Today, we’re talking with Mr. Jacques Savage. He’s a meditation teacher and member of The Art of Living Foundation. Through their program, Art of Mediation, Jacques has been able to share his knowledge and passion about the discipline with his students, who have seen great benefits from the practice. In this interview, Jacques shares that same knowledge and passion with us here at Kaizen Tree. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did. So, here it is!
KT: What was the thing that attracted to meditation?
JS: There were two things. One, I needed to relax. I was young then and felt really stressed out. The second: I was searching. I was searching for something. I didn’t know what, but I had a feeling that life was more than what we observed; more than what we can read in books or what people can tell us about. It was something that I couldn’t define. I just felt I needed to look for it – whatever “it” was. At that time – we’re talking about the early 70’s here – I noticed a lot of people around me reading about meditation – some kind of knowledge that went beyond what we’re used to accepting. All of this was really new to me at that time – but it caught my attention. I became curious. And then, I saw a picture of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – the guru of the Beatles. That picture was a representation of how meditation existed in the mainstream. So I started learning about this real-life master, who brought to life one of the oldest traditions known to human kind: the Vedic tradition, and later on, Transcendental Meditation. That’s when it hit me: this is exactly what I’m looking for. Let me tell you – after the first meditation session I thought to myself: I’m home. It was an overwhelming feeling that then pushed me to become a teacher later on.
KT: What, would you say, has transcendental meditation made you feel over the years?
JS: Calm. Inner peace. But also, mental alertness. You know, when you’re tired, everyone around you looks tired. When you feel good, even if it’s raining outside, life seems great. Meditation changed my perspective in a positive way. It made me more sensitive. When you’re sensitive, you become aware of the things that are harming you. So, naturally, you stay away. But people tend to become insensitive over time, which allows us to endure things that harm us. Over the long term – this is not a great practice. Those things that we learn to endure keep harming us – and it has a toll on us later in life.
KT: What was the most surprising teaching for you when you were starting out?
JS: Here’s the thing – in our western culture we have a clear understanding of cause and effect. If you want something, you need to do something to get it. Without action, nothing will happen. In general, that’s straightforward. Through meditation, that very concept is challenged. In meditation you strive to do nothing – and then something happens.
KT: What was the hardest part of meditation for you back then?
JS: To just stop and do it. We often feel like we don’t have the time. It’s not true. We do have time. We just find it hard to stop and consciously do nothing.
KT: What would you recommend to a person who wants to start the practice of meditation?
JS: Seek the proper instruction. Seek out a human to human interaction. Don’t learn it from a book or from a YouTube video. These avenues miss a lot of the details that go into meditation. The best way is to find a human being that has the proper skills to impart their meditative knowledge to you directly.
KT: Have you taught meditation to children?
KT: How do you tell a 7-year old to stay put and meditate?
JS: There are different techniques when it comes to teaching kids. The one that I use does not require the kid to sit with eyes closed. Instead, they would be walking around using a mantra. This would have a calming effect on them. All the nervous energy goes away. All the hyperactivity goes away. And you notice, these days, there are more and more meditative sessions being given in primary schools. The benefits are undeniable.
KT: Is there an age group that is particularly harder to teach than the others?
JS: No. I don’t notice a difference. Everyone that comes with an open mind will put in the effort. And I think that anyone that makes the commitment to come to a meditation class has already declared that they have an open mind. This makes the session a lot easier to carry out, regardless of the sex or age group.
KT: Have you noticed any changes in the practice from when you started to today?
JS: Yes. In the early 70’s, the practice was associated with hippies. Nowadays, you see people in ads sitting in the lotus position, for example, even if the ad has nothing to do with yoga. They could be selling you whatever. And I think that part of why that’s happening is because of the widespread acceptance of the practice and how we’ve learned to associate it with positive things. It has become even more ingrained into our mainstream. I think that has been the biggest change I’ve seen in all of my years as a teacher.
KT: What has been the most rewarding experience you’ve had as a teacher?
JS: Every time I see the change that happens in people’s attitudes. Let me give you an example. In the past year, I was working on a project in London, Ontario. The project was more of an experiment in a hospital where the benefits of meditation would be tested and measured on older people – 60 to 85 year-olds that suffer from depression. We had two meditation sessions of 20 minutes per day – 20 minutest in the morning and 20 in the afternoon. The changes we saw in them were really inspiring. Truly amazing. This is just one example that comes up when I think of the ‘most rewarding’ experiences I’ve had as a teacher. There are others, but this one stands out for me.
KT: How long should a person meditate for during a day?
JS: It depends from person to person. But as a general rule, I encourage people to meditate 20 minutes for every 6 hours of activity you have during the day. So, let’s say you meditate 20 minutes before breakfast. Now you feel ready to take on the day. After you come back home from a day’s work, you feel drained. Your energy is gone. That’s when you need to ‘fill the tank’ again with another 20 minutes of meditation. That’s what I usually recommend in terms of time spent meditating.
KT: Is there any type of food or meal timing that would affect your meditation practice?
JS: Well, when you eat, there’s a rush of blood that goes to your digestive system and your metabolic rate goes up. During meditation, however, your metabolic rate goes down. So, if you want to meditate after having a heavy meal, you’ll have two natural processes going against each other. You don’t want that. That’s why we usually recommend meditating on an empty stomach.
KT: Do you think that meditation can have an impact on sexual performance?
JS: Meditation has an impact on your life – and that includes all the aspects of it. Take a tree, for example. There are many different parts to a tree. The trunk is very stiff; the leaves are soft; the branches are bendy; its flowers are delicate. All these parts belong to a single tree just like the many aspects of your life belong to you. Now, when you water that tree, you are nourishing all of these parts in a balanced way. The outcome of that is a healthy and beautiful tree. Think of the water as your meditation practice. It nourishes every aspect of your life.
KT: Could you tell us a little bit about where you teach – the Art of Living Foundation?
JS: The foundation was created 35 years ago by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who used to spend time with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This foundation now exists in over 135 countries around the world. It’s an educational organization where we teach meditation. But also, it provides various other services. For example, when there’s an earthquake or any human, or natural, catastrophe, we have teams that go and help people. We also have PTSD relief programs for people who are coming back from war. There’s also a program they provide called The Art of Meditation – that’s where I teach. We focus on Sahaj Samadhi Meditation. This type of meditation introduces people to a technique that induces a state of ‘restful alertness’. This means that you feel rested and relaxed, but not sleepy; you’re alert.
KT: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
JS: Be curious about meditation. It’s the most fundamental gift you can give to yourself. Its benefits are undeniable. I became a teacher because meditation was the best thing I received in life – so I wanted to share it with as many people as possible.
KT: Thank you so much, Jacques.
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