Meditation made me a little bit less of a moody crankypants
Barry Egan tells how TM changed the way in which he looks at the world
There was a enlightening article in New York magazine last month about the self and how to improve our lives through inner and outer change. In it, Kathryn Schulz makes the point that perhaps human beings change the way the species evolves: through random variation.
"If that's the case," she writes, "then the strategy we've arrived at out of necessity might be the best one anyone could design. Try something. Better still, try everything – throw all the options at the occluding wall of the self and see what sticks. Meditation, marathon training, fasting, free-writing, hiking the Pacific Crest trail, speed dating, volunteering, moving to Auckland, redecorating the living room."
I've tried hiking, and redecorating the living room (with disastrous results many years ago – I painted the walls and doors red, like something out of a Salvador Dali bad dream; the landlord freaked); I finally settled on transcendental meditation.
At first I thought it was a bit crackpot, a new-age mumbo-jumbo. But once I stuck at it I began to see – this is the key word – change. Things became clearer. I hate to use words like clarity, epiphany or spirituality (I've always found that the people who used the word 'spiritual' about themselves can sometimes be high-class spoofers).
But doing TM did awaken something in me. I get less stressed. And once you keep meditating you tend to see the good in people and lose your capacity to judge people in any way other than a positive manner. Although there are possibly people who might disagree – my girlfriend, my sister, the copy-editors at the Sunday Independent – I think I am a little less of a moody crankypants because of TM.
I meditate twice a day for 20 minutes, morning and evening. It can be embarrassing sometimes when I'm on a plane, eyes closed and doing my mantra. But it helps me with a fear of flying – I used to have a large whiskey, which can be awkward at 7am when you are flying to have a breakfast interview with Prince in Paris.
I was introduced to the practice about five years ago. I tried it and it didn't work for me, primarily because I mediated a few times, then didn't do it for a week. A few months, later I interviewed one of my favourite film directors, David Lynch, and he told me how he had been practising TM for decades.
I went back to it, through Noel O'Neill, an incredible TM teacher in Monkstown, and have been doing TM ever since.
It has helped me with the recent deaths of my parents and any health problems. I don't catastrophise like I used to; I don't see every pain as cancer about to kill me.
TM helps settle the mind into a state of grace and restfulness.Ten years ago, if I or anyone else wrote a sentence such as "settles the mind into a state of grace and restfulness" I would have probably thrown up. But TM has kind of transcended me a bit. Whisper it: I am the transcending social columnist.
More than 40,000 people in Ireland practise TM; internationally known people such as Jerry Seinfeld, Paul McCartney et al practise it, too. With the recession rearing its ugly devil-head in this country and beyond, there is probably no better time to meditate than now. Anything has got to be better than listening to the dour sourpuss economists on the Vincent Browne show.
"Instead of being caught up on the surface level of negative repetitive thinking, we open ourselves up to the field of joy and happiness that exists inside everybody. The deep rest gained during TM helps us dissolve stress from the nervous system and makes the mind much more creative. Increased creativity and calmness allows us to deal in a much more positive way with whatever situation we find ourselves in," says Noel O'Neill.
"By now, hundreds of studies have confirmed the benefits of TM. Everything in life is coloured by the mind; the mind is your greatest friend or your worst enemy. If your happiness or sense of self-worth is only gauged by material objects, then you are in for a rocky ride in this life; you are like a leaf being tossed around by the wind.
"The oracle at Delphi said that the most important thing in life is 'To Know Thyself'. This is exactly what TM is, a technique to look inside ourselves and discover true joy and contentment, and bring it out and live life to the full."
Noel O'Neill is giving a free introductory talk on Thursday, at 7.30pm in the Stillorgan Park Hotel. Introductory talks are also available by appointment. Phone: (01) 2845742. www.transcend.ie www.facebook.com/transcend