On June 5th, 6th, and 7th 2013 Anthea and I attended a course in Transcendental Meditation led by Colin Beckley with help from his wife, Sue, and their daughter, Jemma. The courses take place in the wondrous Oxon Hoath, which they hire. (We were there after a gang of French insurance executives.) ‘T.M.’ is the ancient form of meditation popularised by the Beatles after their meetings with its leading teacher, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
I must just mention that my autobiography (soon to be published by Authorsonline) features a piece on meditation which will form Newsletter 49. The reason I went on the course was that, although I’ve been meditating on and off for twenty-odd years, I’d recently lost my faith in it.
Colin was an inspirational leader. He’s comfortable about revealing that, when he learned T.M. in 1982, it cured him of stress-related dependency on alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs. His brochure continues ‘After extensive training he qualified as a TM teacher in 1990 and went on to run one of Maharishi’s Ayur-Veda health centres but resigned in 1999 because he disagreed with the dramatic increase in prices charged for TM instruction. In 2000 he founded the Meditation Trust and, assisted by his wife, Sue, has taught thousands of people to meditate’. He might have added that another reason for his resignation was that they refused to adopt his suggestion of a sliding scale for tuition fees according to the client’s ability to pay – a policy Colin now has in place.
My first contact with Colin was an individual initiation which included us standing in front of a kind of shrine featuring a photo of Maharishi. Colin intoned from memory a page or two of what he told me was Sanskrit. When he stopped, I assumed the initiation was over and said ‘Hey, Colin … for all I know that could have been ‘Jailhouse Rock’. What were you talking about?’ I was wrong. Without a flicker he continued ‘And now let’s sit and close our eyes’. A key moment in the initiation came when he whispered to me my very own personal mantra … a Sanskrit word of two syllables. He told me never to divulge my mantra to anyone. It’s a sort of meditation pin number. I’m very fond of it and during meditation it constantly protects me from intrusive thoughts.
I feel as if I could write lots about the course but I’m trying to keep it to reasonable Newsletter length, The structure tended to be Colin eloquently introducing aspects of T.M., encouraging questions and comments and responding to them instinctively and openly, and feeding off answers to questionnaires we filled in there and then. I asked him about something he often mentioned – ‘the power of meditation’. ‘The power to do what?’
He referred to well evidenced benefits from group TM preventing a war in Lebanon to personal meditation eliminating stress, furthering our progress towards self identity, and lending succour to our endeavours. I remembered the case of a group meditation in New York temporarily lowering the crime rate.
I’d wondered who’d be there. Our group of 25 at a guess averaged late forties, two thirds were women, they were dressed uncontroversially, and could have been teachers or social workers. One couple were bikers, two woman friends, one 6 foot 5 tall, were self-styled housewives from Wensleydale, one woman was a civil engineer. Most contributions were made by a persistent minority.
Colin quickly restored my faith in meditation by his insistence and charisma. TM introduced me to two new ideas: the mantra, and a more laid back approach to intrusive thoughts … instead of devising ways of banishing them why not accommodate them? Let the meditation be. They’ll wander off in their own good time. Colin refreshed my belief in the many benefits of meditation from the global to the personal.
The course ended, as it had begun, with an individual consultation with Colin. He checked that I’d remembered my mantra. All OK. I said ‘It’s a rare and welcome experience to sit at the feet of a guru. You’re my fifth’. He replied ‘We’re all gurus’.
Anthea and I usually do TM meditations of 20 minutes before breakfast and before dinner with a momentum gained from Colin’s energy and a confidence that the practice will continue forever.
Perhaps because of the course I’ve made a couple of discoveries recently. When I get intrusive thoughts, I stretch my head very slowly backwards and forwards and side to side. As in yoga the thoughts disappear. Second, when silence arrives, it can be a bit of a surprise – especially for beginners. That and intrusive thoughts come about because we’re in observer mode. Kick the observer into touch. Become the silence.