Duly persuaded by Hugh Jackman, that in TM lay the secret to peace, calm and contentment, I booked myself a place on the introductory talk that evening then headed off to the My Hotel in Brighton, intrigued as to what I might discover. I’m sure my husband had his fingers crossed as he wished me luck – ‘Please dear Lord let this work, she’s driving me insane,’ etc. etc.
The talk was hosted by a very lovely man named Mark Heath and while we were waiting for all the other attendees to arrive, we were shown a video in which Jerry Seinfeld explains how TM kept him sane through 9 years and 180 episodes of one of NBC’s most successful comedies. I was definitely intrigued. By the time we got to the part about the mantra being the conduit to the seabed of your mind, where everything was still and peaceful and calm, I was SOLD. I bought the book, I signed on the dotted line and waited for the next course to begin.
A month later, half way through Norman E. Rosenthal’s fascinating exploration of TM, I was absolutely ready to transcend. That said, there was a part of me that also thought, ‘yeah this might work on severely traumatised veterans, and kids from deeply troubled homes, and a whole bunch of really famous actors and directors, and even inmates in some of the toughest prisons in the US, but is it really going to work on me? I mean, really?’ I remained paradoxically open but sceptical.
The training begins with a short ceremony and you are asked to bring along some fresh flowers, a piece of sweet fruit (not a lemon or an orange) and a white handkerchief. So on day 1 of my course I raided the fruit bowl, borrowed a hanky from my husband, and (as the only things growing in my garden were weeds) nipped into the supermarket on my way to the TM centre to buy a bunch of daisies. Arriving ten minutes early, I had a few minutes to spare while my TM teacher finished up with his previous student. I sat in the waiting room, taking in the fresh flowers in jugs and vases on literally every available surface in the room, the pictures of Maharishi, the guru who famously taught The Beatles how to meditate and the general air of calm, peace and tranquility that pervaded the room. I’m an empath; I soak up energies like a sponge, and the energy in this room was nothing but restful and positive. Things were looking and feeling good!
A few minutes later I found myself in another warm room that smelled of incense, the walls adorned with yet more pictures of the mystical Maharishi. It felt safe and I was completely at ease with whatever was about to unfold. Our ceremony of thanksgiving duly completed, I sat down in a comfy chair and waited for the magic to happen. And here’s the thing about the magic – it is so unbelievably easy. I had been prepared for meditation to be something of a chore (a bit like running), and having read the wonderful Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert where she describes in hilarious detail how she initially struggled with meditation, I was quite prepared for my first session to be a little underwhelming. But it wasn’t. TM is such a simple, undemanding technique that you can have a pretty profound experience in your very first session. Mark told me what my mantra was going to be and after a minute or so of voicing this simple two syllable word out loud, I then began to internalise it, or ‘think it’ and woohoo – away I went into meditation. As I repeated the mantra over and over I noticed that my breathing began to slow down, I relaxed even more into the chair and though I don’t think I went right down to the very bottom of the seabed I was certainly a few feet down where the waves weren’t quite so choppy! After ten minutes Mark came back into the room and I had my two minute cool down – where you give yourself a chance to surface slowly if you’ve been very deep in meditation. This is to make sure you don’t get the TM equivalent of ‘the bends’, symptoms of which can include dizziness and headaches later on in the day. We then discussed how I had felt during the meditation, any thoughts that had come to me, whether or not I found these thoughts distracting, and how often I should meditate and for how long. And that was it – I was now a bona fide meditator.
Since then I have been meditating twice a day, almost every day (I did have a slip over Christmas and boy did I regret it) and I can honestly say that meditation has made me a less anxious, more focused, more positive and more patient person. That’s not to say it’s all been plain sailing as I have journeyed to the seabed of my mind. The first couple of weeks brought up some serious issues – anger that had been festering in my body for decades began to bubble to the surface and there were days when I could happily have throttled the first person to look at me sideways. However, Mark explained that this was not unusual when the body was holding on to a lot of stress and trauma. As I began to let it go, it was almost as though my body began to protest. ‘Hey, hold on a second, that’s mine, I’ve had it for 30 years, who are you to take it away from me.’ However, after a couple of weeks of regular routine, things began to settle down, and I began to understand what all the TM devotees meant when they declared that the practice had changed their life. It really is the most remarkable technique, and it has become as much a part of my day as brushing my teeth or that 11am talk I have with myself about why choosing the peppermint tea over the Diet Coke is definitely the wiser decision. So, thank you Facebook, thank you Hugh Jackman and thank you Mark Heath. I owe you my sanity.