The 8.15 train to Nirvana: How you can meditate your stresses away… even on the daily commute

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UPDATED:

06:56 GMT, 14 May 2012

Last summer I bumped into an old colleague. We hadn’t seen each other for years and it transpired that in the previous 18 months, her mother had died of cancer, her father had moved in with her and she had been made redundant.

Yet she seemed remarkably calm. How on earth was she coping After joking about the healing power of gin, she admitted her secret: she had learned how to meditate.

We have all read about the healing powers of meditation. Medical research has found that it can reduce the risk of everything from heart disease to strokes, depression and insomnia – but this was the first time I had seen its benefits up close.

Down time: Marianne Power meditates as she waits for a Tube train in London

Down time: Marianne Power meditates as she waits for a Tube train in London

Soon I was meditating twice a day, too, even learning to fit it into train journeys to work or sneaking a few quiet minutes in a bathroom cubicle at the office.

Before I bumped into my colleague I was running on empty. /05/12/article-2143485-0B964465000005DC-775_468x371.jpg” width=”468″ height=”371″ alt=”Benefits: Medical research has found that meditation can reduce the risk of everything from heart disease to strokes, depression and insomnia” class=”blkBorder” />

Benefits: Medical research has found that meditation can reduce the risk of everything from heart disease to strokes, depression and insomnia

But I was most interested in its effects in counteracting stress. And I can say that learning to meditate has changed my life.

At
my first lesson I was given my mantra, which you don’t share with
anyone, and told to close my eyes and repeat it again and again in my
head. Straight away I was hooked.

There’s
something about the sound vibration of the mantra going over and over
in your mind that lulls you into a kind of trance. The repetition of the
sound is like a lullaby.

You
go into your own world and yet you are still aware of your
surroundings. You’re neither awake, nor asleep, nor dreaming – just
beautifully relaxed. It’s like a warm bath for your brain.

After
that first lesson, I felt calm and focused and that night I enjoyed a
longer, deeper sleep than I’ve had since I was a child. And I’ve been
sleeping well ever since.

The
more I meditate, the less I seem to be bothered by things. Situations
that would once have sent me into a tailspin no longer have the same
effect.

My heart doesn’t race in the way it once did; I have become more calm and rational; my concentration at work has also improved.

Transformation: Learning to meditate can change your life, says Marianne Power

Transformation: Learning to meditate can change your life, says Marianne Power

I think this is primarily because I am better rested and less stressed, but scans have shown that meditation actually increases the size of your hippocampus – the part of the brain associated with memory and learning. I also feel healthier.

I have had only one cold in the past seven months. And then there are the less tangible changes, the ones to your personality and relationships.

Friends have commented on the fact that I seem more relaxed. I certainly feel more content, less inclined to snap or overreact.

So is this a miracle Am I now the perfect person Hardly. Like most of the good things in life, it takes work. Like going to the gym or eating well, you have to keep doing it even on days when you tell yourself you are too busy.

I meditate for 20 minutes morning and night. After breakfast, and then at 4pm – and on days when that’s not possible, on the train or in a taxi. Every little helps. It doesn’t matter whether I close my eyes for two minutes or 20, when I open them I feel better.

I have yet to experience the so-called ‘bliss’ that devotees talk about but I’m just so happy that I’ve found a tool that helps me perform well in the day and sleep better at night.

I wish I’d been taught this at school – it’s the best life skill I’ve ever learnt. But it’s not cheap.

When I turned up for the first open evening at my local TM centre (they’re all over the country), I was told that fees were charged according to income. I would have to pay 490.

But I did it – and it was the best money I’ve ever spent.

t-m.org.uk