I attended a lecture on Transcendental Meditation (TM) with my father tonight. He has been practicing this technique, which revolves around a given mantra, for nearly 40 years, going back to when the Beatles made it popular with the Western world. Growing up, I remember him sitting silently in his chair with his eyes closed. My friends and I would tip-toe past him as I’d casually explain, “My dad is meditating.” I’m sure many friends found it odd. But that was a normal sight in our household, my dad practicing TM.
Twenty-something years later, I’m grateful that my father emails me news on TM and invites me to events such as the one we attended tonight — even though I am not a practitioner. Although my four siblings and I are trained in TM, I no longer practice it on a regular basis. I stopped once I discovered yoga and found that it was a better path to “transcendence” for me. To each their own.
At tonight’s lecture, it was refreshing to hear the keynote speaker, Dr. Norman Rosenthal, essentially say just that: “There are ten thousand doors to dharma.” Here stood a fierce advocate for TM, armed with loads of scientific backup to its physical and mental benefits, telling people that it’s OK to explore other paths. He said TM is just one path to taming the “monkey brain” — that inner restlessness that effects focus and creates unnecessary stress. I loved this imagery, especially after witnessing these wild, hyperactive creatures first-hand in India, Tanzania and Costa Rica.
I also appreciated Dr. Rosenthal’s openness. I was anticipating a lecture that would stress a need to train the world in TM, delivered with preacher-style enthusiasm. But that’s not what I got. It was a relief. I also do my best to not impose yoga as the “only” or “best” solution to finding that inner oasis. I have an aversion to people who are imperialistic in their convictions — even when I agree with them — and want to be careful not to transform into one of those people. (Please, friends, tell me if I ever become that person.)
But back to this “monkey brain.” Let’s be honest: It’s a terrible epidemic in America. This is the era of texting and tweeting and 24-hour news and doing 15 things at once and everyone claiming ADD. When friends come to me an express a desire to try yoga, I’m pretty upfront: “Give it a try, it works for me. But it might not for you. Please don’t let it stop you from finding your own style of yoga.” Cooking, playing the guitar, painting — activities where you lose yourself in the moment can have a similar calming, centering effect. Dr. Rosenthal & Co. might not have the same sort of scientific backup to support it, but who cares.
Quiet the monkey brain in a way that works for you.