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“How I found the meditation technique that works for me – and life kept getting better”, by John Purkiss

If you want to fulfil your potential, you’re very likely to take up meditation sooner or later. It’s worth trying out more than one technique, to find what works for you.

As I mentioned in my last blog post (Friday 12th October) I learned to meditate by accident, without realising what was going on. Since my business in Paris had ground to a halt, I was looking for a new opportunity. I considered trading futures and options, so I bought a course that consisted of some manuals with video and audio recordings. Most of it was about how to analyse the markets, so you could decide when to buy or sell. But in one of the audio recordings the instructor said that the most important factor was the mind – which made all the difference between success and failure.

This made sense to me. I’d been trying to succeed through sheer hard work, as many of us do. I couldn’t work any harder, so the next obvious place to look for clues was the mind. I bought a novel which he’d written, called A Rich Man’s Secret, in which he used phrases such as “Now knows” and “Return to now”. The protagonist kept noticing that his attention had wandered, and kept bringing it back to the present moment, over and over again. I tried it out for myself, and this is what happened:

• I quickly noticed that I felt much calmer and less stressed, so I carried on doing it, over and over throughout the day.
• At one point, I suddenly realised that my intuition had become much stronger. (That particular breakthrough enabled me to work as an executive search consultant – or headhunter – which I’d wanted to do for years.)

I later discovered that I’d learned mindfulness by accident. After I returned to London, I attended some courses and it became a regular practice. Knowing how to be present and observe my thoughts and emotions was extremely valuable during the five years I spent at Heidrick & Struggles, one of the world’s largest executive search firms. I was able to stay calm and not be distracted by other people’s stress or by office politics. I hit the necessary targets without taking them all that seriously – and was promoted to partner.

After I left Heidrick & Struggles I carried on with mindfulness for a year before an American friend suggested I try Transcendental Meditation, otherwise known as TM. I was aware of Marahishi, the Beatles and all that, but this was the first time I’d met someone who practised TM regularly. I decided to give it a try.

I turned up at the Maharishi Foundation’s headquarters, in a mews house near The London Business School. I remember the introductory talk, which involved images of people’s brains before and after meditation. Although I’m interested in science, what really counts most for me is personal experience. In common with many Eastern traditions, TM is passed on directly from teacher to pupil. During the initiation ceremony my teacher chanted in Sanskrit for a while and gave me my mantra, which I’ve used ever since. You don’t say it out loud – you just think it for a short while.

For the first few days when I practised on my own, nothing much seemed to happen. Then I noticed what felt like electrical impulses on my scalp, crossing from one side to the other. When I began to meditate a few days later, I suddenly felt as though I was falling into a deep pool, while continuing to breathe normally. (They call it ‘going deep’.) Suddenly, I was in another state of consciousness, where there were no thoughts or feelings. It was bliss.

The major changes I noticed after learning TM were:

• If I felt tired before meditating, 20 minutes of TM gave me lots of energy. It felt like rebooting my system.
• The jet lag I used to experience on long-haul flights fell by around 90%, whether I was flying to North America or Asia.
• Lots of creative ideas and solutions to problems appeared during or shortly after TM.
• My blood pressure fell and stayed low – at a healthy level. My doctor and his staff have remarked on it several times.
• I began to see myself in other people and in animals. There was a new sense of connection.

I’ve continued to practise TM quite happily for most of the last 16 years. At one point I took a break and learned silent Sufi meditation with the Naqshbandi order, in Shoreditch, London. Sufism is the mystical aspect of Islam, and most of the participants were Muslim. I went every week and also attended retreats in East London and Fez, Morocco. The meditation began with a phrase – in English – designed to turn your attention from your head to your heart. I noticed:

• Some new sensations in and around my physical heart.
• My intuition seemed to benefit from sitting in silence for 45 minutes, twice a day.

Silent Sufi meditation was a valuable experience. I also saw places in Fez which I would never have seen if I hadn’t been accompanied by a small crowd of enthusiastic Sufis. However, I realised that I wanted to carry on experiencing transcendence, with all the benefits it brings.

So I returned to TM, which I practise twice a day on average. I should also mention that I’ve since learned to surrender – and become automatically mindful during daily life. I’ll write about that soon.



Silent Sufi Meditation:

Transcendental Meditation:

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“The more I let go, the more easily things happen”, by John Purkiss

Like many people, I grew up believing that intelligence and hard work would bring happiness and success. After studying economics I worked in banking and management consultancy, did my MBA, and then started my own business. I was living and working in Paris when I realised that I was stuck in every area of my life: health, relationships, career and finances. The old success formula – intelligence and hard work – wasn’t working any more.

I was reading a novel called A Rich Man’s Secret, in which the protagonist did a simple exercise that involved returning his attention to the present moment. (This was the year before Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now was published.) I tried the exercise for myself and noticed some remarkable changes. I suddenly felt more relaxed, and my intuition became much stronger. A few months later I realised I’d learned mindfulness by accident.

Since thinking and working hard hadn’t brought me happiness and success, I had a feeling I should let go instead. Having attended church and Sunday school as a child, I was also comfortable with the idea that there was something going on which was far more intelligent than my brain. I therefore asked to be guided.

My life changed quickly for the better. Six months later I was back in London, in a highly-paid job, working with the Chairman – Europe of Heidrick & Struggles, one of the world’s largest executive search (headhunting) firms.

After I left the firm I learned Transcendental Meditation – also known as TM – on the recommendation of an American friend. Nothing happened at first, but then I let go and felt as though I was falling into a swimming pool, while continuing to breathe normally. There were lots of positive changes. The jet lag I usually experienced after long-haul flights fell by 90%. Solutions to problems and creative ideas often appear during or shortly after TM. (I’ve written five books since then. The latest is about the power of letting go.)

By this stage it was becoming clear to me that every spiritual practice that works involved letting go. However, I still hadn’t let go completely. I hadn’t surrendered.

Then, in October 2016, I read Mickey Singer’s extraordinary book, The Surrender Experiment. I felt a connection with him because we’d both studied economics and worked in business. He also described a series of spiritual experiences which I recognised immediately.

Since then I’ve pretty much surrendered in every area of my life. I still have desires, but I don’t try to force things any more. Ideas and solutions tend to appear during or shortly after meditation. My intuition then tells me what to do. I take lots and lots of action, sometimes very quickly, but I feel relaxed while I’m doing it. The results are often beyond anything I’d previously imagined.

I hope you’ll enjoy our new website and blog. All ideas and contributions are welcome.