Something happened this week. I don’t know why, but it happened. Why I decided to do it, I’m not really sure, but I did it. Here I was, all set to be a TM meditator for the rest of my life, and lo and behold – I changed tack and experimented with a different style. Why would I do this…?
For years, I had being practising a form of meditation known as ‘transcendental meditation’. TM (as it is colloquially known) is a form of mantra-based meditation. You effortlessly repeat a sacred mantra secretly revealed to you (for a vast sum of money) over and over again until you ‘transcend’ into a blissful state of awareness.
Coincidentally, last week my yoga teacher taught us the key to mantra-based meditation. To Mark, there are 5 key stages:
1. Body should be Steady and Comfortable. (Sthira and sukham)
2. Breath should be Calm, Smooth and Quiet. ( Pure Breathing)
3. As the mind stays focused on the Pure Breathing, the Awareness goes Inwards.
4. Notice this Awareness strongest at the Third Eye Centre.
5. Out of this Third Eye Awareness – Hear your Mantra.
For me, the experience I feel during my TM sessions is one that I can only describe as serenity. As my mind settles, it arrives at a far away place on a distant horizon – a place so calming and soothing; and peaceful. There is nothing there, only the dull glow of an orange light. In this realm, I enter a simple state of pure awareness.
So why would I want to change all this? I mean, this sounds kinda perfect, no? Nirvana perhaps.
Well, because my curiosity with mindful living and managing my own inner challenges meant that I wished to take my understanding of consciousness to a whole different level.
It goes something like this: if we are to be truly mindful, then we need to be fully aware; and we can only be fully aware when each breath and each bodily sensation becomes an experience. Big words huh. I know. I can hardly believe I’m writing it too. But I guess that is how far I’ve come recently with my practice.
The inspiration for this new mindset comes after a 6 week mindfulness course with Adrian at the Now Project. I also credit Wendy at the Lotus Pad with introducing ‘insight meditation’ to me on retreat last year in Ibiza. I gained ‘insight’ that I could decompose my breath – that any bodily sensations or anxiety that I feel would also be labelled as ‘experiences‘. The de-humanisation of emotion shall we say – emotion becomes ‘motion’ in a synchronicity of breath and harmony.
Insight meditation is the original meditation taught by the Buddha, from which much of the mindfulness teachings are derived. It involves concentration, bringing the mind gently back to the breath as it passes through each nostril, ever so subtly noting the experience. Each ‘time’ we may get distracted, but each ‘next time’ we slowly reduce the power of habit which has created the distraction in our mind. In this regard, meditation can really help us dissolve our habits (some distractive, some destructive), so that we can truly live in the NOW.
In short, I’m distilling every moment into its core components (much as us bankers like to ‘decompose’ everything into its core constituents in order to understand the true nature of risk): To really understand as I recently wrote – that thoughts are just thoughts – formless and just another experience.