Who would make such a statement?
What a strange and provocative statement to be made by a former NHS Clinical Psychologist who has witnessed the most extreme experiences of ‘mental’ suffering in settings such as secure psychiatric hospitals.
Of course it needs some explanation. My personal experience and understanding has been rooted (as far back as the age of 6) in the knowledge of Yoga, to a certain extent passed on to me, and certainly triggered and developed by my father, Colin. Throughout my childhood he was deeply studying this knowledge (both experientially and intellectually) and now has around 30 years’ experience of teaching the ‘heart of yoga’. I have also since trained formally in this approach which is in fact very complementary to modern psychological therapy and theory. We now work together in the UK registered charity which he founded – The Meditation Trust (www.meditationtrust.com) to teach this most essential knowledge from the heart of Yoga – for me it is the missing jewel which is the absolute foundation for success with all other approaches in modern mainstream mental health services.
The Problem with the Mind is in the body
This knowledge of Yoga, was passed down in our tradition https://www.meditationtrust.com/origins-transcendental-meditation/ from Swami Brahmananda Saraswati to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (who spread this knowledge around the world with the technique of Transcendental Meditation, and became especially well known when he trained celebrities such as ‘The Beatles’ in his Ashram in India). For 60 years he expounded the understanding that the body is the reflector of consciousness. The turbulence in the mind is simply a reflection of the stress in our nervous systems. In fact, he stated the Yoga tradition’s assertion that the mind left to itself only knows bliss. Well of course that’s very hard for many people to believe….until they start to gradually experience glimpses of this as a result of regular transcendence during deep meditation and the resulting gradual dissolving of the stress from the physiology.
Stress in not something that happens to us
We often think of stress as ‘out there’ in an experience e.g. in the workplace, or in our relationships; and that this is causing us to feel ‘stressed’ – i.e. ‘the mind is stressed’. But the mind, or consciousness, cannot contain or hold onto stress. Pause and consider for a moment – where in consciousness exactly is the stress? Yes there are changes in the brain, and of course the whole body, when we have a ‘stress response’ or ‘fight-flight’ response.
As I’m sure you will know, when the body is faced with threat or danger the whole physiology goes out of homeostatic balance, gearing up to most effectively allow us to fight, flee or freeze in order to survive. This hyper-aroused state includes increased heart rate, muscle tension, fats and sugars releasing into the blood to create energy, digestive system shutting down (to conserve energy). Stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol etc.) flood into the nervous system. The executive functions of the brain (the clear decision making system) shuts down (we don’t need a decision in that state of emergency!) and the amygdala (the emotion centre of the brain) is on active heightened alert (on the lookout for danger). This is a very useful response to have when we need it! However we are facing far more challenge and stimulus than ever before (which repeatedly arouses this emergency system), but at the same time getting far less rest than ever before.
Rest is essential for allowing the body to regain its equilibrium. With not enough rest, the body remains out of balance and starts to accumulate fatigue and stress (an impression left in the nervous system) https://www.meditationtrust.com/transcendental-meditation-benefits-stress/ The exact way that this manifests on the surface will vary according to our body type and our genetic predispositions, but as the years go by if it is left to accumulate unchecked we may start to experience all kinds of physical health problems (e.g. blood pressure, digestive, heart, reproductive, skin….) but also in our mental health – e.g. the unfortunately most common problems in our society of anxiety and depression.
Heal the body to heal the mind
Yes, unfortunately current UK statistics show that approximately 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year, and in England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.
Modern psychology’s solution largely works on the level of our mental experience by increasing our awareness of our patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours, the way they interact, the early and ongoing experiences, which when triggered can start to manifest in pathological symptoms which no longer serve us. This is an absolutely valid and useful approach of course, and psychological therapies continue to help many millions of people manage their mental health. However modern psychology, at least in the field of Trauma, has started to recognise that the effects of past experience are held at a cellular level. This is in tune with the ancient universal knowledge of yoga that ‘the body is the reflector of consciousness’ – if we can purify and heal the body, this naturally starts to be experienced as not just a healthy mind in terms of absence of ‘mental illness’, but ultimately the expansion of consciousness and a mind which expresses its full potential with optimum clarity, creativity and intelligence.
Transcendence is the ‘heart of Yoga’ wisdom
Yoga is a body of knowledge with, at its heart, 8 limbs (‘Ashtanga’, as expounded by Patanjali over 2000 years ago) with, at its centre, transcendence, or the mind settling into silence. Yoga asana, the physical aspect, and pranayama breathing, when used mindfully (with full awareness and attention) together produce pratyahara, the next ‘limb’ of experience. Here attention is drawn spontaneously away from sensory experience, preparing us effectively for the stages of dharana, dhyana and Samadhi – the process of transcending.
Transcending is a very effortless, natural process if we allow it to be, through an effective technique using a suitable mantra, or sound, in the correct way. Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a technique which is most effective in allowing this natural process to occur https://www.meditationtrust.com/what-is-transcendental-meditation/ . The mind is allowed to settle down (or go beyond) the more active surface levels of the mind, and ultimately into deep silence at the source of thought. Because the mind and body have a very intimate connection, the body can’t help but respond, and the physiology goes into a state of deep rest which the research has found to be more than twice as deep as the rest gained during sleep. Deep rest is the complete and ultimate antidote to stress and fatigue, so its release is an immediate, automatic and natural response. With regular practice over time of just 20 minutes twice a day, the body, and hence the mind, starts to self-heal. https://www.meditationtrust.com/transcendental-meditation-benefits/ Research (and experience) has found that people struggling with a range of mental health diagnoses start to see improvements https://www.meditationtrust.com/transcendental-meditation-benefits-mental-health/ and move in the direction of optimal functioning.
Mindfulness and Beyond
And so the reason that we at the Meditation Trust are supporting Mental Health Awareness Week is to raise awareness that the foundations of positive mental health lie in the effortless art of transcendence. This is a natural process which we should all be experiencing spontaneously. It automatically supports and enhances the effects of any psychological therapy or approach which works on the thinking level (both conscious and sub-conscious). It is the process which follows and goes beyond mindfulness, freeing rather than managing the mind, to settle even beyond the sub-conscious into deep silence https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDW5plu2xmo . In partnering with More Yoga we are realising the mission of both organisations to spread the greater understanding that Yoga is a whole body of knowledge of which asanas (or postures) are one important, but not solitary aspect. By embracing all aspects of Yoga, we can all realise total health and wellbeing.
We very much look forward to meeting everyone (non-members welcome) at More Yoga in Greenwich on Wednesday 16th May (6.15pm to 8pm), and in their studios across London in the months to come, for our introductory workshop ‘Mindfulness and Beyond – exploring the deepest treasures of Yoga’s wisdom’, where these concepts and more will be discussed alongside some experiential practice. https://www.moreyoga.co.uk/events/mental-health-awareness-week/
The donation made on booking will be gratefully received by The Meditation Trust (Registered UK Charity) which makes this knowledge accessible and affordable to all. This includes our charitable projects in schools and sectors of society in greatest need such as those suffering the effects of trauma https://www.meditationtrust.com/about-the-meditation-trust/
The Meditation Trust’s full 3 day course in Transcendental Meditation is offered to the public at convenient local venues as well as residentially on retreat, deep in the tranquil countryside of Kent https://www.meditationtrust.com/latest-course-dates-venues/
Dr Gemma Beckley, The Meditation Trust
Dr Gemma Beckley is a qualified HCPC registered Clinical Psychologist with many years of experience working in the NHS (including teaching mindfulness) and for several years also a qualified independent teacher of transcendental meditation (‘TM’) for the Meditation Trust.
During Gemma’s career she has conducted research exploring the effects of TM on occupational stress, and also on anxiety, depression and well-being.
She has since taught TM privately to the general public who are often experiencing high levels of stress with a range of physical and mental health problems including anxiety, depression and insomnia. She is also the Director of the Trust’s Charitable Projects, which has involved teaching children in care and in schools both in the UK and developing countries.
Colin Beckley became an ‘expert’ on stress (from personal experience!) during his 20’s when he founded and built up a retailing company. Told by his GP in 1982 that he was addicted to his medication and probably be on it for the rest of his life, he learned TM and a few months later found himself spontaneously off the tablets. So impressed was he with the further results of his own personal practice, he went on to complete extensive TM teacher training, qualifying in 1990.
After a decade teaching for Maharishi’s organisation, he left them when prices to the public for TM were substantially increased. He founded the Meditation Trust charity in 2000, with the aim of making TM affordable for all, and has gone on to personally teach many thousands of people, together with Gemma also training new teachers.
Mindfulness & Beyond: An introductory workshop exploring mindfulness, transcendence and yoga
with Dr. Gemma Beckley, Psychologist, TM teacher and Director of The Meditation Trust
6.15 – 8.00pm | Wednesday 16th May | MoreYoga Greenwich Creekside | £5
An Interactive session (for beginners and experienced alike!) to broaden both understanding and experience of Mindfulness, which when combined with deep Meditation forms the ultimate stress-elimination programme. This combined programme, originally conceived as the Science of Yoga thousands of years ago, is now supported by extensive scientific research over the last 40 years.
This research is supported by millions of people around the world practicing the full programme who testify to its wide-ranging benefits, including: improved physical and mental health (e.g. reductions in anxiety, depression, heart disease, normalisation of blood pressure and weight), improved sleep, increased energy, creativity, productivity and clarity of thought.
Research has also indicated that regular practice of even just this first stage of mindfulness, introduced in this workshop, can start to result in some of these benefits.
In this preliminary session, a first step to the full programme, you will experience three different Mindfulness practices that can be used at home or at work.
And learn about:
- The real meaning of ‘stress’ – what it is and how we reduce it to improve all aspects of life.
- The 3 categories of Meditation, their processes and different effects on the Brain.
- Mindfulness within its current clinical and popular contexts, but also its original context as a preparation for Transcendence in the first stage of Astanga Yoga.
- Transcendence as the ultimate stage of Meditation and its effect on Personal and professional Life.
- Living “200%” of Life – the long-term benefits of the full programme.
All proceeds to The Meditation Trust – a registered UK charity making the transformative healing power of Transcendence accessible and affordable for all. Transcendence is Yoga’s ultimate foundation for success in all therapies for both mental and physical health – www.meditationtrust.com