Whether it is actually becoming more popular or we’re just far more aware of people practicing it, meditation experiencing somewhat of a resurgence. With praise from names like Arnold Schwarzenegger to Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins to Daniel Loeb, it obviously has some serious benefits, but what is it all about? And if we’re not, should you and I be doing it?
Type of Flare: Fitness (Mental)
Owner of Flare: Founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Source: Various resources including David Lynch – ‘Catching the Big Fish’ (Link: Book)
Key Snippet: “Samurai practiced meditation to become more effective killers.”
This week we’re focusing on mental fitness and specifically meditation. Meditation takes a variety of forms and means many things to many people, but the flavour which has been mentioned repeatedly is that of transcendental meditation; the practice of involving the use of sound for 20 mins twice a day.
Its roots can be traced back to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who is credited with introducing the technique in India in the mid-1950s. He went on to teach thousands of people on a series of world tours, which culminated in the technique becoming very popular and endorsed by celebrities. It is estimated that by the early 2000’s, the technique had been taught to millions of people and the Transcendental Meditation (TM) organisation had grown considerably, to include educational programmes and health products.
So what exactly is it?
The practice involves sitting with your eyes closed and employing a mantra for 15-20 mins twice a day. This can be done at any time during the day but mornings and evenings are the most common. That said, once the practice has been built in to a daily routine can be a very positive habit.
From what I understand, TM appears to be a method to achieve contentment. The art of achieving a state of awareness or consciousness, whereby one’s attention is turned inwards. This is accomplished by shutting off the senses and outer distractions and transcends the restless mind.
For a long time, yoga and meditation have been intrinsically linked. Yoga (an ancient Sanskrit word) which means ‘union’ between the soul and Spirit, focuses on controlling ones life force (’prana’). Whereas meditation comes from the word ‘dhyana’ which is the penultimate stage of yoga. Both are a focus on creating a relaxed body, calm mind, proper breathing and control of ones life force.
A significant focus has been placed on physical wellbeing, but until recently, it feels as though mental wellness has been ignored. No longer viewed as a practice adopted by hippies, TM has been endorsed by many famous and prominent individuals.
David Lynch is widely credited as bringing the practice in to the mainstream, having incorporated TM into his daily life since 1973. Subsequently, a Lynch Foundation has been established to help finance schools interested in learning the art of TM. The Foundation specifically targets ‘at-risk’ groups, those returning from war, disruptive school children and homeless people. It is also possible to see the introduction of TM into his film making (although as someone who hasn’t seen one of his films, I cannot confirm this!).
Who does it at the moment?
However, David is not alone. Oprah Winfrey (talk show host), Daniel Loeb (large hedge fund owner), Tony Robbins (Self-improvement guru) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (bodybuilding & movie star) have all advocated the benefits. Arnie talks in great depth, both in his book and on podcasts, about how meditation helped him deal with all the simultaneous demands on his life during his body-building and movie careers. Being able to create clarity and contentment at times of tumultuous change, he believes, has been a significant contributor to success. In times of turbulence or uncertainty, a moment of absolute tranquillity can make a ‘helluva’ of a difference!
As the world becomes more demanding, the need to take a step back and detach ourselves from the sensory overload grows.
According to a quick google search (yes I know), the list of those employing TM is pretty impressive and surprising:
- Kobe Bryant, Arianna Huffington, the late Steve Jobs, Jerry Seinfeld, Jennifer Anniston, Mirander Kerr, Bill Ford (Ford Chairman), Evan Williams (Twitter co-founder), Hugh Jackman, Paul McCartney to name a few (thanks feelingsuccess.com )
So should I do it?
The resurgence of TM can be attributed to 30-somethings who proclaim how calm they are. Getting to a state where you go past mindfulness (which is overt observation) and let go of your thoughts, is the essence of TM. The aim is to reach a point of expansive silence and warm and pleasant feeling floods your body.
From a personal perspective, I have not partaken in the practice of TM but have very good friends who do. Whilst being initially sceptical, the benefits have been plain to see. For one, the issue of anxiety and worry has been controlled and for another, the learning to let go of stresses and strains has been a revelation.
“Meditation is like a gym for the mind, in which you develop powerful mental muscles of calm and insight” – Ajahn Brahm
Personally, I have yet to build meditation into my lifestyle but that’s not to say I won’t. It is important for us all to find our anchor; that place or moment where we can reset ourselves and employ mindfulness. At present, I’ve found that to be at the gym first thing in the morning, emptying my mind and going to a place where I am mentally content.
I’ve also experienced this on a bicycle. When asked what did I think about on the 2 hour ride I have just returned from, the answer is simply nothing. That may sound hard to believe but listening to the sound of the wheels against the tarmac and wind rushing past my ears is bliss. Perhaps it is the minds ability to tune out in that moment, or my inability to concentrate for long periods; either way this is contentment for me.
It may or may not work for you, but it can be profoundly relaxing. A chance to gather and order your thoughts, and hopefully concentrate more easily throughout the day. You may even find that you start to sleep better.
The Knowledge Flare Comment:
So why is this important to me?
- Your Anchor – That place where you find clarity and peace of mind. It can be your edge over the competition or the place you go to reset. Either way, having a state of mind you can call on, puts you at an advantage.
- Contentment – whether mediation or not, I believe that we all need a quiet time to ourselves. Clarity and mindfulness which can only benefit us in our busy lives.
- Work / Life Balance – whether you need to be crystal sharp at work or calm before an important moment in sport, mindfulness will play a part in both. Trying to achieve a positive work / life balance is not solely about striking the right balance, it’s also about being content.
By understanding why things are the way they are, and employing regular moments of mindfulness will help improve our minds, health and ultimately happiness.
If all else fails, why meditation? Because some questions just can’t be answered by Google.