Seven years ago, I was one of the non-converted. At the end of the one and a half hour Ashtanga yoga session, the class was ordered to sit cross-legged on the floor, in the famous “lotus position. Then the chanting began: “Ooooom, oooooom. Our teacher led the way in his loud, low-pitched voice. Bemused, I surveyed the students either side of me. They had their eyes closed and were concentrating on the mantra, in an almost trance-like state. What’s all this about? I thought to myself, trying my best not to laugh. By the time the next yoga session came around, I decided to give the chanting a whirl.
From that moment on, there was no stopping me. The English word meditation comes from the Latin “meditatio, which originally indicated every type of physical or intellectual exercise. Later it evolved into the more specific meaning “contemplation.
A whole array exists, including those used in a number of religions, like the Bahai faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism and Sikhism. The essence of meditation is to address the integration of mind, body and spirit. “A common misunderstanding is that ‘meditation’ is a spiritual activity by itself. It is not; it is a tool of well-being and energetic activities, says wellness and martial arts instructor Samer Hassan.
Two years ago Hassan set up the first wellness and martial arts center of its kind in Egypt. He was first introduced to martial arts at the age of seven by a Chinese teacher. His passion for the subject led him to pursue studies at a Physical Education College, where he specialized in Kung fu. This was followed by an 18-month stint in Beijing, where he studied towards a Masters degree in Chi Gung, a Taoist art which is centered on breathing and posture, and is about 70 percent meditation.
Yoga from India and Tai Chi and Chi Gung from China are some of the sorts of mediation that Hassan incorporates into his classes. According to him, meditation is a “mental practice through which you are able to balance your energy. It is focusing the mind and being on a single point.
When asked about the benefits of regular practice, Hassan replied, “You can harmonize the different sides – physical, energy and spiritual – of a human being. If you are able to focus on a positive center, you will view everything around you in a positive light.
For those daunted by the prospect of starting out, Hassan had the following advice: “The first level is to try to focus on a basic thing: counting your breath, start to hear and feel it. Build up gradually – first for 10 minutes, then half an hour and then an hour.
“The second level involves increased visualization: think of pleasant pictures and situations. The third [advanced] level is to meditate using your mind and senses. Smell where you are imagining, hear the sounds and feel the place.
So, if you can let go of your inhibitions for a second, you could reap the benefits of pure relaxation. You just need to take the first step.
What are you waiting for?
Samer Hassan runs meditation/Tai Chi/Chi Gung classes at: Dragon Academy, Wellness & Martial Arts Center,61, Al Quds El Sharif Street (off Lebanon Square),Mohandiseen, CairoFor more information, call 010 518 2667 or 010 669 0188