My name is: Mahesh Natarajan.
My stomping ground is: Delhi, India, with all the hustle and bustle of a big Indian city. I’m lucky to be in a quieter neighborhood with large public parks providing a welcome break. And, as often as I can, I’m on property at Ananda, which is a four-hour drive or a 40-minute flight for some rest, reflection and healing.
I’m known for being: I am the Chief Operating Officer for Ananda, one of the world’s most holistic wellness retreats, located in the Himalayas in India. Besides broader business responsibilities, I lead and am actively involved in our wellness programs, design, research and future growth.
I’m talking about: Our Dhyana Meditation program, which is a deeply immersive approach that guides guests through pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses from the mind), dharana (focusing of the mental awareness) and awareness of the journey towards the experience of dhyana (continued meditative awareness).
You can find it at: Offered throughout the year at Ananda.
Before I started this mindfulness work, I was:
My career began in the early 90s as a luxury hotelier and then across several industries as a brand and marketing strategist. Now, for the last 15 years, Ananda’s healing journey and my own are reflective of mindfulness and emotional healing which is of critical need today.
My interest was sparked when:
As a holistic retreat, our approach has always been to arrive at a harmonious balance between mind, body and soul. Physical well-being is targeted through Ayurveda to balance each individual’s bio energies through therapy and food as a medicine. The energy or prana and mental well-being are addressed through a combination of traditional yoga, breathwork and meditation. But the beginnings of the idea to create a deeply immersive program came a few years ago when I started to see a significant shift in the needs of our guests. Most of our clients are living fast-paced lives as leaders of industry, as entrepreneurs and in the corporate world, but, increasingly, this success is not translating to a sense of balance and harmony. There was a need to explore a much more spiritual journey rather than just experience this at the surface. Following a traditional meditative mindful journey, personally mentored by yogis with a wealth of experience, and being able to bring this into one’s daily life, was the answer.
How it works is:
The various concepts of Dhyana (meditation) and its practice originated in the Vedic era and have been influenced over the ages by various schools of study including Buddhism and Hinduism. The practice of meditation is one of the key tools that helps harmonize the mind and also taps into the full potential of the higher mind. By overcoming negative tendencies, it helps harmonize the whole personality and gives an overall sense of calm.
Topics related to the philosophy of yoga, the structures of the yogic system, the yogic and meditative lifestyle, the positive effects of mantras (sound vibrations) and self-study are discussed during these sessions. Daily personalized pranayama sessions promote breathing techniques that lead to control of pranas (energy) and the mind. Personalized yoga sessions focus on asanas accompanied by an awareness of one's energy. Soothing and healing therapies complement the mindful meditation and yoga sessions.
What makes it different is:
The yogic system has referred to the mind not just as “mind,” but as the “mental body.” Because there is intelligence in every cell of the body. When your mental state is in balance, you feel a connection to your sense of self and your mind. Your behavior is confident and aware; you are by nature inquisitive and intelligent. You take ownership of your actions. However, when your mental state is out of balance, the tendency to become self-obsessed and egotistical takes hold and your behavior becomes insecure and unsure. Your sense of self either becomes too strong and you constantly put your own needs ahead of others, or it becomes too faint, creating weakness and insecurity.
Ananda’s unique Dhyana meditation program harmonizes the physical, mental and spiritual faculties, balances chakras leading to spiritual enlightenment, stimulates reflex points to restore energy flow in the body, reduces stress, boosts immunity, improves memory and normalizes sleep patterns.
My favorite lesser-known detail is:
Mantra meditation is such a powerful part of the mindfulness journey. It relieves the mind from its own obsessive nature. Mantra’s highest power is in its vibrations which impact the mind in several ways. In Kundalini Yoga, chakras are centers of energy. Each chakra is in the shape of a flower, with a different number of petals. We can also think of these chakras as an entire microsystem of nerves and impulses. Each of these nerves plexus are impacted by certain sounds or vibrations. Each petal has a certain “seed” mantra, which activates it. For example, the om (aum) mantra either on its own or when part of a larger practice is what activates the agya chakra or the third eye.
In the early morning, the mind is rested. When we recite mantras in the morning, the resolve goes deep and positively influences the emotions, thoughts and actions throughout the day. So at Ananda the Mahamrityunjaya mantra is chanted each morning specifically for well-being. After that is the Gayatri mantra for creative power or energy. It’s my favorite element of the mindful journey. And, along with our yogis, we go deeper into understanding and teaching the intricate nuances of this ancient wisdom.
I hope our guests walk away feeling: More connected with their positive mental state, balancing emotional as well as spiritual growth. The program teaches practices that can be incorporated into daily life back home to ensure continued, long-term results. It does require effort and, for the true effects of a mindful, conscious journey to be reaped, three essentials are regularity of practice, practice for a sustained period of time and, lastly, faith in your own ability to transcend challenges to lead a fulfilled and blissful life.
Mindfulness is so much more than a trend because:
Mindfulness has been in practice for more than 5,000 years in the vedic system in India. The mental body is a retainer for all of the patterns we have accumulated, all the ways that we go about living our lives based upon our experience and upbringing. These patterns can propel us forward or hold us back from attaining full potential. So, a mindful journey is not a brief experience or a trend. With life getting increasingly fast-paced and digital advancements making us more disconnected in society, it is only by creating an authentic, lifelong journey of such practices that we can see true difference.
One moment when mindfulness helped me was:
The first time I started mantra meditation, it was a revelation. Each chant took me deeper into a very subtle part of my being. This was a time when I was navigating through several issues both on the work as well as personal front. I remember each mantra chanting practice creating so much clarity of thought, connection and belief in myself. It really helped me and has been helping me ever since.
The words I live by are:
The best gift I can give to myself and to everyone I am connected to is to create purpose and contentment. The answer lies in small everyday steps, whether spiritual reflection, chanting or immersion in uplifting classical music, which is a personal favorite.
One truth that is so important, but people don’t always realize is:
That mindfulness is a journey and not something to jump on and master like a competitive sport or a business deal. From becoming self-observant to focusing attention on a single point, extended periods of concentration naturally lead to meditation and ultimately to a state of being keenly aware without focus. At this stage, the mind has been quieted and, in the stillness, it produces few or no thoughts at all. While this may seem like a difficult if not impossible task, remember that all of this journey is a process. Even though we may not attain the picture perfect pose or the ideal state of consciousness, we benefit at every stage of our progress.