We live in a world filled with experts and life-hacks. There are so many people that will tell you that they have the answer – without knowing the question. There are so many blogs with 5 bullet point advice. In general, we get our information from the loudest people – those who push what they know onto us expecting praise for their advice. The downside of that is that it narrows the way in which we see the world. So, during the next few posts, we will be talking to people, like you and me, who share a passion for meditation and self-improvement. People that, because they have nothing to gain from this, will give you their most genuine account of their journey so far. This honesty is hard to find these days. It is hard to find because these individuals are usually not given the platform to speak their minds and share their experiences. We at Kaizen Tree want to help provide that platform.
Our first interviewee was born in France and now lives in Montreal, Canada. He is 43 years old and his journey has transformed him in wonderful ways. His story about how he took on meditation and learned about spirituality might inspire you in your own journey. His name is Bernard Bessieres – and this is the first part of a two-part interview about how his views on meditation and spirituality have changed over the years. Here is a recount of the events that led to those changes. Enjoy!
KT: When did you start to take meditation seriously?
BB: Since June this year (2016).
KT: And what motivated you to look into this area?
BB: In reality, it was just after my best friend passed away last year. I started researching about life after death and I noticed that the people who talked about that subject, practiced meditation. So I decided to look deeper into it.
KT: Where did you start?
BB: I completed my first meditation session in the YMCA. I found it very difficult because I didn’t know how to do it. But, hey, it was a free session. One of my friends brought me there.
KT: What did you find difficult from that first session?
BB: The ability to just close your eyes and be calm, to be honest. I know it sounds really simple, but it is super hard on the spot; something to control at will. But it was my first time, so I wasn’t expecting to get it right away – so I kept trying.
KT: What did you find in your research that you considered helpful in dealing with the passing of your friend?
BB: My research introduced the possibility of the idea of life after death – and it made it more tangible, somehow. Now, what I’m going to tell you could be hard to listen to. It was for me. Overall, I would say I am a grounded person. Typically French, some would say. So, during my research, I tried to remain skeptical. Even when I found some sound logic or proof, I kept saying to myself “I don’t think this is possible”. But I continued my research in an attempt to find truth. And the truth is, that I received signs from my best friend.
KT: Signs from the other side?
BB: Yes, signs from the other side.
KT: Can you give us an example of these signs?
BB: I have multiple. But one sign that was very particular was that one day when I asked Jerry – his name is Jerry. And I say “is” because, for me, he lives. Anyway, I asked Jerry, one week before my birthday (February 24) to send me a sign, if possible. He was always very thoughtful on my birthday. So I said that it would please me very much and that it would be a beautiful surprise if he were to send me a sign.
The day of my birthday, I was with a colleague of mine who was by my side when I opened my Facebook. There, I saw in notifications that somebody had “liked” a message that I had put on Jerry’s page in 2014! I know the person, and the message is not a random one. It said: Bonne Fete Jerry et tu vas avoir la surprise! (Happy birthday Jerry and you will be surprised).
To add to that, you have to know that my birthday is not even published on Facebook and that the person who clicked “like” didn’t even know it was my birthday. Also, he is English speaking, so he didn’t particularly understand the message written in French. I don’t know why he chose that particular message on Jerry’s page. He knew Jerry had passed away and he could have chosen any other message. But the message was: Bonne fete et tu vas avoir la surprise!- a message that I wrote to Jerry in 2014, when he was still alive.
I found that extraordinary and I consider it one sign among many others.
KT: would you say that that sign let you to believe more and more in spirituality?
BB: That’s correct
KT: And how did you go from spirituality to meditation?
BB: We all have a gift to be able to communicate with the other side. Some people are more gifted than others, but we all carry the potential within us. The most gifted are called “mediums”. I found a very well know medium in the United State and internationally. His name is John Edward. He always says: “take 5 minutes for yourself and connect, meditate and connect”. That’s a phrase that stayed with me. So I thought: let’s try it.
KT: Who would you consider a major influence for you to start and continue the path of meditation?
BB: I would say it was a colleague who always spoke about that and that had sent me links and music. At first, I only listened to the music, and that was that. Finally, she said “let’s go to a center I know where you’ll have 4 free sessions of an hour and a half – that’s where you’ll learn to meditate”. That was my initiation.
KT: What type of meditation did you practice in that center?
BB: It was Raja Yoga. I think it started in the 1930’s by Brahma Kumaris, who wanted to start that movement. Raja means Royal, and Yoga means connection. So, we say that the Raja Yoga is the Imperial Meditation. Which is a meditation that is not only used to seek relaxation (which every other sort of meditation also brings) but it also encourages an improvement in personality; which I find is harder to achieve.
KT: What did you find the hardest during these 4 sessions?
BB: To know what to do when you close your eyes. What do you do when you sit down? And that was what I was missing; to know what to do at that point. And it’s not just about sitting down, closing your eyes and clearing your mind. You have to have an idea of what to do.
During these 4 sessions, you learn that there are 4 types of thoughts: Positive thoughts (or elevated), Negative thoughts, Useful thoughts, and finally, Useless thoughts. You also learn that each person has about 40,000 thoughts a day, and that you must learn to filter that huge quantity so that, at the end of the day, only the positive elevated thoughts and the useful thoughts remain.
KT: What are the aspects of your personality that have changed the most with your practice?
BB: Patience. I am much more patient. And also, I can better control anger and my reaction to situations where there is anger.
KT: What advice would you offer people who want to take up meditation and don’t know how to proceed?
BB: I would say that the most important thing is to feel “ready” to take meditation seriously. You can’t just “wish” it to be so. You have to truly feel ready.
KT: What are the signs that indicate you are ready?
BB: At some point, you feel you’ve had enough stress and enough discontent. Then, you notice that there are tools that are available to help you improve those feelings. And you realize you are the only one responsible for changing that state of mind.
I would also suggest talking about it with everyone you know. Even when they look like they’re not open to those ideas. Who knows? They might have some great suggestions about where to look. What spirituality taught me is that when you’re on a path to finding what I call ‘supreme energy’, you will inevitably bump into people that will help you along the way.
[More with Bernard on the second part of this interview. Subscribe to be notified!]