Email this. Ship that. Schedule this. Call them. Strategize that. Our days are an endless list of to-dos. So often the constant doing distracts us and we get lost in an endless swirl, leaving us paralyzed: We can't decide which item to check off the list, so we don't check any. Instead, we sit around daydreaming of a better relationship with time and the days when we can accomplish everything on our list AND have time to work out and enjoy life. That was me. Until now.
A meditator for years, I'd noticed some changes in my level of anxiety and responses to certain situations, but I was by no means levitating—if you catch my drift. I'd tried breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, yoga, breath of fire, chanting, but I never quite got “there."
Until Vedic meditation. I recently took a course with Ben Turshen (Maharishi's student's student : ) ) and within the first session I knew this was going to be a game-changer. Vedic meditation is unique in that practitioners sit still (with their backs supported) and gently use a specific sound or "mantra" to guide their mind into a deep state of rest. The "mantra" is a Sanskrit word/sound that is chosen for you by your teacher based on set criteria. The mantra is meant to be a resonant sound that guides you to a deep and transcendent state.
When I first heard of Vedic meditation, I was not convinced on the whole mantra thing. How is someone who knows very little about me going to select the perfect sound for me? (Side bar: I come from a multicultural family and have always felt that identities are superficial and partial. I'm not suggesting we go nameless, but I believe the idea of identity is ever evolving). Upon a bit more probing I discovered that the mantras are selected from a list of hundreds of sounds and it’s virtually “impossible” to assign someone an incorrect mantra. Most of the dissonance that happens with new meditators is not due to an incorrect mantra, but rather a improper usage of said mantra.
Boy was I wrong. My mantra resonated. It resonated so hard.
Within the first meditation, I felt a sense of calm and deep relaxation wash over me. But I still wasn’t quite getting to the place of stillness every guru describes. After consulting Ben, it turned out I was “overdoing” it with my mantra—which made total sense because this type A gal tends to overdo a lot of things.
The mantras are meant as loose vehicles to guide us. When we lose the mantra to meandering thoughts, we effortlessly remind ourselves to come back to the mantra and allow it to keep guiding us to a deeper state of rest. It was the word "effortless" that really struck me though. As a gal who has built her life on all the effort, it was a total mind shift for me. When I first received the mantra, I clung to it for dear life—as if it was the raft that was going to get me to a place where I never felt anxiety, never felt tension and (of course) never flipped out for no reason.
After really analyzing the word “effortless,” much to the class’ dismay, Ben leaned in and muttered “Non-chalance” in my direction. “Your relationship to the mantra is meant to be a non-chalant one.” It finally clicked. The mantra wasn’t going to save me, it was my secret little assistant, guiding me through all the twists and turns of my mind to get me “there.” But I would never get there if I focused so hard on what the assistant sounded and felt like. I loosened my grip for the first time and watched this device work it's magic. And it did.
Vedic meditators sit for twenty-minutes twice per day where they silently repeat their mantras until their postural muscles give out and they slump into deep rest. So it’s quite a commitment. But when you read studies pointing to stress reduction, increased grey matter and less disease it seems like a very small price to pay.
By the end of the first week, I needed to sleep less because I was achieving such deep relaxation in my twice-daily meditations. By week two, I was wildly productive—checking off items on my to-do list that had lingered there for far too long. I felt refreshed, clear, and energized to my core for the first time in a long time.
So how do you know which meditation is right for you? The best way is to try out a few different types and see what works for you as individual. Our approach to nutrition is a bio-individual one and so should our approach to meditation. For more ideas on how to start your practice, check out our post on how to get one started.