Kern: The ocean inside us all

What if I told you that peace is a choice?

Matthew Kern, Managing Editor

I’ve never understood the philosophy of exercise. The body seems to me to be so inefficiently designed; we lose our physical power without practice. 

What is the point? 

Especially in the modern world today, it seems as if (pardon the repetition) the exercise of exercise is one of futility.

I did not appreciate exercise until I began to meditate.

The endeavors I often embark on are ones of the mind. I love to read, to learn new things, to practice science and mathematics, and to make art. Neither my body nor my mind have ever felt to be entities entirely within my control, but practices of the mind have always flowed more succinctly from my motivations.

At the same time, however, I struggle with mental illness. Severe anxiety runs in my family, like a marathon in every new generation, yet I come from a household unprepared for the extremity of my condition. It’s not unfair to say that I spend nearly as many thoughts on monitoring my mental health as I do on anything else. When the alternatives can be severe, you adapt to the fear; you take any coping mechanisms which serve you and run with them.

Thus, meditation comes into play. 

I remember reading the “Upanishads’’ shortly after graduating highschool. For those unfamiliar, this is a Hindu text, one of the central writings of the religion, which describes in some detail how to live a life of yoga, in unison with the world around. One central expectation of the yogic life is that of meditation, or exercise of the mind. I was very inspired to learn meditation from a trained professional after reading the” Upanishads,” yet for years was scared to make the leap. 

It actually was not until I began my interest in pursuing film that I finally decided to learn meditation. My inspiration was “Eraserhead,” or more specifically its director, David Lynch. I was in awe of Lynch’s ability to so superbly translate his innermost thoughts into art, and had to know how he did it. I bought each of his books, watched hours of his interviews and binged “Twin Peaks” again. The single thread I was able to pull from this amalgamation of content was his consistent emphasis on the benefits of meditation, specifically Transcendental Meditation (TM.)

TM is a reimagining of traditional Hindu meditation techniques, translated for the modern world by physicist-turned-Guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the mid-Twentieth Century. What is especially fascinating about the practice is its basis in science. Numerous studies conducted on practitioners of TM have found that they are less averse to the effects of stress. On average, they are healthier, and more satisfied with their lives. Neuroscientists have even conducted lab studies on those who practice the technique and found that the activation of neurons in the brains of smeditators is much higher than in the average brain.

As for how it feels, TM is better than the best antidepressant. It breaks down the monotony of everyday life, shrinking the cascade of negativity that comes with its stressors. TM provides the mind a home, in some respects. When the mind knows it has a place to return to, a place where it may relax, the hell which lingers in the shadow of everyday deprexiety seems to melt away. Simply put, life feels so much smaller, and yet consciousness seems so much larger. 

I feel more empowered than ever to pursue happiness. Again, referring to its scientific basis, experiencing TM is experiencing literally a new state of of consciousness. Almost like a drug, without the consequences.

I learned TM from instructor, or guru if you prefer, James Cahaney at the Transcendental Meditation center in Troy. The center itself is beautifully designed, the perfect place to sit on a summer afternoon and enjoy the air. Since then, I feel as if my life has changed. I sit for twenty minutes, twice a day, and meditate. I feel my tensions ease, and pathways to new ideas start to form. 

There’s a Bruce Lee quote that I love: “When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water, my friend.” This is what it feels like to become water.

The mind is a muscle that must be trained, meditation is its exercise. I know now why people spend their time running from invisible predators and lifting stones only to put them back down. The purpose is training, development and growth. It is possible to train the mind in such a way, and has been for me, necessary to maintain mental health. I would recommend the same to anyone. I believe we might have a better world if everyone knew TM.