On that fateful Tuesday morning, I happened to be in the World Trade Center when the first of the two planes crashed into the towers. What followed is a tale of two survivals. First from the burning buildings and the other from the horrifying impressions on my mind.
They stood like sentries, tall and unapologetic. Symbols of beauty, ambition and indomitable American spirit. As a newly arrived immigrant, my admiration for these buildings was natural. I had enjoyed more than my fair share of opportunities to work in these buildings including memorable evenings at Windows on the World – the restaurant that crowned the tower. Lets just say I had a special connection with these buildings. They inspired me and lifted my spirits high.
Over the period of time I have unsuccessfully tried to pen down the detailed account of how the second plane crashed into the building in front of my eyes and how I inexplicably escaped smoke and fire. However, I could never finish writing it. I thought once I write it down, I will be able to take it out of my system and that will help me forget it. But that clearly didn’t happen. For a long time I couldn’t even talk about it. Reliving those moments was simply agonizing and gnawingly painful. I will not go there even now.
The visions of burning towers, people jumping out from higher floors just to end it all willingly, utter chaos, fear, helplessness and the horror of destruction had incapacitated me for a long time to follow. Nightmares became frequent. Any loud noise or wailing of an ambulance siren – which is such a commonplace in New York city – would jolt me off balance. It felt like my entire being was on pins and needles all the time.
While painful memories still linger on, rest of the baggage dropped over period of time. Other than the passage of time, if I could attribute this subtle healing to one thing, it would be my daily practice of meditation – Sudarshan Kriya – that I chanced upon after 9/11.
Initially I was really intrigued as to how I could feel so peaceful just through a simple breathing technique. After significant amount of research and over ten years of practice I finally concluded that there is a profoundly beautiful and mystical science behind how it works. It begins by getting rid of the impressions that impact our nervous system. Traumatic events such as 9/11 leave impressions that run much deeper than ones created by every day seemingly innocuous events such as watching a violent movie.
There is a beautiful word in Sãnskrit for these impressions: Samskãra. The English world scar has its roots in Samskãra. Such is the nature of these impressions. These impressions – pleasant or unpleasant – get in the way and make our life miserable. They take us away from our center. They are indeed the breeding ground for stress.
Sudarshan Kriya, the breathing based meditation technique cleanses these debilitating impressions from the body mind complex. 15 years might feel like a long time, but when you go through such an experience, you open your eyes and it feels like it all happened yesterday. When I look back, I feel a clear sense of freedom from these impressions.
Over a period of last ten years, I have seen this meditation technique benefit people from every walk of life. One thing they all have in common – they are but victims of impressions in their own systems. These are veterans who have returned back from war fronts and are suffering from PTSD, students who have been victims of domestic and substance abuse at a very young age, prisoners who have committed crimes in a moment of helpless outrage or just everyday people who simply are held hostage by their own virulent thoughts!
Today, as I stare outside my window into the empty space where the twin towers once stood, a prayer goes out from the bottom of my heart to all the victims and their surviving families. May you and everyone in this world some day find the gift that I stumbled upon. A gift that keeps on giving.