and pre-recorded guided meditation sessions from all over. I think every Ananda center in the US is conducting online meditations. (Here in Seattle we offer half-hour meditations at 7 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!) So there are lots of choices.

One of the great practices to help us settle into a good meditation experience is chanting. While personal chanting is perhaps best, there are limitless opportunities to play recorded chants as part of your meditation (CD, online, Ananda Meditation App, YouTube, etc.).

Where I am going with this is in response to your concern about damage to brain and nervous system. That’s where physical movement, chanting, and guided meditations can support you. Don’t push yourself by watching the clock to meditate. “Even a little of this practice,” Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “will save you.” Don’t meditate by the clock but by the heart. A few minutes of sitting, feeling peaceful, feeling devotion to God or Guru, praying for others, using a technique or two to settle in may lead towards the goal; “All is fair in love and meditation!” I was just saying to a student this evening that the Audubon Society slogan of, “If the bird and the book disagree, believe the bird,” applies to meditation. Or, as Swami Kriyananda would sometimes put it: “Do what works for you!” I would add to use the techniques and other gifts God has given us through Yogananda (whether prayers, poems, chants, or techniques) because these are saturated with divine consciousness. Okay?

Blessings to you!
Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA