In my first year as a research student in Sydney, I was a resident tutor in St Andrew’s College at Sydney University. It was at the time when the Beatles were becoming very successful. Every Friday we would gather in the flat of a fellow tutor to hear the release of the latest Beatles’ single. These would often hit number one in the charts. Later, the Beatles become interested in the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and travelled to India to stay in his ashram for a time. I was dabbling in meditation at the time but with no connection to any group or teacher. When the newspapers announced that the Maharishi was coming to Sydney, I went to the Trocadero Ballroom with thousands of others to see him. That ballroom has since been demolished for the construction of a cinema complex. The talk was due to start at around 8pm and we all waited patiently. About 45 minutes later, there was a buzz and the Maharishi walked up the centre aisle to the stage beeming at everybody. He was carrying a large bunch of flowers almost as big as him.
He settled cross legged on a large cushion on the stage by himself and said: “I am going to talk about Love”; and he did for an hour and a half. I cannot remember anything he said in that time, but the feeling afterwards was profound. Everyone there was bathed in the energy that he brought through. I did not have the concepts at the time, but I had been in the presence of a realized being for the first time in my life.
I arranged to be initiated into Transcendental Meditation and was fortunate to be initiated by the Maharishi himself in a small hotel room in Sydney. In his tradition it was customary to make an offering of fruit and cloth, so I took a banana and a new handkerchief. The initiation is simple: the teacher senses your energy makeup and chooses a mantra for you. He then instructs you on introducing the mantra and gently mentally repeating it. If thought takes over, you simply reintroduce the mantra and continue. The mantra is usually a single syllable Sanskrit word which has a vibration that matches your own. You don’t know its meaning so the mind cannot start creating thought around it. A meditation session can be just 20 minutes and can be practised in any quiet spot. The Maharishi’s guru, Brahmananda Saraswati, saw the need for a simple meditation practice which would be suitable for people in the Western world and asked his student to formulate and introduce it around the world.
Much is written about why this works and the Maharishi has some beautiful stories to illustrate this. Essentially, the mantra has an energetic ‘charm’ to it. It is there in the mind with normal thoughts but it takes the mind into deeper levels of itself. As it does, the normal thoughts tend to fall away and the mantra is just there gently repeating by itself. If there is enough stillness produced, the mantra too will stop and your centre of awareness will plunge deep into your consciousness. When this first starts to occur, you are in new territory and the mind will bring you back towards surface thought quite quickly.
After only about a week, I was meditating by myself and aware of being calm, when suddenly I was aware of being in a very different state. I knew then that something had happened in me that had never happened before and it was profoundly different than anything I had experienced before. From what I now know, the practice had succeeded in taking my point of awareness deep into my being and I had touched something that I brought back with me. It was this that showed me that something brand new had happened. There was no conscious recall of what it was like to be there. I have had many experiences in meditation since of going into very refined states and having some ability to attempt to describe them. This was totally different and it is this type of experience which leads to the real changes in your makeup.
The way the Maharishi explained the initial calming effect of the mantra, is that is like being in a room with various sources of noise; but in the corner there is a radio which is quietly playing some really charming music. The mind then starts to filter out the noise and homes in on the charming vibration. He likens the plunge to dying cloth by hand. You have a container with some liquid dye at the bottom. If you just place the cloth in the container without ever touching the dye, nothing will happen. If you can go deep enough that the cloth is immersed in the dye, the cloth begins to take on the substance in the dye. If this is repeated – dipping into the dye and bringing it out to dry, then dipping it in again, the cloth takes on the new colour vibration.
I began going to some of the Transcendental Meditation groups in Sydney and met some of the teachers who led us students to progress. I could feel myself changing and becoming established in the practice of being still in myself. After several years, I felt TM had done its work for me and went into a period of fairly normal life, with no structured practices.