Irony / paradox / inanity: I recently got into a Twitter tiff with a meditator over my sharing an article about the exorbitant fees associated with learning Transcendental Meditation®. The article is here and I happen to agree with it heartily. She came right off the bat with a defense, natch, because she is a TM® trainer…
Ridiculous prices? 500,000 folks learned TM free in past 10 years. The article is fictitious. Facts: http://MeditationAsheville.org
to which I replied,
@MeditationAVL I’m not so sure it’s fictitious entirely. There is truth to it; it’s investigative. I was asked to pay large fee to learn.
and I added:
and fact is this: ANY meditation can work; copyrighting one is unethical; it’s like “Jesus®” — Bikram® yoga® is example.
to which she replied
unethical? Only if all meditations were exactly equal in their effect. Science says otherwise: http://meditationasheville.blogspot.com/2008/06/why-is-transcendental-meditation.html?m=1 …
and she added:
part of every TM course fee funds someone to learn who can’t afford to pay. If you can’t afford, there are scholarships.
and then said:
seems you’ve already made up your mind, which is okay, but if you’re open to another perspective: http://meditationasheville.blogspot.com/2008/10/are-all-meditations-same.html?m=1 …
to which I replied and to which she did not:
no dsgrmt on bens of #meditation. Do u see hypcrsy of “grading” & celeb endrsmnts? “we are all one”?! Do fees pay celebs?
And that was a dig, an intentional one, at the end. Transcendental Meditation® is, in my book, a crock. First tip-off: it’s trademarked®®®®, like Bikram® yoga is (and we all know about that slime ball). Second: celebrities are endorsing it by the magic carpet load… uh, why do you think that is? There has to be a kickback — please, someone tell me Jerry Seinfeld does things for free and I’ll take all this back. Third: you have to pay to learn how to do it.
My point is this: anyone can meditate and if it works for you, then why rock the boat®? Americans, especially, have this ridiculous notion that if we don’t pay a lot for something then it’s no good®, and the more you pay the better the whatever®.
Well, I’m here to tell you … you don’t have to pay $2,500® to learn how to meditate®. Also, there is no perfect way to do it — the point is simple: get you out of your head, release some stress, focus on something that’s NOT what you’re obsessing over all with the noble intention of simply giving your brain a break.
We freak out: AM I DOING THIS RIGHT? Well, did you forget where you were for a moment? Yes? Then yes. AM I DOING THIS RIGHT? Well, do you feel physically and emotionally better after taking a few mindful breaths? Yes? Then yes®. AM I DOING THIS RIGHT? Well, did your life blow up while you took a break from it? No? Then yes.
You can focus on a candle, on a water fountain, on a clock, on a cloud, on a tree, on your breath, on your pulse, on a sunny spot, on music, on the rain, on the snow, on a leaf on a tree… while you’re cleaning (no knives or heat), while you’re walking (away from traffic), while you’re running, while you’re dancing, while you’re rowing (sweeps is best, sculling is a little harder), while you’re yoga-ing… JUST NOT WHILE YOU’RE DRIVING. In the middle of a conflict, in the middle of a wedding (not yours), in the middle of a movie, in the middle of sex®, in the middle of an airplane trip (not piloting), in the middle of a meeting… you can do it on a plane in the rain on a train (that ba-dump rhythm is cool) or in the sea. You can do it in private or go off with your bad Zen self and whip out your detached awareness in front of others.
I recommend you do them seated upright and relaxed, but honestly, if that gets you all twitchy, just do it how you are. Try to become aware with each breath of the quality of your breath, where it gets “stuck” or where you find yourself losing your awareness. Thoughts will come in. Let them. Don’t judge them. Just let them float by like a leaf on a stream…
The point is to start where you are.
four no! FIVE of my favorite, proven, wonderful and twilight-anesthesia-like breathing meditation tactics in no rank, but just how they come to me… Do these sessions when you know you won’t be disturbed for at least seven minutes.
1) Alternate nostril breathing: This is maybe something you’d wanna do in private just because people will look at you funny…
Place your right hand on your face with your thumb closest to the right nostril and the index & middle fingers at the space between the brows and the ring finger by the left nostril.
Close off the left nostril — GENTLY — with the ring finger and you inhale through the right. when you get to the top of the breath, you pause, and you close off the right with the thumb and then you release the breath through the left side.
Then you inhale through the left with the right closed off.
When you get to the top of that breath, you close off the left, you pause, then release the thumb and release the breath through the right. (Y’see? We’re alternating here…)
Thoughts will come in. Let them. Don’t judge them. Just let them float by like a leaf on a stream… You go a few more rounds of this to get to 10 and then you just sit for a few moments and let your brain balance. It’s AWESOME. I would say that’s my favorite one. The benefit of ANB® can be found everywhere. Here’s a high level link: http://www.livestrong.com/article/86731-benefits-alternate-nostril-breathing/
2) Nose / Mouth in / out: Very simple and totally transformative…
Inhale through the nose, exhale through the nose.
Inhale through the mouth, exhale through the mouth.
Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth.
Inhale through the mouth, exhale through the nose.
Loop back up at the nose/nose and repeat at least four more times. Taking it to 10 would be ideal and really great. Thoughts will come in. Let them. Don’t judge them. Just let them float by like a leaf on a stream… I’d say that’s my favorite one.
I’m going to interrupt myself here® and say that the point of all of this breathing stuff is to get us to a relaxed state, to induce what’s known as the “parasympathetic nervous response” which is a fancy way of saying “out of fight or flight reflex,” which is a state many of us exist in on a daily basis. RAISE YOUR HAND!® if you know what I’m talking about.
3) Counted breaths: Inhale filling the lungs and then exhale mindfully, feeling the texture, the place of the breath, where you have catches and hitches… release the space between the brows. That’s one. Repeat… nine more times until you get to 10. Just think about the breath, how it feels, watch your shoulders for creeping up, any tension in the chest or hips. Just breathe and release. The point is staying with the count… it will do the work for you and take you into a nice relaxed state. Thoughts will come in. Let them. Don’t judge them. Just let them float by like a leaf on a stream… I would say this is my favorite.
4) Increase exhalation: Same concept as above, in terms of body and breath awareness, but with emphasis on the exhales as they deepen and increase in count.
Start on the inhale from 5 reversing to 1 (“1” being full lungs) and exhaling 5-1 (1 being empty lungs) and then increasing your exhales by 1 each time… each inhale, you’re probably increasing the volume of the air, but NOT the length of time it takes to get there, so there’s this conscious deepening and opening of the chest and shoulders rolling down and back as you choose to sit higher in the chest. Between each extended exhale, give yourself a your native breath in and native breath out — the goal is to remind you that you are in control of it, but that you’re noticing some changes.
WATCH YOUR JAW and EYEBROWS and SHOULDER! We can tense up here, and that’s what we want to avoid, so just do little check-ins with yourself (I prompt my students on these very body part awarenesses as we work in yoga with the breath) and as you learn to increase your exhales, you will feel yourself soften, I hope.
Thoughts will come in. Let them. Don’t judge them. Just let them float by like a leaf on a stream… Over time, as you near the fifth or sixth round, you might see that the volume of your air does not change, just your release of it and your awareness of it. I would say this is my favorite. Wanna get competitive? In for 10 our for 20. I heard on retreat that Tibetan monks do something like 30 / 60. But they don’t have carpool and deadlines to deal with.
5) 4-7-8: This might put you to sleep. It’s very simple: Inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. This one is sort of advanced, I’d say. Or I would definitely go to it for a high-intensity situation, or for insomnia. Thoughts will come in. Let them. Don’t judge them. Just let them float by like a leaf on a stream… Still keeping your mind aware of the breath, your posture, your jaw, brow and shoulders… letting the air flow as calmly as possible.
There are all sorts of alterations you can come up with: increase inhale, steady in and out breath… you can think of an alphabet letter with each breath; or an animal or fruit or state beginning with the alphabet letter you’re on… Thoughts will come in. Let them. Don’t judge them. Just let them float by like a leaf on a stream…
Oh — and what is Transcendental Meditation®? It’s chanting a two- or three-syllable word, like “pa-per” or “mu-sic” or “let-it-go” or “kay-ak” or “gui-tar” or “O-hi-o” or “med-i-tate” or “be-lieve” or “Je-sus” or “can-dle” or “foun-tain” or “A-bra-ham” or “A-men” or “shi-va” or “boom-er-ang” or “trade mark®” or “car wash” (honestly!) with the exhale. Just try to make the word something neutral or at least pleasant — not a food — that will take your mind off your mind. The TM® people like to say these are “sacred®” words® and that only they can give them to you and you can never share them… ” from the link below:
TM MANTRAS – SAVE YOUR DOLLARS!
Why would anyone pay maharishi $1000 for a word. In his early writings he said “any word, even the word mike can be taken…we find that any sound can serve our purpose of training the mind to become sharp…we select only the suitable mantras of personal gods. Such mantras fetch to us the grace of personal gods.”
If you want the grace of Maharishi ‘s personal gods here is the technique.
1) Pick a mantra from the following list used by *some* TM teachers:
but if you want to see some of them, go here. I love exposing things that I think are just trying to exploit people.
There is another (bazillion) methods; this one I like too, and it’s a lot like what I think TM® is. It’s called “Japa meditation” and it’s FREEEEEEEEE!®
So if you want to add a word or a chant to the five methods I gave above, go for it. Look, whatever works is what works. Or go with the super-popular “Om.” Really… anything.
You don’t need TM®; you just need two minutes at first, then three, then five, then ten then twenty… and who knows…
Oh! There’s a great app too, http://t2health.dcoe.mil/apps/breathe2relax — commissioned by the DoD in cooperation with the National Center for something or other. Anyway, it’s free and is designed to help our returning veterans recover from PTSD and battle fatigue and stress of reintegrating into American life… it’s amazing. Check it out. (I’m sure the TM® people hate it.)
As I said above, the point is to start where you are. I would love to hear from you about this post — tell me if you start a conscious breathing program and let me know what you think! I love that ®®®® sign.
Plus, you can just go on YouTube and search for a ton of free guided meditations to listen to. There’s no reason anyone has to pay to feel relaxed.
Now get out there and SIT STILL!®