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  • Levi Ben-Shmuel

Meditation, Bliss, and the Taj Mahal



From a young age, I was attracted to the Taj Mahal. When my Kabbalah teacher and 3 of her students (including me) decided to take a spiritual journey to India, I let the group know that seeing the Taj was a must.


The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum named after Mumtaz Mahal, the favorite wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (who reigned from 1628 to 1658). I figured it would be another beautiful sight to add to the list of beautiful things I had seen in my life. I was very wrong!


We arrived in Agra in the evening. Early the next morning, we took the short walk from our hotel to the Taj entrance. In the early morning light, it seemed to float in the air as I gazed at it down the long, iconic path leading to it. Suddenly, I was transported out of ordinary consciousness. My heart burst open and a longing for the Divine overwhelmed me. I was totally taken by surprise. Gazing at this otherworldly, beautiful monument to love awakened a deep yearning in me to experience God’s love.


We spent most of the day in the Taj complex. For a good part of it, I sat on a bench gazing at the building in what can be described as a meditative state blissed out by the yearning in my heart. As I observed the scene around me, I began to notice old thought patterns in an objective way; I saw them as an observer would without judgement. In that state of consciousness, I could see the hold they had on me and how debilitating it was to use them as a reference point in my life.


I stayed in this expanded and blissful state for days. I had a few remarkable experiences that I will save for another time. Why did it happen? I don’t know. I consider it a gift from Above. I had been meditating for years and during the trip, our group had extended meditation sessions that were very deep. My sense is this prepared me for what is one of the most precious experiences of my life.


The benefits of meditation from a mindbody health perspective are well documented. In Ayurveda, it is a considered a pillar for creating good health. Thousands of scientific studies on it have been done if you want to check them out (here is a link to one of them). Beginning or continuing a meditation practice for health benefits is reason enough to make it part of your daily routine.


But as I experienced at the Taj and the days after, there is another level to meditation beyond using it to improve your mental and physical health. It can take you beyond the self-image you know as you. It can lead you to the part of yourself that is not your thoughts, your feelings, and even your body; it can take you to your soul and the unconditional love at the core of Creation and your being. The joy of touching that part of yourself is indescribable. It can transform how you look at yourself and the world.


Practicing mindfulness, the beginning of meditation, is an important step on the road to knowing who you are beyond your self-image. As I learned at that precious day at the Taj, over time, your meditation practice can lead you to a place beyond your day-to-day self.


If you are intrigued by meditation, I encourage you to try it, even if it is just for 5 minutes a day. There are numerous articles, videos, and apps to help you get started. Who knows, one day it can lead you something precious beyond words; the experience of your true self and the love that is your birthright.


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