Student: Dr. Trausch, you have been conducting meditation training and wilderness meditation retreats for many decades. How did this begin?
Dr. T: It began when I entered a monastic order, the Society of the Divine Word, at age 19. Besides theology and philosophy, I learned meditation, and as a young monk began teaching it to the public mostly in retreats and seminars. The Western—read Christian—style of meditation was, and still is, discursive — meaning it is with thought, reflection, seeking to gain inspirational insights, to grow in virtue and discipline the mind.
Student: Did you only learn discursive meditation?
Dr. T: As a Divine Word monk, yes. I left the order after eight years of training and began to study other forms of meditation, including non-discursive, mindfulness, insight, contemplation, Kriya, Siddha. During the 1980’s I traveled to India, Nepal, and other Far Eastern places, and studied with meditation masters, bringing back the best of those experiences and practices, and blending them with what I had learned in the West and teaching them to groups. Those groups became so popular that they ran every Friday evening for decades.
Student: Can anyone practice meditation?
Dr. T: Meditation takes some effort, some discipline and concentration, some commitment if the marvelous health and healing, mental and spiritual benefits of meditation are to be attained. Conversely then, meditation may be contraindicated for some people, especially those who are burdened by excessive fantasy, unless accompanied by intelligent guidance.
Student: You mention several kinds of meditation. Are they not all the same?
Dr. T: No. Meditation has many forms. Differing personalities, character qualities, personal inclinations, and capacity for discipline will determine what kind of meditation to begin with and what type will be enlisted as the student advances. There are, as I like to say, a number of “horses” that pull the carriage of meditation. Since meditation is not without new inner experiences and insight, wise students seek guidance.
Student: This sounds very complex.
Dr. T: The practice of meditation is a natural experience. Everyone meditates to some degree, although perhaps in undisciplined ways. For the magic of meditation to work, focused discipline must be applied, so that the formula for that meditation in done in an increasingly perfect manner. That is why the benefits of meditation occur only with practice.
Student: What kind of magic?
Dr. T: Originally, meditation was conceived of and cultivated by ancient truth-seekers as a spiritual tool to awaken their minds to a higher consciousness or reality. It was carefully designed to strengthen, clear, calm, purify, and expand the mind so that the realities of a more evolved spiritual self could shine through. Today, especially in the West, meditation is also the subject of vast studies at top universities and laboratories where psychological and medical researchers are learning stunning information about meditation and its health benefits. Here are some examples:
“Meditation, like exercise, tamps down stress and encourages neuron growth in the brain.” “The brain can grow new cells and reshape itself; meditation appears to encourage this process.”
“The mind is far more malleable than we previously assumed.”
--Dr. Saki Sanatorelli,Ph.D. University of Massachusetts (U.S. News & World Report, February 23, 2009)
Student: So, different forms of meditation apply to different goals?
Dr. T. Yes and no. All forms of meditation generate immense benefits. One form of meditation is directed, disciplined thought. Another, more advanced form is disciplined, directed “Non thought.” Still another is guided-directed beneficial images and suggestions, called guided meditation. In my groups, I always include and train members in all forms.
Student: How did meditation begin?
Dr. T: Meditation is an ancient practice. Some would call it a science. It emerged millennia ago through philosopher-sages seeking to gain answers to the big questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is this life all about? Is this the only reality? From these deep questions the practice of meditation was evolved, and has endured down through the ages. Of course today, meditation practiced in the West has been enlisted in efforts to gain secular knowledge, psychological insights, and especially today, healing. Many Westerners think yoga is meditation. Actually, “yoga,” so called, refers to a catalogue of practices and formulas devised to “yoke” the individual to a higher reality. Meditation is the centerpiece of those practices.
Student: What is the status of meditation today?
Dr. T: Meditation has been brought to the West by Westerners traveling to and studying in the Far East. It was brought here essentially in the 20th Century, mostly by Eastern teachers, and Western seekers of truth. Research psychologists, scientists, medicine began to take notice of the benefits blossoming in those who meditated. They gradually began to study meditation in earnest in the 1960s, and right in the laboratory wonderful benefits to mind and body were emerging. In fact, today, there is so much research, and so much evidence that meditation is a “wonder drug” that barely anyone questions it. Of course, in spite of that, few people avail themselves of it due to the initial discipline required to enlist and install it as a practice.
Student: Do you meditate?
Dr. T: I do practice what I teach, and meditate alone between 1-2 hours daily. Add to that the time that I meditate with others that I teach—individuals and groups—and the time increases. I would not want to live this life without meditation.
Student: Do you use meditation in your consulting practice?
Dr. T: Wherever I teach or do workshops, business, government, community groups—even individual personal growth sessions—people want to know about meditation. It is somewhat of a mystery for many people. And, that is understandable, since it was created to solve a mystery—the mysterium tremendum – the tremendous mystery of existence. That word, mystery, comes from the Greek and Latin Mysterium, something unknown or beyond our understanding. From that same root comes the word mystic, which literally means, “the belief that it is possible to have a direct experience of ultimate reality.” Now, in modern, especially Western times, meditation is seen as supporting bodily health—enhancing the immune system, strengthening and lengthening the telomeres—ends of chromosomes in extending life, reducing stress, installing clarity in thinking, controlling blood pressure, and a virtually endless list of marvelous benefits.
Student: What happens in your meditation groups?
Dr. T: In my depth meditation training and practice groups I teach and promote these benefits. The groups consist of inspirational presentations, instruction, research studies, guided meditations, discussion, and enlisting various meditation-related tools. Therefore, the groups are for both students of spiritual insights and seekers of mind or bodily health and healing. Groups last 2 hours and are conducted as frequently as the members like.
Student: Thank you for your time!
Dr. T: You are welcome!