Be still, love strong

Is meditation the key to a happy relationship?

Sister Hansa of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University.

Sister Hansa of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University.

Photo By Larry Dalton

This week’s Higher Ground was written and moderated by Keleigh Friedrich.

I’m in love with a man I believe is my soul mate. He recently proposed to me and I accepted, but I’ve begun questioning some aspects of our life together. I am 24 and in med school; he has a high-school education and works as a house painter. He doesn’t have any clear ambition. Should I rethink spending the rest of my life with him?

“The magic word here is soul,” said Maria McSweeney, of the Ananda Center of Sacramento. “A soul-mate relationship is someone who can help foster our growth on a soul level, and that should be our highest concern—that there is spiritual growth there. It’s not just what I want for myself.”

“Certain things are very common in human relationships regardless of culture, religion or lifestyle,” said Sister Hansa, of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University. “Human life, when it is based on certain values, is filled with happiness. And the intention of having any kind of relationship is to bring more joy, more happiness, more love into our life. The marriage is like a building, and it should be built on a strong foundation of trust, loyalty, commitment and dedication. It is the five H’s: head, heart and hands—these should come in alignment, become harmonious relationship, and it will have the happiness as the fruit.

“People interpret and translate love and commitment in just material object. Happiness doesn’t come from the vacation or the six-bedroom house. It comes from mature understanding. It’s a heart-to-heart conversation. It’s a meeting of hearts to heal each other. And not to expect but to accept.”

McSweeney recommends prospective couples to find quiet time together, to “feel in that stillness each other’s energy, and look for a resonating of those energies. We know each other so easily on the personality level—all the quirks and idiosyncrasies, likes and dislikes—but all these things are superficial. They have hardly anything to do with what the soul is.”

I recently started practicing yoga and love it. However, I’m 16, and my parents are very conservative Christians who believe that yoga is evil. I want to keep doing it, but I don’t want to lie to my parents. What should I do?

Maria McSweeney of the Ananda Center of Sacramento.

Photo By Larry Dalton

“I consider myself a yogi as well as a Christian,” said McSweeney. McSweeney came to Ananda, a worldwide movement based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, to learn how to meditate. It was, she said, “the first thing that felt like home.” Thirty years later, she is guiding others toward “a deeper relationship with God.”

The word yoga means “union.” “It’s the coming together of the physical, mental and spiritual parts of ourselves,” she explained. Aside from the physical benefits, it also “promotes calmness, good mental health, clarity and strength of character.”

But while yoga certainly can be an aid to a spiritual path, it’s not “strictly religious,” McSweeney said. “It doesn’t require a belief system. Its principles are universal. I think if Christians understood that, they would really welcome it, because what yoga gives is a basis for building a more contemplative life.”

McSweeney likened yoga to passages of the Bible, such as “Be still and know I am God.”

“Any of us who’ve tried to sit still find that we’re doing intense battle with our physical bodies and with our minds,” she offered. “And what yoga does, it helps us to be calm, to be clear and to listen.”

Hansa knew as a child that she “wanted to know something beyond this world.” She encountered the Brahma Kumaris in her native India at 18, and came to the United States 14 years ago to guide others in the “eternal religion” or universal truth.

Hansa described yoga, which originated in ancient India, as taking us back to basics. “The real meaning of each religion or belief system is to go back to natural self, where we can have the real, normal, peaceful life we are all looking for.”

McSweeney agreed. “There’s been a lot of work to make people afraid of things that will give them individual strength, develop their intuition and reveal to them who they really are,” she added. “Whatever we do, we need to help people to shine on a soul level and not feel that that’s somehow going to diminish who we are. We’re all the same, trying to move in the same direction. And when we aren’t afraid of that, we can really serve people and let them grow as quick as they want to.”

“We are going through a time of confusion and contrary things,” added Hansa. “People are on one hand looking for peace and calmness, and on the other hand, the source of peace and calmness is meditation and yoga and they are very suspicious about it. It requires bridging the fear to faith.”