On Sunday 13 May, the health pages of The Daily Mail featured an article, “The 8.15 train to Nirvana: How you can meditate your stresses away... even on the daily commute.”
The article, which covered nearly a full page, is a personal account by journalist Marianne Power about the benefits she has gained from Transcendental Meditation.
She begins by explaining how she heard about it: “Last summer I bumped into an old colleague. We hadn't seen each other for years and it transpired that in the previous 18 months, her mother had died of cancer, her father had moved in with her and she had been made redundant. Yet she seemed remarkably calm. How on earth was she coping? After joking about the healing power of gin, she admitted her secret: she had learned how to meditate.”
The article continues: “We have all read about the healing powers of meditation. Medical research has found that it can reduce the risk of everything from heart disease to strokes, depression and insomnia – but this was the first time I had seen its benefits up close.”
Power goes on to explain that soon she was meditating twice a day too – even managing to fit it in on train journeys to work. After mentioning some of the scientific research on Transcendental Meditation, including that showing reduced anxiety and depression, she says that most interesting to her was the ability of the technique to help counter the effects of stress.
“Before I bumped into my colleague,” she reveals, “I was running on empty. By day I was stressed by silly things that made me snap at people. By night I would try to unwind with too many hours of television and too many glasses of wine before lying awake in bed stewing over all my worries. I was run-down, got every cold going and at my very lowest points was prescribed antidepressants.”
“A warm bath for your brain”
She describes the experience during meditation as “beautifully relaxed” and different from waking, dreaming and sleep. “It's like a warm bath for your brain,” she writes.
The benefits were evident to her right from the start, as she explains: “After that first lesson, I felt calm and focused and that night I enjoyed a longer, deeper sleep than I've had since I was a child. And I've been sleeping well ever since.”
In the remainder of her report, she tells how her life has changed for the better: “The more I meditate, the less I seem to be bothered by things. Situations that would once have sent me into a tailspin no longer have the same effect. My heart doesn't race in the way it once did; I have become more calm and rational; my concentration at work has also improved. I think this is primarily because I am better rested and less stressed, but scans have shown that meditation actually increases the size of your hippocampus – the part of the brain associated with memory and learning. I also feel healthier.
“I have had only one cold in the past seven months. And then there are the less tangible changes, the ones to your personality and relationships. Friends have commented on the fact that I seem more relaxed. I certainly feel more content, less inclined to snap or overreact.
“So is this a miracle? Am I now the perfect person? Hardly. Like most of the good things in life, it takes work. Like going to the gym or eating well, you have to keep doing it even on days when you tell yourself you are too busy.
“I wish I'd been taught this at school – it's the best life skill I've ever learnt”
“I meditate for 20 minutes morning and night – after breakfast, and then at 4pm – and on days when that's not possible, on the train or in a taxi. Every little helps. It doesn't matter whether I close my eyes for two minutes or 20, when I open them I feel better.
“I have yet to experience the so-called 'bliss' that devotees talk about but I'm just so happy that I've found a tool that helps me perform well in the day and sleep better at night.
“I wish I'd been taught this at school – it's the best life skill I've ever learnt. But it's not cheap. When I turned up for the first open evening at my local TM centre (they're all over the country), I was told that fees were charged according to income. I would have to pay £490.
“But I did it – and it was the best money I've ever spent.”
Original article published in the Transcendental Meditation News.