As the UK slowly sheds its prehistoric attitudes to mental health, meditation is coming to the fore as an accessible and achievable way of improving both emotional and physical well-being.
The growing weight of evidence of its effectiveness in tackling all manner of mental and physical maladies make it an attractive prospect for all of the people whose internal monologue isn’t as measured or as supportive as they’d like it to be.
While business leaders have praised the way meditation helps them to deal with extreme levels of stress, the more artistic types have long waxed lyrical about it as a pathway to creativity.
I had attempted meditation in the past, in the less than stressful environs of Brighton Buddhist Centre, but enjoyable and pleasant as it was, I was unable to immediately tame my ‘monkey mind’, and blundered on with the chaotic maelstrom of life.
But then in June last year I was lucky enough to see Nick Cave perform a memorable show at the Brighton Dome, in which the engaging singer-songwriter espoused the benefits of Transcendental Meditation (TM), and cited it as a contributory factor in his continued recovery following the sudden loss of his 15-year-old son Arthur.
Cave has always been a hugely charismatic figure, but his openness and generosity of spirit in the face of such a harrowing experience, was remarkable, and he provided an incredibly positive and persuasive advert for TM.
Inspired by the words and positive actions of the former Godfather of Goth, I got in touch with the Brighton and Hove branch of Transcendental Meditation.
The worldwide organisation, developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and famously popularised in the UK by The Beatles, has taught its techniques to more than ten million people of all ages, cultures and religions, who learn to meditate in the hope of attaining inner peace and wellness.
Those techniques are simplicity itself, based on the silent recital of a mantra, whilst seated, for 20 minutes, twice a day.
Film director David Lynch, a passionate advocate of TM, has not missed a single twice-daily meditation in more than 45 years, and has said it has given him ‘effortless access to unlimited reserves of energy, creativity and happiness deep within’.
For Sussex residents the pursuit of that happiness begins in the suitably serene surroundings where Mark Heath teaches the principles of Transcendental Meditation in the cosiest and most welcoming of venues at the Brighton and Hove TM Centre on the northern outskirts of Brighton.
An enjoyable one-to-one session included a simple ceremony where I was given my very own personal mantra and immediately encouraged to embark upon the aforementioned twice-daily meditations.
It was easy as it sounds. And within days, something resembling a meditative state, was, at least intermittently, accessible.
The following week I attended small group sessions with other people who had also just begun their Transcendental Meditation journey, where we discussed our early experiences and Mark, with great enthusiasm and patience, answered our questions.
He also explained the theoretical principles, which he said would subconsciously stop the brain questioning the process and help TM to do its thing.
The mantra is key, obviously, and TM accepts that you won’t immediately be able to banish all other thoughts, but in the moments between the mantra and random thought, will, hopefully, be the moments when you transcend thought.
There were also plenty of great group meditations (which are available on an open-ended basis after the course concluded) and Mark proved to be the perfect guide, full of warmth and the second great advert for TM I’ve encountered.
A month on from completing the course, and looking forward to more group meditations, I’m largely sticking to the twice-daily programme (sometimes life gets in the way) and noticing some benefits and hopeful for more in the future.
I’m miles away from the beatific glow which seems to come across Mark’s face the moment he begins to meditate, and I haven’t quite reached the joyful depths that David Lynch luxuriates in on a twice-daily basis, but I’m happy in the spiritual beginners pool and poised to go deeper...
To find out more about TM vist: [uk.tm.org/brighton|uk.tm.org/brighton]
By Steve Holloway