Instead, you use a mantra (a seed-syllable or primordial sound) given to you by a TM teacher. The sounds used for mantras, which are derived from Sanskrit, do not have a verbal meaning, and thus are not intended to engage the cognitive mind. The mantra is a sound you say silently to yourself, which functions something like the ringing of a bell. Just as Benson used the word "ONE" in the sample directions given for the relaxation response, TM practitioners use their mantras to help still the mind when distracting thoughts intrude.
The internal chatter created by these thoughts is a normal occurrence. (What shall I wear this morning? How will I ever solve that problem at work?) But meditation time is not for working on problem solving. When the thought arises, you should acknowledge it, and then let it pass, silently repeating the mantra to yourself.
Eknath Easwaran, an Indian-born meditation teacher, philosopher and author, speaks of the purpose of the mantra in his book Meditation. He says, "Our aim, remember, is to drive the mantra to the deepest levels of consciousness, where it operates not as words but as healing power."10
For those who do not practice TM, some possible mantras from various traditions are:
Om Mani Padme Hum
Om Nima Shivaya
Tat twam asi
The Lord is My Shepherd
Thy Will Be Done
It is common for beginners at meditation (of all types) to experience a great deal of mental chatter and clutter. If this happens to you, it does not mean that you are doing anything wrong. Just notice each thought as it comes, and then let it pass on by, using the mantra to, as it were, break the spell. As a rule, people who are patient enough to continue the practice of meditation for months or years note gradual changes in the ratio between silence and internal chatter. Step by step, there is more silence and less chatter. Even experienced meditators, however, are likely to have periodic increases in the amount of internal chatter, especially in times of stress.
Deepak Chopra on Meditation and Health
Deepak Chopra, M.D., is a physician and author who practices TM. Trained as an endocrinologist, he now practices traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine (which emphasizes the use of herbs and meditation) in Massachusetts, and has authored several best-selling, highly influential books on holism, the best-known of which is Quantum Healing. Dr. Chopra also serves on a review panel for the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine.
In his book Unconditional Life: Discovering the Power to Fulfill Your Dreams, he provides a set of questions with which to evaluate meditative practices.
"There are any number of important issues to consider when evaluating a form of meditation—above all: Did my mind actually find the silence I was seeking? Was I psychologically comfortable during and after meditation? Did my old self begin to change as a result of having meditated? Is there more truth in my self?"11
For Dr. Chopra, TM provided what he sought. Similarly, I know people who have practiced TM for years, enjoy it greatly, and find it to be supportive of their physical well-being and personal growth.
I interviewed Dr. Chopra, and asked how he views the relationship between meditation and healing. His answer draws on some of the concepts explored in depth in Quantum Healing:
"Our bodies ultimately are fields of information, intelligence and energy. Quantum healing involves a shift in the fields of energy information, so as to bring about a correction in an idea that has gone wrong. So quantum healing involves healing one mode of consciousness, mind, to bring about changes in another mode of consciousness, body.
"Meditation is a very important aspect of all the approaches that one can use in quantum healing, because it allows you to experience your own source. When you experience your own source, you realize that you are not the patterns and eddies of desire and memory that flow and swirl in your consciousness. Although these patterns of desire and memory are the field of your manifestation, you are in fact not these swirling fluctuations of thought.
"You are the thinker behind the thought, the observer behind the observation, the flow of attention, the flow of awareness, the unbounded ocean of consciousness. When you have that on the experiential level, you spontaneously realize that you have choices, and that you can exercise these choices, not through some sheer will power, but spontaneously."12
I asked Chopra whether he felt that TM was superior to other forms of meditation, and his answer reflected a broadminded respect for other approaches:
"I feel that all forms of traditional meditation which are time-tested are worthwhile. My experience is with TM, therefore I am best qualified to speak about TM . . . My experience is that it is effortless, easy, spontaneous. It allows the mind to simply transcend to its source. This does not mean I think Zen is not a good form of meditation, or that Vipassana is not. They are all authentic forms of meditation. That is why they have survived over thousands of years."13
The quest for profound inner silence and stillness is the essence of meditation. Chopra illumines this beautifully in the following passage from Unconditional Life, as he converses with a patient who has had anxiety attacks since childhood. The man is concerned that he never actually experiences periods of silence in meditation.
" . . . But intellectually," I [Chopra] said, "you realize that the mind can be silent?"
"Not mine," he said.
''It's too quick."
"But even a quick mind has gaps between thoughts," I pointed out. "Each gap is like a tiny window onto silence, and through that window one actually contacts the source of the mind. As we're talking here now, there are gaps between our words, aren't there? When you meditate, you take a vertical dive into that gap."
"Sure, I can see that," he rejoined, "but I don't think I experience it in meditation." I asked him what he did experience. He said, "The only thing that makes meditation different from just sitting in a chair is that when I open my eyes after twenty minutes, I often feel that only two or three minutes have passed-I am intrigued by that."
"I said, 'But you see, this is the very best clue that you have gone beyond thought. When you don't have thoughts, there is silence. Silence does not occupy time, and in order to contact the Self, one has to go into the field of the timeless. Your mind might not be able to register this experience at first, because it is so accustomed to thinking. You may feel that time has simply flown by, or that it was lost somewhere. But the 'lost' time was actually spent immersed in the Self.'"14
Meditation as Taught by Edgar Cayce
The Cayce method was my first introduction to meditation, and is one to which I have returned in recent years. I am particularly attracted to its underlying intention-the integration of body, mind, and spirit. The goal of meditation, say the Cayce readings, goes beyond attunement within the individual; it includes service to humankind and a heightened relationship to God, or the Creative Forces.
"What is meditation? . . . it is the attuning of the mental body and the physical body to its spiritual source . . . it is the attuning of . . . physical and mental attributes seeking to know the relationships to the Maker. That is true meditation."15
Cayce said that we must learn to meditate, just as we once learned to walk. It is very important not to mistake beginnings for failures. We each must begin at the beginning, and should understand that we may falter in some of our early steps. The place to start, Cayce asserted, is not with technique but with an examination of our purpose. Find your ideal, he urged, so that your practice of meditation will be grounded in a positive purpose. This ideal might be "love," "compassion," "serving others," or any of a host of other worthwhile guiding principles. What matters most is that it truly be an ideal that embodies service, and that it be something you have a sincere commitment to live up to.
In her book, Healing Through Meditation and Prayer, Meredith Puryear offers a clear and concise introduction to Edgar Cayce's approach to meditation. Before laying out a specific set of directions, Puryear asks us to remember why we are meditating, and offers suggestions on how to enhance the effects of meditation. "When we ask how to meditate, the real question we are asking is: How do we learn to commune with God? The answer lies not in some technique, though every activity will have some form to it, but with the desire of the heart to know our oneness with Him. To awaken this desire we must feed our soul and mind a more spiritual diet. We must begin to take time to listen to beautiful, uplifting music, to read inspirational poetry and prose and the great scriptures of the ages: the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, the Bhagavad-Gita.
"Even five minutes a day with some uplifting word will change the direction of our lives. We must also make some real choices about the kind of reading, TV, and movie diet we choose . . . These choices involve voluntary use of time, energy, and money; they also entail involuntary glandular involvement, because the glandular centers and secretions play a part in every activity of our lives. With every activity in which we engage, we are building toward something either constructive or destructive. The choices themselves may at first be a matter of discipline; but as we continue to do with persistence what we know to do, we will find it becoming easier and easier, because the process of meditation or communion changes our desires, and we begin to want different things and activities than we had heretofore."16
The following set of directions for meditation is adapted from Puryear's book, which in turn is based on the Cayce readings.17
(1) Set the ideal.
(2) Set a time—be regular, persistent and patient.
(3) Prepare—physically, mentally, spiritually.
(4) Invite protection
A. Posture: spine straight (feet on floor, or lying on back, or sitting cross-legged)
B. Head-and-neck exercise (for these exercises, see p. ___)
C. Breathing exercise (for a few alternative preparatory breathing exercises, see "Alternate nostril breathing teachniques," p. ___)
Surround yourself with the consciousness of the presence of the Christ Spirit (alternatives might include surrounding yourself with the love of God, a pure white light, or any other healing and uplifting image or thought)
(5) Use an affirmation
Cayce recommended beginning with the Lord's Prayer. This may be followed by a specific affirmation, such as "Make me an instrument of Thy peace." (You may, as always, substitute an phrase which has deep meaning for you).
Return to the affirmation (or a shortened version of it) as distracting thoughts arise. Continue for 10-30 minutes, or whatever period of time feels intuitively appropriate to you.
(7) Pray for others
What is called the "affirmation" in these directions is the structural equivalent of the mantra in TM, and the word "One" in Dr. Benson's relaxation response method. It is the meditator's all-purpose tool, the one used for prying ourselves out of all the dead-end nooks and crannies the mind invents to distract us from the depths of silence, and the heights of revelation.
Edgar Cayce said that "meditation is listening to the Divine within."18 May we all become good listeners.
1 Dietnstfrey, Harris. Where Mind Meets Body, p. 31.
2 Murphy and Donovan, The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation, p. 27.
3 Ibid., p. 30.
4 Ibid., p. 15-18.
5 Brown, D.P., Engler, J. ÒThe Stages of Mindfulness Meditation: A Validation Study.
Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 1980, 12 (2), 143-192
6 McEvoy, T.M., Frumkin, L.R., Harkins, S.W. ÒEffects of Meditation on Brainstem Auditory Evoked Potentials.Ó International Journal of Neuroscience, 1980, 10, 165-170
7 Pagano, R.R., Frumkin, L.R. ÒThe effect of Transcendental Meditation on Right Hemisphere Functioning, Biofeedback and Self-Regulation, 1977, 2 (4) 407-415.
8 Pagano and Frumkin, Ibid.
9 Benson, The Relaxation Response, p. 162-163.
10 Easwaran, Eknath. Meditation. p. 71.
11 Chopra, Deepak. Unconditional Life, p. 161.
12 Redwood, Daniel, ÒThe Pathways Interview: Deepak Chopra,Ó Pathways, December 1991. pp. 5-7.
13 Ibid. p.7.
14 Chopra, op. cit.. p. 190.
15 Edgar Cayce Reading 281-41
16 Puryear, Healing through Meditation and Prayer, p. 4-5.
17 Ibid. p. 6
18 ECR 1861-19