14 May 1974 – How I started Meditation
Often you don’t notice when you pass over a threshold in your life, only later you realise the impact of a seemingly small step. But afterwards life is different from what it has been before.
14 May 1974 was such a day for me. And its 40th anniversary, which happens to coincide with Taurus Full Moon, the Vaisakh Festival, is thus a special personal festival, the start of my meditation journey. That day I was initiated into “TM”, the “Transcendental Meditation” of the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. So I’d like to tell you about the strange circumstances of this event.
Thomas or, as we called him, Tom and I were studying at the University of Münster, Germany. We felt much inspired by the Hippie movement – long hair, dancing to rock music, and of course, regular smoking of dope. When in April 74 I met Tom in his students’ hostel, he told me he had stopped smoking hash and started meditating: “Meditation gives you a ‘high’ that is better than smoking dope and your experience of listening to music will become better.”
Quite a strange motivation from today’s perspective but what Tom told me rose my interest. I just went through times of big changes – that April I had changed the direction of my studies from economics to philosophy and Romance studies. And together with 2 friends I had moved to live on a farm, our little “free community” which we had decorated with colourful paintings. We were doing experiments for what we called “expansion of consciousness”, with “macrobiotic food” and alternative lifestyle. I had tried meditation practices from Zen and autogenic training but without sticking to them.
Tom told me that the Maharishi was the guru of pop-stars like the Beatles or the Beach Boys – so he seemed to fit well into our hippie culture, also his outlook:
Extract of the passport of the Maharishi, from Wikipedia
At the university there were posters inviting for information lectures about TM; I went there end of April. The lecturing TM teacher said, “Before getting initiated into meditation you have to be ‘clean’ for at least 2 weeks, no hashish and alcohol.” I thought, ok, let’s give it a try. I didn’t suspect that it would profoundly change my life.
On 14 May I came with some fruits and flowers to the initiation. I loved the ceremony – the incense, the singing of the Sanskrit pooja and the waving of camphor light in front of a picture of Maharishi’s guru created an enchanting ambiance. When I was given a mantra as a “secret word”, I quickly dived into profound silence. It took some time to come up again – a very fascinating experience. It repeated during the next meditations – an inner call had surfaced. I told my clique of friends about it; some weeks later nearly all of them started meditating.
Quickly I decided to become a meditation teacher. It was also the start of a strange life parallel to my studies. It rose a lot of dreamy fantasies, fuelled by the TM movement and their lofty promises – cosmic consciousness? will take 5-6 years; Yogic levitation? “In 3, 4 years the meditators will fly over the Lake Lucerne”, I heard the Maharishi say 1978 in Seelisberg, Switzerland. (Here you might read two anecdotes of my time with the Maharishi or a post written at his passing and one about flying mystics.) I went through the whole TM career – TM teacher in 77, head of a TM “Academy of Vedic Science” in 78, “sidha”, “governor”. And after my MA exam I got a small job at the office of the “Maharishi European Research University” in the German TM headquarters in 81.
There I realised that my life was moving in a strange direction, leading me into a dream-world full of boosted claims in various garments. Some of my friends totally lost contact with physical reality, facts which were ignored by the TM people; they landed in psychiatric treatments or even committed suicide. I had profound meditation and energy experiences but at the same time observed great discrepancies between the teachings and the practices of human relations. So I decided to get off. 2nd August 1982 early morning, from one day to the other, I left the TM headquarters and movement never to return again. Turbulent months of reorientation followed.
But the fire of regular meditation twice daily had been kindled and I kept on, though the methods changed. My understanding of the path also underwent many changes. I still feel grateful to the Maharishi for having me taught the importance of rhythm and regularity and for having me given the initial spark for the search of the eternal wisdom.
I kept on experiencing a deep attraction and repulsion towards “Indian” spirituality – often a mix-up of profound wisdom and living experiences together with vacant “spiritual marketing claims”, self-centredness and ignored shadow-sides of “double standards” – these not being specific “Indian” shadow parts. Only slowly I gained discrimination and a deeper understanding – through practice and especially by observing Sri Kumar, my teacher, of the last 17 years. And I learnt how the “outer” experiences I go through are reflections of my own inner inclinations.
Meditation has accompanied me ever since the beginning, like a thread running through my life, linking me to the core.
A lotus, India 2012