Though I loved my studies for the sake of learning I loved other things as well. I love art, literature, history, economics, drama, sports and unending dialogues with friends. A healthy balance between the two worlds never allowed me to come first in any class. I was happy not to go below the 95 percentile rank right from my kindergarten class.
That however did not make Dad happy. He always came first in his class and desired the same performance from me. But he never expressed his wish till I was about to start the last semester of my engineering course.
It is then he said, ‘Well son, I knew all along that you are good in studies. But I would love to see you top the class. Since this is your last semester of your college education I may not ever get to see you top the class. Can you do it for my sake at least for once in your academic career?”
I love Dad too much and I simply could not say no to him. After all, he never expected the moon from me.
Having tacitly agreed to his expectation I was in a quandary. How the heck I can do that? To come first in a class was not that difficult. All one has to do is to devote more time and energy to mugging up books and notes supplemented by lots of practice and flirt less with girls. But that was precisely the puzzle I faced. Doing so would mean that I have to let go of my animated dialogues with my friends, leave my sports behind and stop reading hundreds of sundry books and of course my girl friends…
To do or not to do was the question. Was it possible to fulfill Dad’s wish without having to give up the quality of life I enjoyed? Then in one inadvertent moment (perhaps in the shower) the idea hit me — take up meditation. I have read in Swami Vivekananda‘s books that it is the power of concentration that set people apart in their performance and ability.
Without thinking much or knowing much about it in-depth I just started to meditate regularly. I took it up as a practice of concentration. So I poured over the relevant portions of Swamiji’s books to get what he was trying to tell about meditation practices. It was more of learning by doing and frequently checking back on what I was missing.
Within a few days I realized that to develop concentration I need not concentrate at all. It was about relaxing every bit of my body. Then I found a direct relationship between relaxation and studying. With deeper relaxation focused concentration easily followed. I could take in a lot of information like a camera and easily store vast amount of data like a photograph.
That was my first realization in meditating and it was fun. I wasn’t much bothered about finding out why it was so. Much later as I delved more deeply into the discipline I understood the link between relaxation and concentration.
For the first two days even sitting quietly for 2 minutes was painful. My 21 year old body and mind revolted. It asked me to get out of this silly practice. But stubborn as I am I stuck to it. Slowly I could easily keep myself motionless for a few minutes a day. After a month or so I noticed a big and real difference. The time I took to study, understand and internalize concepts kept getting shorter.
“That is exciting”, I thought to myself. Now if I can keep reducing my study time without losing effectiveness I can possibly do both — serious study and play the fool at the same time — just what I wanted.
That motivated me enough to relax for about 25 – 30 mins a day (my first step in meditation) to study seriously and fool around a lot. That was my way of doing the most in the least possible time with the least amount of energy. Life was grand..
When I took my final exams I had a bizarre experience. While writing my papers it seemed all my books and notes were open right in front of me. I could even see the page numbers clearly. It were as if I was copying from my books and notes with impunity. I got my first taste of my ‘photographic’ memory.
Results were declared a month after the final exams. And to my utter surprise I not only topped my class in mechanical engineering but also declared the topper among all five disciplines of engineering in our college. The Principal sent me a great congratulatory letter wishing me to be a great professional engineer. Over the next 32 years that followed I did keep his wishes too.
That was my first brush with meditation – something that easily connects the consciousness with my powerful subconscious.
And that was the first time I realized how one can change one’s “fate” with effortless effort.