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Students find Vedic Meditation at different times and for different reasons. For Ben Ager, he was suffering from anxiety and crippling insomnia. This is his BMC story.

I’ve been meditating now for just over two years.

I have a history of anxiety. I was in Bali on a job, and I had this terrible anxiety attack while I was there. I wasn’t there with my wife or my kid, I was there on my own and I just fell apart. Absolutely fell apart.

Somebody recommended I try meditation, and for years’ people had been saying I should try, but it was such an alien and uncomfortable world for me. The idea of it… I just went, “Oh yeah, no, that’s not for me. I’m not that kind of person.”

But then I got to a stage where I realised the person I was wasn’t really working, the methods I had weren’t working, so I needed to find something else. And when you’re desperate, you’re willing to try everything.

It was a very bizarre thing because a friend from my wife’s work said she was going to see this guy called Matt. I had a look on the website, and two years before, I’d met Matt in a coffee shop. I was on my way to a radio interview and I had a Stone Roses t-shirt on, and of course he connected and started chatting. We chatted for about half an hour and I asked him what he did, and he said he ran a meditation centre. I shut down like straight away thinking, “Oh god, this guy is crazy.”

But when I went back online I thought, well, I’ve met that guy and he seems very normal, and that’s what I felt I needed – somebody I wasn’t intimidated by with their sense of peace and all that kind of stuff. I needed someone who would speak to me normally.

I actually have no problem with those people now, I get along very well with those people, but at that time I had such a kind of fear barrier against any of that. I didn’t recognise it as fear of course. I think you take a different position, like, “Look, that’s not for me, that’s for gullible people.” It’s basically hitting the same nerve as religion hits with people, so when they crumble, they’re not strong enough in themselves so they’ve got to rely on something make believe. And that’s the way I saw meditation.

It was very strange because when I went along to see Matt in that first introduction, I was so out of my comfort zone. I was sweating, I was itching… I was beginning to feel kind of anxious and I didn’t sleep for about two days after.

The day leading up to it I couldn’t rest. I think I was worried about becoming something that I’d worked really hard not to be. I didn’t know what that was, but you know, I didn’t really want to be that irritating person at parties who won’t stop talking about how great they are.

I had grown to really hate the word mindful, because it just popped up every four seconds where everybody thought they were a new guru.

It’s a great resistance. All my life I’ve worked against those kind of resistances. I came from a very working class family and a pretty tough area, which had set patterns about what gender roles are supposed to be. I fought very hard against that, I think mainly to get a reaction out of people more than it being me following my true life path.

I said to Matt many times that I had grown to really hate the word mindful, because it just popped up every four seconds where everybody thought they were a new guru. I don’t know why that bothered me, but I was just like, “I’m not going to be taken by that.” I was born in Thatcher’s Britain!

The price didn’t concern me. When I first heard it I thought, “Oh okay, that’s more than I thought it was going to be”, but I have a reasonably good understanding of business, and you know, and you pay people not what you think they’re worth, but what they think they’re worth.

It took a couple of weeks of saving but the way I looked at it, was I was at a crisis point in my life and I was watching my mother in England who still cannot cope with having visitors round. Not strangers, but visitors. She stresses for three days when people are coming round, and I just thought, “Is this the direction I’m going?”

I had a number of different things – I had anxiety, I had problems traveling, and everything eventually gave itself to anxiety, including insomnia. I had very bad sleeping problems and I knew it was time to do something.

What I liked about Matt, is he said that’s the one price you pay. You don’t pay anything more when you come for sessions. Or, if I needed to call him or anything like that – to talk. But yeah the price wasn’t that much of a concern. If he was good, I had to trust. You know if someone said, “Here’s a magic button, if you press it your anxiety will go away”, and if that button cost $5,000 dollars, I would have said, “Here’s your money!” So, you know, $895 dollars for much, much more than peace…It gave me the life I didn’t think I was going to have.

Within a very short amount of time, my life changed forever.

The thing that really draws me [to Matt] is that he’s accessible. He speaks in very, very plain terms. There’s no bullshit attached to it. There’s no promise to elevate you to a place, or over-promising and under-delivering. I feel like I’m chatting to a guy from the North of England in the pub. His feet are on the ground and that’s where he wants my feet. He doesn’t want mine up in the air… because that’s what I thought meditation was. I thought it was about floating, but it isn’t. It’s about being on the ground. It’s about being connected with the earth, and that’s what I really didn’t understand at the time.

Also, he’s funny. I like that he’s funny.

So I think the most important thing for anyone who has doubts, is you don’t lose yourself. That’s the thing I was really afraid of.

Sometimes I go through stages where I miss three or four sessions in a week, and I know I’ve got to get back into it. But I’m pretty set with it because I know the benefits. Like with my insomnia. I’m no longer afraid of bed. I’m no longer afraid of going to sleep. I get into bed and I read for a very, very short amount of time, just to kind of calm everything. I put the book down and then I just kind of lay down and I just breathe in and out five times, quite long breaths, and I usually don’t remember the fifth breath. It’s incredible. It’s absolutely incredible.

Whereas before [learning to meditate], I’d get into bed and I’d lay there and you know, I’d look at the clock. But more than that, there’s another thing with insomnia,
which is when you wake up in the middle of the night and then you can’t get back to sleep.

So I’d go to sleep at say 11 p.m. and I’d wake up at 1.30 a.m. – completely wide awake. Then I’d take a pill, which was always my safety net. Whereas now I don’t do
that. I get up and I put my feet on the ground and I walk around for a little bit, and then I get back into bed and I know I’m going to get back to sleep again. That’s a
massive, massive change. I sleep much better. I sleep deeper, and I think that when you get to the age of 50 or so, you wake up more during the night anyway. I can still
wake up four times a night and wake up feeling rested after a six-hour sleep because it’s literally just a small interruption, then straight back into the deep sleep again.

I find it difficult to picture myself before I learnt to meditate, and it’s only been just over two years. If someone could switch a button on me and say, “This is what you felt like before”, I don’t think I’d recognise that person any more. And it hasn’t turned me into a woo-woo person. I’m not going around to people and gently tapping them on the shoulders saying, “Have you ever thought about doing this?” It hasn’t changed me on the outside, or as a human being… or really on the inside either.

I still have all the flaws that I had before, but I’m just happier. I’m much more at peace. I think I was worried if I meditated I’d lose my inner violence. I know that
sounds really weird – my inner anger. But I didn’t want to lose that. I wanted to keep hold of it, but I have so much more control over now. It is focused and I use it for positive things. Artistic things.

So I think the most important thing for anyone who has doubts, is you don’t lose yourself. That’s the thing I was really afraid of.

Are you interested in learning more about Vedic Meditation?

Matt hosts a free, no-obligation introduction talk every Monday night at Bondi Meditation Centre.
You can RSVP here, or email info@bondimeditation.com.au.

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