Note: this post has been updated. I follow the “vedic style” of meditation, not the transcendental style, or TM. There isn’t a lot of difference, but there is enough to cause contention and confusion. I’ve corrected this post to reflect things more accurately. 

I’ve tried just about every form of meditation. None of them really stuck. I used to get stupendously tense meditating, often reduced to tears…that’s how much they failed to “stick”. About two years ago I tried vedic meditation. I’ve said this before: when I get three reminders of something, I strike. That is, if three people mention the same thing to me, out of the blue, then I know I need to take note. And act. Which is what happened with meditation.

Meditation: finding the space between sensations
Meditation: finding the space between sensations

When the third person mentioned teacher Tim Brown to me, I signed up. I was down the beach at 5am, having not slept at all, distraught and lost. I was going through a grey time in my life. A random guy called Tom who I recognised from yoga came up to me, gave me a hug and said, “You’re in a tough place”. We met for tea that night and Tom talked up meditation and Tim.

I find meditation is generally presented to people in this way. Perhaps this post will be what touches you, it will be your third strike?

Meditation very literally Changed. My. Life. Tim promised it would. I was skeptical. But six weeks after I started, I landed the MasterChef gig. I meditated in the car outside before going in for my audition. The casting team said my certainty and poise got me the job.

There you go.

The vedic meditation deal in a few dot-points:

* VM works like this: you sit in a chair (no need for crossed legs) with your eyes shut for 20 minutes, twice a day. You repeat a mantra in your head that your teacher gives you over and over. You repeat it gently – you don’t “shout it”.

* If your mind wanders, you gently steer it back to the mantra. Always back to the mantra. That’s all you have to do. The mantra is designed to do the rest. It “drags” your consciousness down, down, down. The teacher chooses a mantra with a vibration that suits you.

* I meditate after exercise in the morning (my body is more open, which helps go deep), often down at the beach in the morning sun. At night I do it before I go out/have dinner. It’s great to shower first because when you meditate you produce an oil on your face which is REALLY good for your skin and has been shown to make you look younger….

* VM has been scientifically proven to be up to five times deeper than sleep.  20 minutes of meditation is equivalent to 3 to 4 hours sleep.

* I don’t fret about where I do it. I do it on planes, in my office, in my car. In fact, the more “inappropriate” the place, the better. The slight discomfort makes me focus more. I’ve written about this before, the idea of finding happiness “in spite of” mess or pain or chaos.

* When I was hosting MasterChef I used to meditate in the toilet cubicle (the only place I could get some peace) while my curlers set. On Mondays at Sunrise, I meditate in the wardrobe. No one seems to have a problem with this…I don’t think (!?).

* Catalyst on ABC ran a feature last week: Transcendental Meditation: Hocus-pocus or healthy practice? Worth a watch.

* VM costs about $1000 – for a course over 3-4 nights. Once you’ve been “initiated” you can then attend weekly group meditations for free. I reckon this is great value. For Tim, like all VM teachers, teaching meditation is his career. He has a family to feed. He’s not a monk sitting in a cave living off donations. Yep, you can learn meditation for free by volunteers. But – and this is an odd concept – I think the act of handing over $$$ for the service makes people like me respect the service more, and apply myself more fully to it. Hey, it’s the world we live in!

This is what meditation feels like (for me):

* You know that sucking feeling when you stick a Mac powercord in the socket? That’s how it feels when you slip into the meditative state – like it all fits snugly, nothing is missing, things are firm and certain.

* Sometimes I feel my body expanding, like I’m the Michelin man. This is, apparently, my consciousness expanding beyond the experience of my body. Other times my head spins around on it’s own. Some people collapse forward on to their laps.

* Mostly, meditating is a jittery, thought-filled experience. BUT, the important thing is that when I come out of it after 20 minutes I’m 2938473 times calmer. This is what counts. Not what you do in meditation, but what happens after. Everything feels sweeter.

The three things I dig the most about vedic meditation:

* The soukshma/sookshma principle: while repeating the mantra, practice soukshma, which- as Tim teaches – roughly means innocent, faint and effortless. That is, come to the mantra innocently, faintly and effortlessly. This, for me, is the beauty of VM…it instills soukshma into your very being. So that out of meditation, the innocence, gentleness and effortlessness continues. It imbues. Infuses.Soukshma, soukshma, soukshma…!

* Thoughts are good: It doesn’t matter if your mind starts chattering. Thoughts are little bubbles of tension that surface as we sink deeper. Thoughts release tension. They are good. They also remind us to return to the mantra. Thought pops up; cue “return gently to the mantra”.  This constant steering things gently back to the mantra is key. Because, when you return to real life out of meditation, it sets you up to gently steer things to calmness whenever your mind gets cluttery. It’s practice. It flexes a “steer to calm” muscle.

* It’s just stringent and organised enough: I’ve stuck with VM because I belong to a community that sticks to it. We meet every Monday night just to meditate and chat. I see VM’ers around town, meditating down at the beach and in parks. Feeling like I belong to a crew of meditators makes me do it twice a day. A bit like living in a society where brushing your teeth day and night is normal, expected. So you just do it.

* It makes me look younger. I know this is vain, which is not very balanced of me, but HTG (honest to God), part of the appeal of VM is it’s anti-aging properties. My skin has changed over the past two years. The muscles on my face have released, relaxed and opened up. HTG.

Tim Brown with a nice anecdote about meditation:

Tim-Brown-Meditation2_CBA37Meditation is not about withdrawing from life but learning how to access that space within oneself where we are able to enjoy the experience of life without being overwhelmed or consumed by it.

It’s a bit like when you go to the movies, get there late and get stuck in the front row. The screen is in your face and difficult to watch and the sound is way to loud. Far from having to leave the cinema all we need to do is get back a few rows.

Now we don’t want to go to the back of the cinema, that is no good as then the screen is too far away and the sound quality is poor – this is no more satisfying than being in the front row.

The ultimate place is in the middle of the cinema. That’s where the screen is at the right distance and the surround sound is the best. You can sit and be taken and engaged by the movie while still maintaining an awareness of yourself in the seat. This is what we call the “Goldilocks Phenomenon” – not to hot, not to cold, just right – or not to close to the experience to be consumed by it, not to far away so as to be disconnected from it, but just right in the sweet spot where the experience is engaging without being all consuming.

This is what we are looking to achieve through meditation. The rigors and dynamics of day to day living are drawing us further and further into the business of life which is causing us to become too enmeshed in it – as a result the experience becomes overwhelming and uncomfortable. This is the basis on which people find life stressful and all consuming, it is the basis for all suffering, discomfort and dis-ease.

This is exactly what meditation, or the “art of transcending” is all about – “moving beyond” ones current experience and gaining a greater perspective on the whole of one’s experience – this is what I call “conscious altitude” and it makes all the difference to being able to see things in context and brings greater stillness, clarity, creativity, energy, intelligence to the mind and prints out in the body as greater physical wellbeing.It’s not rocket science, and it’s been know for thousands of years how to trigger this response in the mind and body and the importance of doing so. The pressures of modern day living is causing people to reinvestigate meditation as an option – much to the benefit to themselves, those around them, their society, their country and their world – thank goodness!

Tim is based in Paddington, Sydney. You can contact him here.

Tim also lists other VM teachers in Australia, America, UK and NZ.

David Lynch on meditation:

Are you a meditator? What’s your favourite, or “sweetest” observation about being in a  meditative state?

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Dean Forster

    I’m using a method where I loop music into concentrated groove, and use this like a Mantra. I really could not get into the eastern religion side of things, so I found this worked pretty well. Happy to share!

    • I

      The Mantra is just a sound that resonates, but they say the ancient Rishis were so enlightened that they ‘heard’ the Vedas vibrating through the ethers.
      Who knows? But the point is, is that any religious meaning attached to these various words can be ignored.

  • fortyminstofive

    Not sure about TM, but I normally set a clock for 15-20 mins then start with ~12 double breaths followed by 1, 2, or maybe even 3 rotations of body awareness from the hands to the pelvic floor, then back again. Then it’s deep, slow breathing for the remainder of the time. Found using the body in this way can lead into stillness quite effectively, and paying attention to deep breathing helps to focus the mind while you’re in there. Works sitting or lying down. No mantra, your attention IS the mantra. A little basic Yoga at the start for opening up the chakras doesn’t go amiss either x

  • S.

    BTW, there is an organization started by two former TM teachers called Natural Stress Relief meditation which teaches a method very similar to TM through a $40 self-study course. I can’t speak to its efficacy compared to TM or VM, as I’ve never learned those, but they have done peer-reviewed published studies showing it has a similar effect, and the self-study course is really easy to follow. Thought it might be of interest to folks reading this. (I have no affiliation with the organization; I’ve just been trying their technique for about a year and came across this post because I googled Vedic Meditation, curious about the different forms thereof.)

    http://www.nsrusa.org/

    • Al

      I’ve done both and TM is much better because you have a teacher and doing the meditation is quite subtle. As I’ve posted above I was doing it wrong for 2 years.

      • Sameer

        Thanks, Alan – very good to know. So it’s worth paying nearly $1500 extra you think? Did you ever try a Skype consultation to debug your nsr practice?

        • Al

          It only cost me £300 as I wasn’t working at the time. The problem with skype or asking questions is that you have to know the questions to ask. The teacher, in the Tm session, talked and explained things. We saw him four times and there is the follow up sessions. I’m not here to push TM but I’ve noticed the difference. Maybe if you pay the extra on NSR to talk to the teachers it will be more effective as it is basically the same as TM.

          • Sameer

            Thanks!

      • NSR offers four forms of support. Clients who make use of our support get their questions answered or their problems with practice solved quickly.

  • david edwards

    Cashing in on something that should really be free.

    • disqus_AX8bciXpM0

      There’s a 10 minute Anapana meditation session with Goenka on Youtube. Anyone could listen to that and set an alarm for 20 minutes.
      Similar results, but the mantra gives the meditation a bit of flavour.

    • Al

      Why should it be free. that’s a rigid belief system you have.

      • I agree. Teachers who are skilled and effective deserve to be paid a fair amount. Teaching meditation, especially an effective form of meditation is not a religion or magic and there is no good reason for requiring that improving your own life has to be free.

  • minotaur

    wow, that’s quite a ‘hard sell’, and you just sound like a dickhead. if you’re trying to come off as smart or insightful you’re not. you just sound like a lawyer for TM trying to protect its trademark. the fact is TM is vedic meditation and vedic meditation wasn’t invented by Maharishi. he just trademarked the name for branding. claim all you want about how TM is authentic and only TM will give you deep bliss, but in reality and factually, vedic meditation does that for you. TM is authentic insofar as it’s a trademark, and that is authentic.

    so stop being such a sissy bitch and get off your TM high horse and try to show some compassion to the human experience that doesn’t revolve around a wallet. you’re a good example of what’s wrong with the world currently.

    • Al

      I agree with him. I was doing meditation online-natural stress relief- not a rip off and well meaning but with TM you get a teacher for 4 sessions, you get to check your meditation with the teacher every few months. I was doing it wrong for 2 years. I’ve done this for 2 months now and the effects have been noticeable to others before they were noticed by me.

      I was stuck with the same rigid belief system that a lot of people have-it should be free- they’re ripping people off-no ones making money out of me. If you look at all the negative comments about TM online you’ll find that hardly any say it doesn’t work.

      • Just a clarification–while it is true that in NSR you learn from a course in your own home, there is a teacher of transcending available to support your practice by answering your questions and solving any problems. There is a free online support forum, prepaid email consultations, and all the low-cost meditation checking and voice consultations you might need. All this for only 7% of the course fee for Transcendental Meditation (TM).

        David Spector
        President,
        Natural Stress Relief/USA

        • Bert

          That’s true, but sometimes you don’t know what the questions are and having an hour or more x4 gives you time to take in the information and realise what you might be doing wrong. You also get the follow up support and the montly meet ups which gives you chance to chat to others.

          The only problem I had was the almost religous devotion to Maharashi Yogi and that really put me off as I’m really not interested in his teachings. But saying that it’s really worked for me and I benefited enormously from having someone there.

        • Al

          unfortunately, sometimes you don’t know which questions to ask and in face to face discussions, one to one or in a group, things get mentioned by others and misunderstandings are quickly addressed. But as I said, NSR is the same as TM but the cost of a teacher was worth it for me and the results have more than paid for the course- I earnt more money because of it as I was able to take on full time work as a teacher because I wasn’t as stressed or as defeatist. I have since left teaching which I had not managed before.

          • I am glad to hear of your good experiences with NSR. I wish more people knew about it. If someone out there could interview me for radio, blog, or TV, we could really use the publicity!

  • minotaur

    who cares if it’s authentic. it’s just a trademark. vedic meditation is 1000s of years old. tm doesn’t have the market on this meditation, only the name maharishi created which is really what you’re defending. are you a lawyer for tm?

    • Al

      I thought he same and did a course online from teachers who used to teach TM. the difference is subtle but TM is working. I realised I was doing it wrong for 2 years. .

  • Observer2014

    Sarah, you’ve described the TM technique perfectly!

  • Al

    The good thing about TM is that you are not trying to reach a meditative state. It’s effortless. My teacher told me that the thing most people say, when they meet up a few months later, is that I’m having loads of thoughts when meditating. Sometimes most of my meditation is spent daydreaming, off on some train of thought. As she says in the article, the meditation produces the thoughts.

  • Al

    I disagree. I’ve tried a few meditation techniques and TM takes no dedication whatsoever. The other techniques took an effort, I’d have to push myself to do them. I look forward to TM. No effort at all.

  • jay

    I learned TM in 1975 as a teenager. Over the years I meditated in spurts like when I needed to get my life in order. My best in life has almost always been when I meditated regularly . When I stopped .I wondered why . . Now I am 54 and been regular at it for a year and have recently had shaking when meditating and incredible energy flowing through my spine. It’s the most wonderful feeling. The shaking just starts spontaneous for several minutes . Not sure what’s happening but I going to just let it happen.

  • Mohsin

    Hi Sarah ,TM truly is a wonderful way to meditate and its even better when one can do it in a group (Thats my opinion).
    The place where I live there are not many TM practitionersso I dont get the oppurtunity for group meditation .

    I was wondering if u knew of any online communities like on Skype or some other platform where people can meditate together in a virtual environment.

  • This is incorrect. It is best to get meditation advice from a meditation teacher.

  • Most people who feel that their mantra is “wrong” have discomfort when thinking the mantra due to the effort they have added to the simple experience of transcending. Go to a real meditation teacher and get support, so your practice is effortless. The effortless thinking of a mantra will never make the mantra seem wrong.

  • Kathy, relationships form and break up because people seek happiness. In this case TM is the “other woman”, so naturally you blame her. But even advanced TM courses do not come with DO and DON’T lists. TM is simply concerned with eliminating internal stress stored in the nervous system. People generate their own karma, good or bad.

  • That Web address is for a TM website. They hate and fear Vedic Meditation and Natural Stress Relief because we give them competition. They seem to believe they have a God-given monopoly on teaching silent mantra meditation. They have threatened both organizations with lawsuit and are settling out of court. Is it fair of them? (I take no salary for distributing NSR in English).

  • “Authentic” TM is a monopoly on the teaching of silent mantra meditation. We are an ethical competitor is the American tradition of offering something better (better support, easier to learn) at a lower price (7% of your price). Blab all you want; our clients are enjoying more peace, harmony, and happiness in their daily lives thanks to NSR.

  • So as not to confuse others, I’d like to make it clear that increasing meditation time is NOT recommended for most people. A shorter meditation time is sufficient when the form of meditation is as effective as TM, NSR, or VM are. Our goal is not spending time meditating, but to improve every aspect of life by eliminating stored stress through a deep state of restful alertness.

  • If you are happy, stay with what you have learned.