I learned to meditate over forty years ago. The technique I learned first was Transcendental Meditation or TM as taught by the Beatles guru Maharishi. He taught a mantric meditation that uses sound to transcend thought. Maharishi was a great teacher but was not very approachable for ordinary people like you or me.
By the time I learned he was rather hidden and only accessible to certain ‘special’ people. His administrators and close supporters. I did see him several times but never got that close, certainly not close enough to ask him any questions. That was accepted by most people with the TM organisation. He spoke often and had been video recorded for years. He spoke for hours and hours at a time….. and over twenty two years I have watched and listened to many, many tapes.
Like most people in the mid 1970’s before I learned I was into drugs and was on the slippery slope and perhaps rather close to the edge. But after I walked into an introductory talk on TM my whole life changed. Maharishi chucked the Beatles out of his ashram because of their drug taking (a non disclosed event) but once I learned I never took anything again. I felt no need.
I went along to a talk mainly because of an evangelical friend I shared a house with. I thought that if I checked it out that might at least shut him up but I was also curious. I looked at the teacher seated on a small coach in front of the group of people there and his aura turned gold, flared and something from his eyes passed into mine. He literally touched me with his eyes. I learned because I was curious about what the hell it was that had just happened! It felt important. I had stopped taking drugs as a prerequisite to learn and have not taken any since. That alone should tell you something.
TM is a very good practice but after twenty two years of it 100% totally committed I still wanted more. I had fully engaged the practices. I worked for three and half years in one of the ashrams, although being TM it wasn’t called that, they give everything fancy names. I did as I was told religiously and never missed a meditation but I felt that I had plateaued out and wasn’t really growing any more. There was vast amounts left to learn but it was mainly intellectual understanding which never interested or satisfied me. I wanted relevant practical information that would explain what I experienced. I wanted and needed to grow faster….
TM is great but the people that go with it, the organisation, are just ordinary people. They are less stressed perhaps but they can be just as blinkered and self righteous as anybody else. You were not allowed to question or criticise. The teacher was always right even when they had no clue. They learn by rote. I did some of the teachers training and have taught and therefore know some off what they do. Wisdom starts to peculate in slowly and the older teachers are pretty clued up. When I learned most of them were rather new and had little or no experience of different or altered states of consciousness. They were enthusiastic amateurs.
I learned everything I could, the advanced meditation techniques, Chopra techniques, the TM sidhi’s program anything that came along. Not all the information that filtered down to the rank and file was genuine, intelligent or true. I still have swellings around my eyes caused by eating an incorrect diet when Ayurveda was first introduced. I practised what they call yogic flying and how to do many other interesting but supposedly impossible things. The program for this was nearly two hours long twice a day and I did that for nearly twenty years. I had some odd experiences that were unexplained and which the teaches refused to discuss and usually dismissed.
I interacted with the devas, could see auras, fairies, angels and nature spirits but that is not what they taught. They spoke of the mechanics of enlightenment and unified field theory. I was not interested in vedic science, theoretical or otherwise. I wanted things I could relate to. I often see the future and knew what is coming next. Try discussing that. All my premonitions have come true but nobody ever believes me. I see blue spheres of light that suddenly blink on in front of me, hover there then fade. I had no idea what they were and no one in TM had any answers for me.
TM people by and large tend to be cerebral but in spite of their creative intelligence, they mostly lack imagination. They think, in my opinion, far too much. My friends who still live in the community haven’t changed, they are much the same as when I left, just older with rounder corners. Most seem mildly dissatisfied. They look happy and smile but…
Unless they have had a big life trauma to deal with they don’t appear to have grown very much. They are still doing the same things we did way back then. They are bright, intelligent and very nice people who do a great deal of good for the world but….
I’m afraid that is not enough for me. Individual teachers may have liked me describing my weird experiences but they had no frame of reference and could only parrot what they had learned. I needed to look elsewhere for answers.
At about the time I was getting disillusioned with TM the friend who had introduced me to it in first place came across something new. His wife had discovered a new teacher and I found that yes there was more. When I let it be known that I had learned and was practising something different to TM I was immediately ostracised from the TM community. People weren’t even supposed to speak to me. I had been living in that community for fourteen years and these were my friends who I saw every day. That hurt but was actually brilliant for my personal evolution. A prop that I depended on was cut away over night. I questioned everything.
I stayed for a while but eventually moved away to a place called Totnes which is a really pleasant little town on the south west coast of Britain. It was marvellous to see the sun almost every day even in the winter. The TM community had been set up on the edge of a rather squalid, somewhat depressed, new town in the north west of England. I hated everything about the place. It is not an evolved environment and has a truly dreadful climate. It rained very hard and solidly for the first two weeks I was there. There was not a single let up. It was August and should have been high summer. Even though I had a good job I was always poor. That seems to go with the territory of living in a spiritual community. I always struggled financially as did everybody around me. I now understand why but at the time it was just very, very hard.
I become quite involved with the Art of Living. They followed a slightly different approach taught by Ravi Shakar, a disciple of TM’s founder Maharishi. Now I disliked everything about this group. Don’t ask me why I just did. There is no reason for it but I find them irritating and want to shake them and wake them up. That is my problem not theirs I know but there appears nothing I can do about it. It’s an intuitive reaction.
I met my Art of Living teacher in the recording studio where I was working. He knew about me and came in perhaps at my friends instigation. I had heard about him too but wasn’t at all interested. I gave him the full blast of my abilities using everything I had to suss him out. He laughed and verbalised what I was doing. Nobody had done that before. Most people are oblivious to my probes. He turned gold in front of me and I knew I had to learn. Oh shit!
I never felt at home with Art of Living people. It just wasn’t me. Like a jazz musician having to play in a classical orchestra I never really fit. I was always the outsider dancing to an improvised tune. I don’t like to sing. I can if I want to and have a pretty powerful voice but don’t use it very often. I felt nothing when doing so in their group sing alongs. Singing is important part of what they do. It brings them together and unifies them, or so they say. They sing bhajans which are religious songs. When singing together you think as one, at least that is what I was told. I tried I really did but it only ever excluded me even more. I was told it was just my ego getting in the way. If you have read my other blogs you will know what I think about that. Being half Irish I can talk the hind leg off a donkey but I have no wish to sing. It is not how I like to express my Self. Ravi Shankar is a cool dude and fun to be around but I felt no personal attraction to him and he never responded to me with anything but polite interest.
His main technique is Kria yoga. It is a guided meditation based on the breath and is very powerful and especially good for balancing the emotional body. There are many other techniques. Ravi Shankar is very accessible or certainly was when I learned but the guru worship and people that flock around him has always put me off. He teaches a meditation which is more or less the same as TM but is taught slightly differently. It is a lot cheaper to learn but it can be hard to find a teacher. There aren’t that many. I enjoyed all the practises but disliked everything else. I have sat at the masters feet in a one to one interview and he spontaneously gave me a unity experience but I still felt no personal attraction to him.
I stuck at it for fourteen years because I felt myself changing for the good. I finally quit after a disastrous advanced course. I always disliked them. These courses lasted several days and are always residential. They usually take place in cheap shared accommodation. I can remember one course were I was the only one left in the dormitory because of someone who snored, really, really loudly. Everyone else had evacuated to the meeting hall and slept on the floor. It was humorous but fairly typical. I had no real problem but ….
The teachers often frowned at me but didn’t seem to know what to do. They tried to engage me to find out what the problem was but I didn’t really have one. They would put me on the spot up in front of everyone else sometime hundreds of people. I don’t seek the lime light but I am not shy or inhibited and felt perfectly fine with that. I just didn’t want to be there didn’t enjoy and told them so. I only went because I usually felt better afterwards. But that last time I actually felt much better before I went. My lifestyle is pretty good, relatively stress free, stimulating and enjoyable most of the time. The course didn’t stir anything up. If anything I picked up everybody’s stress. It just seemed juvenile and left me questioning why I bothered. I decided from then on I wouldn’t. I had outgrown them.
Now I don’t want to put you off. Both techniques I have described are truly wonderful but…
Organisations are full of weak people and they can get in the way. The strong ones don’t need to be close or supported. Having met some really powerful beings I see gurus differently. They teach kindergarten. That may sound disparaging but they do a very useful job. Kindergarten is the start, a first step to knowing and very important. Well begun is half done as Maharishi used to say. I have moved beyond kindergarten, not very far but far enough. I am home schooling my Self from now on. That is my path, not necessarily but it could be yours, which is why I have written this article.
If you feel you need something to make you grow than give meditation a try. Learn a technique but don’t expect it to end there. If you have a technique and feel unfulfilled then try another one or go a step further and guide yourself. A good start is great but there is so very much more….
I still meditate but follow my heart. It has led me all over the place. I now live about as far away from where I started as you can get in every sense. All hell broke loose as soon as I started following my intuition. I have grown enormously. I am much stronger and perhaps a little wiser. I would thoroughly recommend it but be warned it is not easy thing to do. It has been life threatening at times. I even died for a short period but I am pretty strong in my self and very little shakes me. This has been about my personal journey, but it could be yours. If you have been practising something for a long time but feel you need a new direction. Now is a very good time to step forth.