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In the previous article – ‘Encounters with Spontaneous Qi: Canterbury Cathedral‘, I talked about my visit to Canterbury Cathedral and feeling the energy field that is generated by people praying on the the same spot, possibly over many years. 

Humans in a meditative or praying state generate a field of energy that can be perceived by some people who do energy work practice.   

This concept was reinforced for me when I attended the Self Realisation Temple in London. This is a spiritual organisation founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian Yogi.

From my observation, this is a yoga system, which modelled its services similar to that of a Christian Church type service. However there was one major difference. They put a lot of emphasis on meditation instead of prayer. And they did a lot of it.

Meditation and Prayer

This is a major point, because prayer is a personal thing – a personal communion with god. But when you meditate – especially together with others, it becomes a group thing. A group communion with the ultimate spirit.

And additionally, you create a strong group-like meditative energy field.

This is what I felt when I attended a couple of this organisation’s services. In this article, I talk about my visits to the Self Realisation temple in Regents Park in London.

Just to add, this was based on two visits I made ten years ago. I have not attended this organisation’s services since. Perhaps, things are different. Perhaps, I may not feel anything if I return, just like as happened when I re-visited Canterbury Cathedral.

2. Self Realisation Temple, Regents Park, London

Whilst at acupuncture school, I occasionally chatted to another part-time student, a young woman, who was more into the spiritual side of things. She told me she had done a retreat in India and was planning on going again. She highly recommended I read a book on yoga called – the ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’.

A few years later, I did get round to reading it, and like many other people who read this unusual book, I was mystified by the life of this modern-day guru – Paramahansa Yogananda.

This book contains an autobiography of Yogananda’s life from childhood to his death. Forgive me for any inaccuracies, as I last read the book around ten years ago.

In the beginning, there is an account of Yogananda’s life. He belonged to a high caste family and his father had a respectable job working for the railroad company. However Paramahansa did not want to follow his father’s footsteps. He was drawn from an early age into the spiritual path and he practiced kriya yoga. He spent most of his free time meditating.  His father was unhappy that his son did not want to follow his own path, but his love for his son led him to support his decision.

After having visions of his true spiritual master, Yogananda found him – Yukteswar Giri. He devoted his life to him and continued with his spiritual training. He gave himself over to his guru, and even continued to commune with the spirit of his master after he died years later.

As I recall in the book, Yogananda lectured around the world. He also met famous scientists and other spiritual people of the time and wrote of his meetings with them in this book. Yogananda eventually came to America where he founded his organisation, lectured and built a large temple. His organisation is still around to this day.

There is an account of his death that is quite mystical. Actually the whole book is full of one miraculous story after another. 

On reflection, I wonder just how much of it was all real and how much was embellished?

Visit to the London Branch

At any rate, after reading this book, I was curious to see if there was a branch of the Self Realisation Fellowship in London.

As with many types of spiritual organisations in the West, they typically have a UK/London branch. And indeed there was. It is at the bottom end of Regents Park, close to Baker Street and Marylebone

The Temple has a website – Self Realization Fellowship, London. I checked the dates of their services and planned to visit.

At the first session I attended, I was surprised to find that the building is similar in structure and lay out to a modern Christian church. 

In a typical Christian service you sit in the aisles, listen to a sermon, sing hymns and do a prayer.

This temple had similarities to a church service, but there was one major difference – it incorporated long periods of meditation as part of the service.

That was cool with me as I was getting used to meditation classes at that time. But when I closed my eyes and participated in the silent mediation, I was struck by a very curious sensation.

I could feel energy. To be precise, I felt as though I was in a thick energy field.

It was an incredibly pleasant sensation. I opened and closed my eyes to see what was going on. I could see all the other members there sitting quietly and meditating.

There was not escaping it – the field of energy was very strong in this hall and very calming.

It was a curious sensation, because it was the first time I had ever felt this before. And at the time, I had tried out other meditation classes.

The rest of the service seemed to combine elements of Yogananda’s teaching along with some references to the Bible, which I found quite curious. I did not know an Indian religion could mix and take teachings from a different source like the Bible. Actually, I liked it, that they did this.

My way or the high way buddy

It is the idea that all paths lead to the same source, no matter what the label. For example, you must follow our religion, because if you follow that other religion, you will go to hell etc. 

Well, that’s just great for half the population of the world, who don’t follow that religion.

I see the same thing in acupuncture. People who believe their system is the best and only way and people who practice other systems, are practicing false acupuncture and therefore are all going to HELL….!

Probably the same with martial arts, politics, music, art, everything. 

I think it’s a human tribalism trait. Part of our reptilian brain kicking in. 

And as I recall at the Self realisation temple, they had pictures of unrelated spiritual masters or icons e.g. – Buddha, Jesus and some others, as though to show homage to them all.

That’s pretty liberating to see.


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Teachings

Being a casual visitor, I did not go too deeply into Yogananda’s teachings. I believe they had some books and a program to sign up to, which you had to pay for if you wanted to take your spiritual learning deeper. 

I was interested, but not in a position to go any further. Perhaps, if there was not this kind of barrier, I may have continued along this path a little longer.

Regardless, I had taken some valuable lesson from this visit – the concept that people, can and do, generate a strong energetic field when they meditate together in a spiritual place like a temple or church. 

Return Visit

After this first visit, I wanted to return again a second time as soon as I could. I planned to return on the Sunday, which in hindsight, may not have been the best day for me to attend. This was to be a larger event compared to the first service I had attended, which I think was during midweek.

On this occasion, the event was busier. There were over a hundred people, with loud Indian type music and chanting and a woman at the front was banging a kind of traditional drum and singing loudly. 

As it was my second time there, and I did not know anyone, I felt out-of-place.

The service followed the similar protocol, but on this occasion there was a kind of communion – like in a Christian church, where you take the bread and wine from the Father at the front

Here, the members all lined up and went to the front. If I recall correctly, we kneeled and prayed at the front.

I went along with it, even though I didn’t really want to. I was overwhelmed by the liveliness of the event. I would have preferred to sit quietly at the back, and probably should have. 

Intense Energy

However, one thing was definitely palpable – the energetic sea was intense in that hall.

It seemed that the singing, group meditation and the greater number of people doing it, had created this huge energetic feeling that seemed to fill up every area of the hall. 

The feeling was like a kind of warmth, like a blanket. It wrapped you up, enveloped you, like a mother holding a baby. The energetic blanket felt nourishing. The sensation became more intense when I closed my eyes and it had a dreamlike quality to it.

It was quite mystifying. I could close my eyes and feel engulfed by this feeling of energy. It felt welcoming. I could see the attraction of attending ever week.

But I didn’t. This was the last time I went to the temple. 

No return

There is something I don’t quite understand about my own personality. It is that even when I discover something unusual that captures the imagination, I can walk away from it. Perhaps one of the reasons I did not feel a strong desire to return was from my conversations with the other members at the end of the services in the tea and coffee area.

On the first occasion, I had attended, at the end of the service, I was friendily greeted by an older member. He asked how I knew about the service. I told him I had read the book – Autobiography of a Yogi, and that I had found it fascinating.  Then the conversation quickly died down. There was nothing else to talk about with him. I did not think to mention about the strong energetic sensation I had felt during the service. Perhaps, I should have done.

Then another middle-aged person came and asked me the same question. Again, I answered because I had read Autobiography of a Yogi. And then once again the conversation  died down. I had the feeling, that so many people must have given the same answer to this same question.

Then I met two other younger people. I was still a young man, and so thought maybe I may have more of a rapport with them. But, despite our similarity in age, I didn’t connect with them.

They were very serious Self-Realisation Fellowship students and told me they were going to America to participate in training. They had bought the programme.  I suppose when you are focused on seeking spiritual enlightenment, small talk is no longer a priority. Also, my spiritual level, is probably of a gnat compared to them.

On the second occasion, when I went during the larger service, I felt even less like speaking to any members afterwards. I was overwhelmed with the feeling that a person must have when he first attends a large religious service for the first time without any prior knowledge, or knowing anyone.

For example, if I was to attend a mosque or a Synagogue by myself on a worship day. Neither of which, I have absolutely no knowledge of. I am sure, I would feel really out-of-place. Kind of like gate-crashing a closed club. And that was enough to put me off. 

Meeting the girl who advised me to read the book

A few years later, I met that same student, who had first advised me to read the Autobiography of a Yogi. At that time, she seemed heavily into this yoga. On this occasion, when I told her I had read the book and found it fascinating, I did not get the impression that she had the same level of interest in this system of yoga anymore. She seemed not to want to talk about it. 

Perhaps, she was done with it and had moved on to other things. I wondered if something had happened, or maybe, I was reading too much into it? Who knows? But I was a little disappointed, because, I was hoping to hear more from someone who had gone further down this particular spiritual path. 

A strong spiritual place

Nonetheless, The self realisation temple was the real deal as far as feeling energy is concerned. Also some of their teachings did make a lot of sense to me.

If you are seeking to develop your spirituality, than yes, there is something very powerful in this yoga organisation. The feeling of energy I felt was intense.  

Qigong and energy work

Does this mean, everyone who goes is going to feel this strong palpable energy sensation?

No, possibly not. 

This is because at the time, I was heavily into qigong. And just like with my account of Canterbury Cathedral, I cannot say for sure I would feel the same energy is I was to return, because now I do not practice qigong or energy work as much as I did as when I first went. So I would not be surprised if I did not feel anything if I went back today.

On reflection, I did wonder why after feeling that strong energetic sea-like feeling, why I never felt the desire to go back?

Simply, a part of me does not desire it, so I do not return. Perhaps I am following my own internal guidance system, which is simply telling me – ‘this is not your way’.

Or maybe I’m just a lazy Son of a B**ch.

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