Vedic Meditation is the oldest technique in the world and one of the most efficient and powerful ways to rest the nervous system. If you ever wanted to start to meditate but never have enough time, then this technique is for you – all you need is 20 minutes in the morning and evening. I talk to Jillian Lavender and Michael Miller, founders of London Meditation Centre and New York Meditation Center. We discuss how to stay focused, reducing stress and anxiety, how to sleep better, how to be healthier and how to get along better with people through Vedic Meditation.
Jillian, Michael, can you tell us a bit about your background to introduce yourself?
Michael – I first tried meditation at university in 1988. I found it fascinating and continued to explore meditation, yoga, martial arts, and alternative therapies (alongside a career in business) for more than a decade.
In 2003 I was living in Los Angeles and managing the creative department of an entertainment magazine. It was exciting and inspiring work, but I was starting to feel the impact of working and playing hard.
Then a friend learned Vedic Meditation. I saw positive changes in just a few weeks, so I decided to try as well. Immediately I was feeling less stressed, getting more done, and sleeping better. The benefits were so clear, I never went back!
After about a year, I had a conversation with my teacher (world-renowned expert Thom Knoles). He suggested that I become a teacher myself. That led to another two years of study and several extended trips to India. Finally, in July of 2007, I undertook a three-month residential training programme and began a full-time teaching career. In early 2008, Jillian and I founded London Meditation Centre and New York Meditation Center.
Since then I’ve spoken to more than 6,000 people about meditation, stress, creativity, neuroscience and peak performance. I’ve presented to tech companies, non-profits, government institutions and business organizations. And I’ve taught thousands of people to be self-sufficient meditators and get the same benefits that inspired me.
Jillian – When I learned to meditate back in 1995 I had no idea that I would end up being a full-time meditation teacher. At the time I was walking right up to the line of major burnout. Living in Sydney, setting up a publishing company, spending my life on a plane. I felt tired and stressed.
On the recommendation of a friend I took the course and from that point things changed for me in a big way. My life was still full-on but I could handle it. I wasn’t exhausted. I felt the anxiety melt away. I was better at my job and I was nicer to be around. And I knew it was meditation that was making the difference.
Fast-forward five years and (after a stint in Paris) I was living in London and looking for a change. I quit the big CEO job and travelled for a year. Then I took up the invitation of my teacher, Thom Knoles, to train with him one-on-one in the U.S. and India. In 2003 I graduated and came back to London to start teaching.
In 2005 Michael and I met in India on a retreat and after some long-distance back and forth he moved from LA to London. We live together, teach together and have a daughter so we are partners in every sense.
India is special for us and we’re there at least once a year to teach and study. I feel grateful to be able to teach Vedic Meditation. Helping people be their best has always been the thing that motivates me. In my experience meditation is the tool that has the power to transform. I love seeing that process play out with our students.
When did you realise that meditation is your passion?
Jillian – For me, Vedic Meditation very quickly became something that I relied upon in my work and personal life. I particularly felt the impact it was having when I was working in Paris and running a large company – foreign language, different culture, intense environment, lots of challenges, away from home. It was my number one tool to keep me sane and healthy, and I could see how other people really needed this too. I don’t remember making a conscious decision to become a Vedic Meditation teacher — it was something I was naturally drawn to over a period of a few years.
What challenges have you faced on the way to becoming Meditation experts?
Whilst the need for meditation is huge, there’s still a lot of misunderstanding about what it is and how it works. When we first started teaching, topics such as mental illness and stress were not as widely spoken of, and meditation was distinctly weird for many. This has changed a lot in the last ten years, which is great. More people have tried some form of meditation-like experience. And, there’s still a lot of confusion about what correct meditation involves. This is understandable given that there are a lot of things out there that are labelled as meditation, and people are desperate for natural ways to feel less stressed and anxious. A big part of our work involves educating and inspiring people about why Vedic Meditation is such a fundamental tool in this modern age.
How did you come up with the idea for London Meditation Centre and New York Meditation Center?
We started in London as we were based there at the time, and there is a concentration of English speaking people who are open, curious and in need of tools to get rid of stress, sleep better and have more energy. We were also doing some consulting work in New York, and teaching there on the side. Very quickly the balance shifted, and we began teaching in New York more regularly to meet the demand. These are two very demanding cities to live in and it’s so easy to be overwhelmed. It’s no surprise people are becoming more receptive to tools like Vedic Meditation.
What did you discover entering the meditation business?
People need it and when they find it, they love it.
Within your corporate meditation, what type of companies are you currently working with?
We tend to work with companies where a senior executive or founder is practising Vedic Meditation. They have a more direct mandate to influence the environment for their staff. And, because they get it and value it, they’re more open to supporting their staff in accessing this kind of knowledge. It’s in their interests to have teams who are more energised, creative, healthy and happy.
What is your unique approach and what sets you apart from others who work in your field?
Our commitment to our students and to the ancient tradition of knowledge from where we get meditation, is to teach properly. This means we teach in-person and we stick to a time-tested course structure. We’re not interested in cutting corners in ways that undermine the experience in aid of a quick fix. That said, learning Vedic Meditation is easy, and it doesn’t take that long. Four two-hour sessions, and you have a tool for life. This is life-changing knowledge and it’s important that we take care to get it right in the beginning. Time and again, we see people who haven’t had such a smooth start and it only ends up slowing down their progress.
What is Vedic Meditation and for whom do you recommend it?
We recommend Vedic Meditation to anyone who is open and interested — this is a universal technique that works for everyone. If you can think, you can meditate.
Vedic Meditation is the oldest technique in the world. It comes from the Veda, an ancient body of knowledge from India. The Veda is the source of yoga, meditation, and Ayurvedic medicine and is the basis of all Eastern philosophy.
When you learn to meditate you learn a mantra—a simple meaningless sound—that you repeat silently. The mantra quiets the mind and takes you to a settled state. As your mind settles, your body begins to rest more deeply than sleep.
Vedic Meditation is effortless and natural. You simply sit in a chair with your eyes closed for about 20 minutes in the morning and again in the early evening.
Vedic Meditation doesn’t involve any concentration or effort to try and silence the mind. Rather than setting up a battle with the mind, we work with the nature of the mind – the mantra pulls the mind into quieter, deeper levels automatically and easily. This is why Vedic Meditation is one of the most efficient and powerful ways to rest the nervous system.
Our students find that 20 minutes is very do-able in the midst of their busy lives. And most importantly, they can meditate anywhere. Planes, trains, buses, hotel lobbies or a park bench. Anywhere you can sit and safely close the eyes, you can meditate.
In your opinion, do you think Vedic Meditation has a positive impact on mental health?
Absolutely. And it’s not simply our opinion. There is an abundance of scientific evidence that shows this to be true. How you are in your mind will affect every aspect of your health and wellbeing.
The benefits of Vedic Meditation are all-encompassing – every aspect of mind, body and behaviour are positively impacted.
Here are some highlights:
- Reduce stress and anxiety
Meditation cuts back your stress chemistry (like cortisol and adrenaline) and replaces it with natural bliss chemistry (like dopamine and serotonin).
- Brings clarity and focus
Meditation develops full-brain functioning. Your prefrontal cortex is activated, alpha waves increase and the neurophysiology changes so you think clearly and make good decisions.
- Better sleep and more energy overall
The very deep rest of meditation does two things: gives you lots of energy and calms your system so you can fall asleep (and stay asleep!)
- Be healthier and younger
Stress weakens your immune system and speeds up ageing. Meditation reverses this: you get sick less often and you stay youthful.
- Get along better with others
When you’re healthier, happier and thinking clearly, you’re nicer to be around. All your relationships get better.
Can you share some tips for meditation beginners?
We often think of stress as being limited to the mind — mental strain and worries. However, stress is a body phenomenon — it gets stored in the physiology, and the only way to release it is to be able to rest and allow for tension to be dissolved. For example, when someone has a panic attack, there will be distinct and detectable sensations in the body. Often, this will be a feeling of pressure in the region of the chest and solar plexus. This is why Vedic Meditation is so powerful. The profound rest we get in a twenty-minute sitting allows for these knots of stress to start to unwind.
Because stress is locked into the cells of our body, there is a simple exercise that can help allow the body to settle down and begin to release stress and tension. We call it “Body Feeling Technique”.
First, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Now bring your attention to a feeling or sensation in your body – a tightness in your chest; a tingle on top of your head. After a moment, the feeling will shift and you’ll notice a different sensation – a twinge in your hip; a feeling of lightness in your stomach. Let your attention follow. Again, the sensation will move, so keep following the feelings around your body. After a while, you’ll find yourself thinking other thoughts, as though daydreaming. Now you can open your eyes.
How can our readers contact you and follow on social media?
Instagram: @LondonMeditationCentre and @NewYorkMeditation.
Finally, can you please share your motto and your favourite quote?
Being happy is of the upmost importance. Success in anything is through happiness.Maharishi Mahesh Yogi