Summary: Vedic Meditation is a simple, natural, effortless and easily learned practice which can bring about a profound state of deep rest, relaxation and healing. This article examines the many benefits of Vedic Meditation, the major differences between it and other forms of meditation and the key features and techniques that make this life-enhancing system truly unique.
Ayurveda views the regular practice of meditation as being of great value in the maintenance of good health. Although there are many different types of meditation practices currently available, only a few specific techniques can be easily used by Westerners to bring about a profound sense of deep calm and inner peace. These stress reducing practices can be described collectively as ‘Vedic Meditation Techniques’ and they all have well proven, health promoting benefits
In the West we often think of meditation as involving some form of mind control, ‘Zen like’ concentration, visualisation, mindfulness or contemplation. Unfortunately none of these practices gives the profound state of deep rest needed for the release of stress and the healing of our physiology. However this state of ‘restful alertness’ can easily be obtained with no effort through Vedic meditation. Almost unbelievable – but true!
Benefits of Vedic Meditation
People who practice Vedic Meditation on a regular daily basis frequently report the following benefits:
- Feeling less stressed throughout a busy day
- Improved sleep patterns
- A sense of inner calm with less ‘reactions’ and more ‘thoughtful measured responses’ to challenging situations
- Improved relationships
- Increased creativity
- Better health – particularly for stress related problems such as high blood pressure
- More frequent experiences of happiness and spontaneous joy throughout the day
- Improved decision making
Whilst it may seem unlikely that such a simple, effortless technique would produce these results there’s considerable research to prove that this is indeed the case.
Vedic Meditation Techniques – an Overview
Before describing what Vedic meditation actually is, it is helpful to describe what it is not!
- Vedic meditation is most certainly not concentration or mind control
- Vedic meditation does not involve visualisation or using one’s imagination in any way
- It is not a mindfulness technique (where we are encouraged to ‘watch our thoughts’) neither is it ‘positive thinking’
- Vedic meditation is not a guided mediation technique , neither is it mantra japa
- Vedic meditation does not involve contemplation either
- We do not need to sit in any special yoga posture or position in order to practice it
- Vedic meditation does not require any changes in our religion or beliefs
So, having discussed what Vedic meditation is not, we will now examine some of its unique features.
- Firstly, Vedic meditation is a totally natural, effortless, simple technique. A great Vedic Saint said of it: ‘anyone who can think can also meditate’
- The technique can be practised sitting comfortably and easily in a chair with eyes closed – preferably for 20 minutes twice a day
- Vedic meditation is a mantra based technique. A mantra is a meaningless sound or Sanskrit word that we think effortlessly – just like we think any other thought. In this system personal mantras are given to individual students by fully trained teachers
- These techniques have withstood the long test of time and come from an ancient tradition and lineage of fully self-realised Masters. This tradition is honoured by the teacher during the instruction phase by a simple Vedic ceremony or puja
- Vedic meditation has many scientifically proven, well documented, health promoting, stress busting benefits
- These simple techniques can be practised anywhere – unlike guided meditations which need a player of some type
- The techniques are easy to learn – usually students become competent within a few hours (although some ‘checking’ in the first few months of practice with an experienced teacher is often helpful)
- Vedic meditation is a universal teaching that can benefit people of all ages (there are special ‘walking techniques’ for children). It works irrespective of their race, culture or religious beliefs
In India the restless mind is often described as the ‘monkey mind’ – always running here and there. How to make a monkey stay still? Just give it a banana. Think of the mantra as a ‘banana for the mind’ – something sweet, nourishing and appealing! In fact, the more you think it on a quiet level the more appealing it becomes. At more subtle levels of thought the mantra has its own unique charm.
Vedic Meditation Techniques – Details
In order to meditate the Vedic way we first need a personal mantra. We can only get that via a trained teacher and one-to-one tuition. Vedic meditation is also a subtle technique where we really need a teacher on hand to remove any obstacles and answer any questions we might have. However, here is the outline of the process – but it is not a substitute for personal tuition!
Firstly, we sit comfortably and easily and then close our eyes. It is better to not have eaten a big meal just before meditation or be ravenously hungry either. When we close our eyes, we notice some degree of quietness, some silence.
We then think the mantra in the same effortless way we would think any other thought. The mantra is really the vehicle on which the mind rides to those quieter levels of thinking. The mantra has subtle charm, so the mind follows it easily.
After a while we might notice that we are thinking about other things, for example, planning our day, work, family, etc.. This is perfectly natural! So at this point we gently reintroduce the mantra and the cyclical process, which is a natural mechanism for stress release, starts all over again. We do this without making any effort.
Towards the end of a 20 minute session, we might notice that our mind has settled down and our thoughts have become quieter and less intense. We might also feel a bit more relaxed in ourselves. Job done!
During meditation, it is perfectly OK to sometimes be thinking thoughts, sometimes be thinking the mantra, and sometimes be thinking both of them at the same time! Some people also find the mantra becomes louder or softer or morphs in some other way. No problem, we just ‘take it as it comes’. The key principle is that we never make an effort.
The above outlines the general procedure we use in the Vedic Meditation Technique, but we really need a personal teacher to answer our many individual questions – which naturally arise when we begin to meditate for the first time.
How to Learn Vedic Meditation
Although Vedic meditation is simple it is also a subtle technique, so it cannot be learned from books or YouTube videos. The personal mantra given to the student needs to be chosen by a skilled and experienced meditation teacher.
There are currently three key providers of these techniques in the West. All originate from the same Vedic tradition and all are very similar indeed (although costs may differ). Firstly, there is ‘Sahaj Samadhi Meditation’ taught by the Art of Living Organisation (founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar). Secondly there is the ‘Transcendental Meditation’ (TM) ™ technique taught by followers of the now deceased Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Thirdly (following the fragmentation of the official Transcendental Meditation Movement) there are now a number of independent teachers of these Vedic Meditation techniques who are not affiliated to any particular organisation or movement – you can find them via the Meditation Trust.