What do shock-jock Howard Stern, billionaire investor Ray Dalio and the U.S. Army have in common?
They've all recognized the many physical, mental and emotional benefits that can come from regular practice of transcendental meditation (TM), a technique used to quiet the mind and achieve greater inner peace.
"(TM) is a way to simply enjoy a deeper value of your own inner self, your own inner consciousness and wakefulness, and then most importantly you can bring it out in the day and enjoy all the practical benefits of clarity of mind, efficiency, and all of that," explained Vancouver's William Ayling, who is delivering a free presentation on TM in Whistler this week with his wife, Deboragh Varnel.
Founded in India in the 1950s, TM is a technique for detaching from anxiety and stress that promotes self-actualization through meditation, mantra repetition and other yogic practices. Unlike some other forms of meditation, TM does not involve "concentration or controlling the mind," Ayling said, but instead allows your brain to revert to its naturally relaxed state.
TM has been recognized by researchers for its physical and psychological benefits, endorsed by the American Heart Association as a way to lower blood pressure, and is even used by the U.S. Army to treat PTSD.
"People today suffer from stress and anxiety so much, and you can mask it or suppress it or try to manage it, but the beautiful thing about TM is it actually changes your physiology," said Ayling. "Very profound, beneficial things happen very naturally that help people actually get rid of stress, not just manage it."
Unlike some other forms of meditation, TM requires one-on-one learning with a certified instructor to truly lean the technique.
"That's where it's different: you can't learn it off the Internet or from a book," Ayling said. "Even though it's a natural process ... it's still good to guide people through on a one-to-one basis, to answer any private questions, and to make sure they get it right and enjoy the benefits it promises."
Ayling discovered TM in 1970 and went on to practice under its founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Along with his wife, Ayling has taught TM to thousands of people in a wide variety of fields, be they business, health care, government and the armed forces. It's safe to say he's run into his fair share of doubters, although Ayling said they often come away with a fresh perspective on TM after only a few minutes of meditation.
"It's so fun as a teacher to have a skeptic come in and usually their first response after their first practice of it is that they never knew they could get so relaxed, so easily, so quickly," he said. "The neat thing about it is, even if you're skeptical, it still works."
In today's modern world, it's rare for people to enjoy true inner silence on a regular basis, which is why Ayling thinks TM has become so popular, with over six million practitioners worldwide.
"I think it's almost a need. The way the world is today, we're so outward," he said. "But people really enjoy just taking 20 minutes to let the mind come off of that outward, endlessly active part of life, and just enjoy some deep inner silence. The nice thing about TM is its efficiency; within 20 minutes, you go to very deep subtle levels of rest."
But TM's true goal is self-actualization.
"It's ultimately a technique for self-development," said Ayling. "These benefits don't come from some artificial way of thinking superimposed upon you, it comes from unfolding your own inner potential."
Ayling and Varnel will share 70 years of combined experience in TM, and introduce the mechanics of the technique along with some fun videos at Myrtle Philip on Thursday, Nov. 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.