You’re Not a Terrible Meditator
Excerpts from the Book
If you look on the Internet, you’ll find writers saying that there are no rules about how to meditate. Just find one you like. They say you should expect meditation to be difficult, but sit there and do it, and eventually there will be benefits. We don’t consider this good advice. Vidya Cicchini tried many different meditation programs over almost a 20-year period. Vidya entered West Point in 1976 as part of the academy’s first class with women in it. She graduated, was commissioned an officer in 1980, and then served in the military for five years before becoming a nurse, Vidya said:
Over almost 20 years I tried all the other meditation techniques: Siddha Yoga, Forest Zen, Japanese Zen, Buddhist and Christian contemplative, mindfulness meditation. TM [Transcendental Meditation] is the best!
I tried all these other practices and was only partially successful. Some of them worked, but again only partially. With mindfulness I had a lot of trouble with it, and I just didn’t find it very helpful. I couldn’t actually settle down and relax. It didn’t get rid of all the thoughts in my head. It wasn’t what I wanted.
TM was different, and it worked from the very beginning. It is much deeper than the other practices and really helps me put my body into a restful state and then at the same time, it clears out my head. I really look forward to the calmness it brings, and I seem to tap into inner resources that I did not know I had. The mood swings that were prevalent in my life are gone. I’ve acquired a new ability to respond to situations in a healthy way, instead of feeling confused or angry and reacting in that state. My physical health has improved too. I have more vitality, and 50% of the chronic pain is gone, and I can recover from illness in days instead of weeks or months.
I think this should be a program in every VA Medical Center. I see mindfulness-based meditation courses all the time. But I have tried all these meditation techniques, and they just aren’t the same as TM.
The TM Technique is Easy
Let’s go back to the common teaching that meditation is difficult. Those who say that may seem to be making a realistic statement since we associate things that are worthwhile with being difficult and requiring lots of effort. However, the opposite is actually true when evaluating meditation practices. Simple and effortless is not just good, it’s necessary for meditation to be maximally effective and generate brain coherence. This is part of why the TM technique works. It’s not based on concentration, focusing on your breath or heart, or even monitoring your thoughts or sensations in the body. What we want during meditation is calmness in the mind, a maximally settled state. As a result, the activity of concentrating, focusing, and monitoring is actually counter-productive to success with meditation. They are keeping the mind active. So, if you choose a difficult meditation practice, you may very well conclude that you’re a terrible meditator. But contrary to the common advice in this area, you’re not terrible at meditation, the problem is likely the technique.
David learned Transcendental Meditation after trying a half dozen other popular meditation techniques. Those he tried included mindfulness meditation; HeartMath, a guided meditation; hypnosis; and brain entrainment. Because of his lack of success with these practices, he said he “didn’t think he was going to be able to do TM,” and he was very skeptical about his teacher’s statements that the TM technique was easy and that anyone could do it, [but he] finally decided to give it a try. He said:
It was as simple and effortless as advertised. It’s actually remarkable. You go into TM thinking it’s this little technique for reducing stress, and that alone would make it worthwhile, but you actually have no idea of the gifts you will receive. It was incredibly relaxing right from the start and that benefit alone would be worth it, but it’s so much more.
In mindfulness I was taught to focus on my inner and outer breath. But you can only do that for so long. And because you can’t keep doing that, it sets you up to fail. With TM there is no concentration or focusing like that, and the technique really changes you mentally and physically. My health improved exponentially.
Comparing Meditation Techniques
Tony Nader, M.D., the international head of the TM organization, has a Ph.D. in brain science from MIT in addition to his medical degree. In a 50-minute YouTube video (See Dr. Nader’s YouTube Channel), he compares TM to mindfulness and other techniques. Using an analogy first used by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the TM program, Dr. Nader explains that consciousness can be likened to an ocean. Like the ocean, our consciousness has different levels. The surface of the ocean can be turbulent with many waves or it can be relatively calm, but the ocean also has a deep, silent level. Using this analogy, consciousness is like the ocean with a surface level that can be very active, and a deep level that is silent.
When we meditate using a focusing or monitoring technique, Dr. Nader says our awareness stays on the surface level of the ocean of consciousness. When we put our awareness on the surface level, such as on sensations in the body or our breathing, we are causing the mind to be aware of something. This is, for example, what mindfulness does. Being mindful of something is being aware of something, and this can have benefits since focusing on one thing, to the extent we are successful, may prevent the mind from focusing on negative things, and in the process calm the mind and relax you at least temporarily. Other techniques that focus on positive emotions like kindness can also have benefits. Dr. Nader explains that whatever we put our attention on grows stronger in our life, so there may be benefits from continually putting our attention on being kind. But focusing the attention on positive qualities, or on sensations in the body, or on our breath or on being mindful of things is putting our awareness on the different waves at the ocean’s surface, rather than diving to the silent, perfectly calm depths of the ocean of consciousness. This is the inner source of our silence and calmness, an inner source of fulfillment.
In his YouTube video, Dr. Nader says that in the ancient Vedic tradition from which the TM technique derives, this experience of the silent depth of consciousness is sometimes called a state of samadhi; in Japanese and Buddhist traditions it may be called satori or nirvana, and it has other names in other traditions. To some, this experience may sound intriguing, but whether or not that is the case, in scientific terms it is important because the experience brings maximum coherence to the brain. And because the brain is the control center of the body, order in the body grows as well, resulting in the prevention of illness and the improvement or elimination of numerous physical disorders.
Cameron Diaz: TM is Easy and Effective:
For information on TM, visit TM.org
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