Meditation is basically about relaxing and focusing. There are generally three types of focusing: mindfulness, imagery (or visualization), and inquiry, where you pose a question and look for answers to appear through the senses – a voice, a vision, a smell, however it comes. Sometimes, those answers come in strange ways.
The last form of focusing comes into play during the second half of my 6-week meditation course, and sometimes interesting things happen. That seems to be especially true for the last class, which focuses on shamanic meditation, in which students are guided to the Upper World, Middle World, or Lower World of shamanism where they meet a power animal or guide.
Recently, as I finished the shamanic meditation at Moksha Yoga Studio, I walked out leaving my meditation cushion behind. So the next day I decided to retrieve it, and take a yoga class. As I arrived, I recognized a student from an earlier course and we talked a bit about her son taking some private classes. Later, she wrote me with more details, and then told me about her experience during the shamanic meditation class.
Here’s what she wrote:
“By the way, during the last meditation class of fall last year, we did shamanic meditation and it blew my mind…..didn’t know what happened and was so confused that I didn’t say anything at the time. But you had us pick a guru (mine was an eagle) and we were to ask the guru a question and as I was asking my question, I could smell sawdust, then I realized it was my father (who died 12 years ago) and he was the guru and he answered my question. I felt he was actually in the room.
“The significance of the sawdust was that my dad used to work with wood. He loved making furniture and just experimenting with woodworking, and he always smelt like sawdust. So it was a comforting and familiar smell to me. It’s funny how I could smell the sawdust in the room before I ‘saw’ my father in my meditation.
“I didn’t actually see him, I just knew he was there. I could hear him and smell him, but not see him. The form of the eagle had disappeared and my father was ‘there.’ I don’t know how else to explain it.
I was so taken aback by his presence that I asked him why he was here and I had to go because you were calling us back to the room. It was the most bizarre thing that ever happened to me during meditation. I was crying. I miss my father a lot. We were very close. Didn’t know how to handle all of that. LOL. It’s all good. Just wanted to share that with you.”
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I’ve heard similar stories from other students. I’m always interested in hearing about such experiences, but I don’t push people to tell everyone in class what happened during their meditation. That’s probably because of a memory I have of a meditation teacher who always went around the room asking each student to describe his or her experience. I found it invasive.