Maya Kumits is a Vedic meditation teacher and a co-founder of The Spring, a meditation center in Manhattan, New York City. Maya learned to meditate to deal with the overwhelm that came with a demanding career in tech, which involved managing multiple software development teams while at the same time raising small children. Through her meditation practice she has experienced the benefits of reduced anxiety and insomnia, as well as a new enjoyment of life. She became a Vedic meditation teacher (after training in the foothills of the Himalayas) to share her experience with others. Clay Hamilton interviewed Maya in the summer of 2019.
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Briefly describe yourself as a meditation teacher.
I’m a Vedic Meditation teacher and Co-Founder of The Spring Meditation, a meditation center in SoHo, NYC. I’m also a mother of two teenage girls and technology professional specializing in building software and software development teams. My passion is to teach to work from a place of rest, not overwhelm.
How did you first learn to meditate and why/how did you become a meditation teacher?
I learned to meditate as a way to deal with overwhelm. I had a demanding job and was also raising two small children at the same time. I had severe anxiety and insomnia and wasn’t able to keep up with my responsibilities. All of that changed when I learned Vedic Meditation and started a daily meditation practice. I started to thrive at work, at home, and in life. Not only did my anxiety and insomnia go away, but life got better in every way. I became happier, friendlier, and more compassionate without even trying. The world became a friendlier place and I enjoyed living in it again. I became a teacher out of a desire to share Vedic Meditation with others.
What types of meditations have you studied or practised, and what method do you mainly use or teach now?
I tried a wide variety of styles in the past. Most of them required some sort of concentration or contemplation. None of the other styles “clicked” with me. I was either too uncomfortable or working too hard to focus on the practice to actually enjoy myself. Then I found Vedic Meditation and all of that changed. I could sit comfortably and practice a simple technique that was easy and effortless.
What is the greatest benefit you personally get from meditation?
The list of benefits I get from meditation is long – more happiness, more calm, and more creativity, just to name a few. When I initially learned to meditate, the greatest benefit I received was freedom from anxiety and insomnia. Prior to learning Vedic Meditation my body was in constant crisis-mode, so learning to meditate was priceless. Currently, the greatest benefit I receive from meditation is a sense of knowing – knowing what to do and when, knowing what to say and how to say it, knowing that everything is happening exactly as it should and viscerally knowing that everything will be ok.
Describe your ideal meditation session (location, length, outcome, etc)
Ideally, I meditate 20 minutes, twice a day. However, ideal isn’t always practical so I occasionally shorten my meditations to fit into my busy schedule and that’s ok – I don’t feel bad about it because any meditation is better than no meditation. I have no expectation or anticipation of what will happen during or after meditation. All I do is sit down, close my eyes, do the simple mental technique, and accept whatever I happen experience at that moment.
What do you think about guided meditation vs non-guided self-practice? Is one better or preferred, or does it depend on the individual, their goals and how much experience they have?
All styles of meditation are good. Vedic Meditation is a non-guided self-practice, which is my preference because: 1) it gives me the independence and freedom to meditate anywhere, anytime, 2) it gives me the flexibility to build it into my busy schedule as best as possible, and 3) I enjoy being self-sufficient. Anyone can do a non-guided self-practice because Vedic Meditation is a simple technique that is easy to do once you learn how.
What do you think about meditation retreats? What if someone can’t afford the financial or time commitment of a retreat, do you have any recommendations for them?
I think meditation retreats are nice if you have the time, money, and desire for it. I don’t think meditation retreats are necessary. They’re a nice add-on to a daily meditation practice but they don’t replace one. It’s easy to find calm in a retreat setting when you don’t have work, family or any of your daily responsibilities to take care of. Can you find calm in the midst of your chaotic days? You can with a daily meditation practice, like Vedic Meditation.
What misconceptions about meditation do you hear in the media or popular culture?
The most common misconception I hear is, “I can’t meditate because I can’t stop my mind from thinking.” No one can! We can’t will it to happen because the nature of the mind is to think – that’s what it’s meant to do. We can, however, find a place inside of us where the thoughts start to fall away. But just because it’s possible to occasionally find that quiet during meditation, doesn’t mean it’s the goal of meditation. Thoughts are very much a part of mediation. Even advanced meditators experience lots of thoughts during meditation.
Tell us about a favourite holiday, trip or journey.
When I was training to become a meditation teacher, I lived in India, in the base of the Himalayas, for 3.5 months. I felt very connected to nature there and the majestic mountains around me. I kept thinking about mountains and rocks and climbing. As soon as I came back home I joined a rock climbing gym and have been happily rock climbing since, both indoors and outdoors. It has quickly become my favorite sport.
What meditation books have you read and admired, re-read, or do you recommend to others (they can be directly or indirectly related to meditation)?
One of my favorite books is “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s a book about writing and creativity, not meditation, but it I find that it talks beautifully about things that many people experience when they establish a regular meditation practice. When stress dissipates from the body, people are more in tune with themselves and are able to notice subtle creative impulses that move through them. It’s important to mention that creativity isn’t limited to artists. All humans are creative. Inside of us there’s an endless well of not only creativity but also intelligence, fulfillment, gratitude, compassion, happiness etc. It’s available to everyone and I love showing people how to find it.
Tell us more about your preferred meditation technique and teaching style.
My studio co-founders and I teach Vedic Meditation courses each month at The Spring, located in Manhattan. Vedic Meditation is a simple, effortless technique that requires no focus or concentration. It involves silently using a “settling sound,” or mantra, to de-excite the mind and body so they can rest deeply and release stress. The technique is taught over the course of four consecutive days, 90 minutes per day. Vedic Meditation course graduates can meditate self-sufficiently without needing an app, guide, or book.
How can readers get in contact with you or find out more?
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[This interview is an extract. You can see Maya’s full interview, plus 29 more interviews, in the book How Do You Meditate? Interviews with 30 Meditation Teachers. Available from Amazon.]