Rory writes about his experience learning to meditate with Tim Brown, with whom he later went on to study teacher training. He took the four-day, mid-week version of the course.
Had my first session with Tim Brown teaching three of us Vedic Meditation today. I was wary about what I was getting into beforehand and sheepishly went to the florist to buy six flowers (of any kind) and a white handkerchief. We also had to bring three sweet pieces of fruit. These were used as an offering when Tim lit incense, dabbed water around and chanted the names of all the teachers in his lineage, in Sanskrit. His teacher's teacher was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the guy who taught the Beatles.
We were given our individual mantras, based on our age and stage of life. Mine felt right straight away and he repeated it a few times before I did, him asking me to say it more and more softly and then in my head. He spoke some more to the group and then we meditated.
The mantra seemed easier to keep in mind than concentrating on breathing, which I'd been doing for mindfulness meditation, but I had some confusion as to whether I should sync it with my breathing or not. (It doesn't matter.) I could feel my head relaxing more than it usually does with breath meditation and at one point it felt like I was on the edge of an abyss. This scared me and I pulled back and reaffirmed the mantra as I was unable or unwilling to let go. This was apparently the moment before transcendence and I will try to relax into it in future. If I lose control the worst that could happen is that I could flail around involuntarily or fall asleep. The benefits have to outweigh that! I felt good afterwards, for the next couple of hours, if a little tired.
Had the second session with Tim tonight and it was great. The group works well – I'm the quiet one, there is the serious, rather stern but attractive lawyer, and a lovably crazy forty-something actor who has tried lots of different meditations and beats himself up about getting things wrong as he's a perfectionist.
Tim was talking either yesterday or today about how the world is a mirror. You see on the outside what you are on the inside. Improve your state of consciousness and you will change what you see. If you change what you see you will change your actions and your world will change.
Tips on meditating:
Come to the mantra gently
If you have thoughts going on at the same time as the mantra just gently "prefer" the mantra to the thoughts
Don't use the mantra in waking life – only with eyes closed
It should be effortless
Hold the mantra loosely and let it become more abstract, which is what it will naturally do
Don't have expectations – the experience will be whatever you need it to be at that time – deep, shallow, which thoughts come out. You put the time aside and let your non-mind intelligence take over and sorts you out
Meditating is the best kind of charity – by taking care of yourself you will be nicer to others and they will thank you for it
In tonight's meditation I saw bright visuals and swirling colours from the beginning and throughout – trippy patterns and the shapes of flowers, images of water and drops of rain.
My mantra swam around and became visual shapes but was always comforting on my strange journey inside. At the peak, a kind of darkness descended over the front of my face and mind and there was a stillness, a near numbness after the stresses in the muscles of my face had worked themselves out. I felt myself lowering into something more like a snowy forest, which wasn't cold. There was a light dusting of snow and a feeling of inner peace. I felt a warmth in my stomach and a real feeling that I had reached somewhere, that this must be at least on the way to where I was supposed to get to. When I came out I made sure I did it slowly. I became much more relaxed in my chair and found the last ten minutes of the session filled with joy.*
What we learned in class today:
The mind is willing to favour the mantra and go deeper into itself because the mantra is the most "charming" thing available, and the mind always goes to the most charming thing available. With meditation it is trying to get to the blissful state of no thinking when you transcend, at which point that feeling is more charming than thought or the mantra. I don't think I've got there yet. Felt on the edge but held up by the back chat, the meta thought of being aware of the whole process. While trying to surrender to the mantra I was also simultaneously conscious of trying to have a good experience because we would have to share it with the others after and I wanted something decent to say.
Finished the meditation course and am feeling super chilled and have been on and off joyful all day.
Had an intense experience in the session. I seem to be able to go much deeper in the evening sessions – maybe morning is for letting off the fizz and evening for going deeper, for me at least. Or maybe it's being in the room with Tim and the others.
I felt myself going deeper and deeper, allowing the mantra to take on a visual element which made it more compelling for me. I'm supposed to always gently prefer the sound of the mantra but find myself spiralling more completely into the inner void if I allow a visual trace to remain. Anyway I was getting deeper and could feel the veil of no-thought descending over my mind as I have a few times now. When I got further the curtain seemed to drop more heavily and I felt I was sinking in some way. This was mildly disturbing but I went with it. Then I got a wave of energy come over me and what felt like a bubble of intense energy hit my chest. It threw me off and took me a while to settle myself down.
Afterwards Tim said it was a pulse of trapped energy releasing through a chakra. The chest/heart is the emotional centre so it was some suppressed emotion welling up. Don't know what it was but it's out now which must be a good thing. Don't analyse the content, just go with the results.
*I've rarely had such visual experiences since — but that's one of the great things about meditation, you never get the same experience twice. And what you do get is the experience you most need. As a novice what I needed was something spectacular and grabbing to entice me in.