As I mentioned in the Deepak Chopra post, he unexpectedly taught everyone in the audience (hundreds) to meditate during the second half of his talk. I found this particularly interesting as meditation is usually taught one on one due to its experiential nature. I taught it myself many years ago. You walk someone through the experience. But I had heard stories of sages teaching hundreds at a time. Now I’d seen an example.
I’m not sure I would call it a great example. It was rushed. The meditation was just a couple of minutes long. I’m not even sure if people realized what he had just offered them. And he gave very little background to support the practice. I’d probably have talked about it a little more, perhaps given people a handout with tips. Little stuff like what to do about noise, sleep, pets, emotional responses, and so forth. With no support, it can be as quickly lost as it came.
Of course, I’d also be very curious how may people had a samadhi experience. It’s very common for first time but less so in just a couple of minutes.
Usually, effortless meditation practices like this are taught over the course of several days, about an hour each day. Learning it is very easy and quick. But it is also very easy for effort to creep in. Pushing against thoughts, trying to hold the mantra and so forth. Rather than discovering the inner silence, you get a headache. So the meetings are useful for verifying the first days of practice.
The Chopra Center normally charges about $375 to formally learn meditation, over $700 if you take a retreat and learn yoga and Ayurveda too. The similar TM is $1500, down from even more. I don’t know how similar what he taught is to the formal instruction. But it is the core of an effortless practice.
In that minute or so, he actually taught 3 techniques, an opening of gratitude, meditation, and a closing body awareness technique. I’m a big proponent of gratitude.
What he did (from notes):
Close the eyes
Put your attention in the heart, experience gratitude.
Say Ah hum [the mantra]
silently. (meditated a couple of minutes)
Do this for 20′ at home
Then all body awareness, the idea that the body is intelligent.
If you’ve never meditated, your response to this might be huh? That’s it? That’s the key to enlightenment? Yep. But for it to work it has to stay that simple.
You don’t speak the mantra out loud after you start. It stays “inside” and gets subtler. Speaking it out breaks the inner-directed habit of the vehicle.
Deepak then made a couple of quick comments about handling thoughts. Just allow the thoughts to come up. If you notice you’re not thinking the mantra, remember it. Allow. Don’t try.
He also mentioned to “return to the body or remember an experience of love.” The second appears to be an alternate closing. Didn’t quite catch the reference.
You could simplify this by just doing the mantra part, but heart culturing is a nice idea. I’ve talked about related ones here before. The body awareness technique is not like Benson’s Relaxation Response. This one is ‘all body’ awareness, not feeling the body.
For comparison, in her Answers, Part 1 book, Mother Meera describes a practice. She agrees that meditation is important and suggests a half hour. You close your eyes in silence and do japa. (repeat a mantra) One should not strain or try to achieve something. For a mantra, she suggests a divine name. Whatever comes to you easily and spontaneously is good. “It should give a strong feeling and be like music flowing from the heart.”
In Chopra’s practice, one is using a Bija or seed mantra. Some other practices use longer phrases of devotion. And some like Mother Meera’s uses the name of ones personal god or ishta-devata with whom we are well attuned. The key difference is that a more devotional practice uses mantras with meaning. Unless the devotion is deep, the practice will tend to remain superficial. With a seed mantra, the practice does not dwell on meaning and can thus go deeper. In Chopra’s, culturing the heart is a separate part of the practice. For most westerners, I’d lean to that style to be more effective.
Best bet is a meditation instructor to walk you through the process and get the habit correct and well established. It’s money well spent. I’ve been using my practice for over 35 years – probably the most cost-effective thing I’ve ever paid for. Even at $1500, it becomes a pennies a day proposition over a lifetime. And it is the most important part of any spiritual practice – something to connect you with silence, with who you are.
That’s why we’re here.