There are as many ways to meditate as there are to prepare an egg -- perhaps even more. I love all of them. Meditation is the way to the peace within you, and sometimes meditation can be the peace itself. Why is it important to cultivate your inner peace? It is as important as you are. Your every thought, action and creation ripples through existence with a power and influence that is beyond the comprehension of a human mind. Can the world become more peaceful and harmonious without the people who populate it also embodying these qualities? Something that I love about meditation is its ability to help me remember that I am powerful. We are all powerful, and yet through failures, false beliefs and tragedies, it's easy to forget. Meditation is just one way to connect, empower and embody with the power inherent in each of us.
There is a type of meditation that seems to span the scope of human existence, and it has many different names. It's commonly and nearly universally known as mantra meditation, although you may have heard of it in other contexts, belief systems and languages as rosary prayer, TM, konvoskini, japa, chanting, subhah, tzitzit, among many others. While there are significant differences between all of these practices, what they share is crucial, and the topic of many scientific studies done at Harvard University for over 30 years: repetition.
The charismatic and passionate Mahirishi Mahesh Yogi popularized his mantra practice, called TM, in the U.S. in the 1970s. Many people felt the profound peace and clarity his teachings and practice awakened in their lives. One scientist at Harvard University, Herbert Benson, Ph.D., became curious and decided to see if it was the repetition of the Mahirishi's mantra, with his blessing, that was the key, or if those who were under the influence of differing belief systems, or no belief system at all, could have benefits as well. He studied repetition and scientifically documented benefits in practitioners of repetitive prayer, words, Tibetan mantras and even song. In his findings, it didn't seem to make much of a difference what was repeated, as long as it was repeated for a length of time on a regular basis.
His findings have been conclusive, and his work at Harvard is ongoing. Repetition for 10-20 minutes leads the human being into a relaxation response, that is to say, out of stress, and into a state that is conducive to the healing of the body and mind. Regardless of the type of repetition practice you have, and regardless of the word or words you choose to repeat, these benefits are certain: lower blood pressure, pain relief, increased motivation and productivity, better decision making, improved sleep, less anxiety, lower stress hormones, ease of awakening, increased immunity and the prevention of stress-related illness.
TM, the inspiration for Benson's research, continues on, even after Maharishi's death in 2008. TM is heavily organized, and this group has conducted their own studies on Maharishi's branded form of mantra practice, with remarkable and extensive findings.
To learn more about mantra repetition meditation, watch my video about the basics of mantra repetition meditation. Also, enjoy my Skype conversations with friends who practice in various ways: japa with the guidance of Ammachi, parts 1 and 2, mantra with the guidance of Baba Hari Dass, parts 1, 2 and 3, Catholic rosary, Greek Orthodox konvoskini and yogic mantra. I am also including links to various organizations that offer personal assistance in starting a mantra practice, which, if you are drawn to this type of meditative practice, I highly recommend seeking.
Part 1 of my Skype chat with Aaron Kahn, mantra meditator for one year, and an artist living in Paris, France:
Part 1 of my Skype chat with Jeanine Orci, Psy. D., mantra meditator for more than 30 years, Skyping from Los Angeles:
Resources for more repetition/mantra meditation (just a few ideas to start with):
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