Miriam Amselem has been meditating for 30 years and teaching for over 15 years, focusing mostly on companies and schools in South Florida, USA. She incorporates many techniques in her practice, including Nidra, mindfulness, gratitude, and breathing techniques. Miriam looks for ways to incorporate wellness and lifestyle changes for groups or individuals to increase productivity and to be more engaged and effective. CM Hamilton interviewed Miriam in the summer of 2019.
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Briefly describe yourself as a meditation teacher.
As a meditation teacher, I use the following types of meditation in my practice: visualization, Nidra, loving kindness, gratitude, energy of attraction, body scan, mindfulness, breathing, kundalini and transcendental. My focus is to spread the practice to corporations and schools and I’ve been able to do that at corporations and schools around South Florida. Because I live in South Florida, I’ve been teaching meditation at the beach for over five years. Meditating by the ocean is an incredible experience – it allows the participants to connect with nature while meditating. I also teach meditation at a studio.
How did you first learn to meditate and why/how did you become a meditation teacher?
I learned to meditate about 30 years ago. My story is a personal one – after being married for a year, my husband and I were told that we are not able to have children. The news caused me to go into depression. When I found a yoga and meditation class in my gym, I tried it and that’s where I found inner peace. I took about four classes a week which helped me heal from depression which allowed me to thrive through the tough times. After 15 years of practice, I decided to become a teacher to spread the practice to others.
What types of meditations have you studied or practised, and what method do you mainly use or teach now?
I’ve studied and practiced visualization, Nidra, Kundalini, Transcendental, loving kindness, gratitude, mindfulness, breathing and Body Scan. What I mainly teach now, is Nidra, Mindfulness, Gratitude, Loving Kindness, and Breathing.
What is your favourite meditation technique or form of practice?
My favorite technique is Nidra, which can be described as a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, like the “going-to-sleep” stage, typically induced by a guided meditation. I love this practice because of the deep relaxation that occurs within, the ability to cultivate stillness, and the heightened state of awareness when it’s over. When practicing and teaching Nidra, I find that even though the session can be close to an hour, it seems as if it was only 20 minutes.
What do most students struggle with or get wrong?
I don’t think there is a wrong way to meditate but I do think that most students, especially beginners, struggle with keeping the mind silent. There’s no way to silence the mind – it’s always on – but meditation offers techniques in “reframing” thoughts and becoming an observer of the mind. I think the biggest struggle is what has been termed “monkey brain” in which so many thoughts are flying through. However, through regular practice anyone can experience stillness.
Describe your ideal meditation session (location, length, outcome, etc)
Even though I teach at a studio, my ideal session is when we meditate by the ocean. To be outdoors and by the ocean is very healing – we usually mediate for 30 – 45 minutes and end the session standing in the ocean – water just up to our ankles. The beauty of nature plus the connection with earth and water energy while meditating is an incredible experience. All the students say that it is life changing.
What do you think about meditation retreats (what form, how long, any advice)? What if someone can’t afford the financial or time commitment of a retreat, do you have any recommendations for them?
There are many mediation retreats popping up and while I think it’s nice, realistically it is for a small percentage of people who can afford it. They are usually very expensive so if someone is looking for one, make sure to research and read the reviews. For the majority of us who cannot afford this luxury, see if you can find a local meditation school or instructor that may run a day long local retreat. There are also day spas that are now offering mediation – combining the two is a lovely experience. Additionally, I have created affordable meditation retreats and wellness programs locally and throughout the USA.
What misconceptions about meditation do you hear in the media or popular culture?
This question made me smile because there are quite a few and I’m glad you are addressing it. Some misconceptions are that there is only one style or all mediation is the same, it is only for those who want to achieve enlightenment, you have to sit with your legs crossed, be still throughout, silence or empty the mind, it is a religious practice, takes too much time and that meditation is only for reducing stress. All those are misconceptions and total myths.
What advice do you give people who struggle to maintain a consistent practice?
The advice I give is to first figure out what it is that is holding them back from a consistent practice. Is it time? Are there too many distractions? Do you forget to practice? Have you made this a priority? I ask these questions in this exact order to help the person who is struggling. The people I meet who say that they are struggling are usually challenged by one of those questions. So my advice is to find out exactly why they are struggling.
What has been your experience teaching in a corporate or work setting? Are employees open to meditation, is there a particular resistance? What causes a manager to bring meditation into the workplace – to improve performance of the business, or for health, or something else?
My experience teaching meditation in corporations and also in schools has been incredible! At one company 80 percent of the employees attended the meditation session and there were over 100 staff members attending. In the beginning it was less because employees were a bit resistant especially those who had never tried it. Some corporations create an incentive program for employees to join meditation sessions at work. Managers and Benefits Personnel report that their employees are more focused and that their productivity has increased. Managers report less work related conflicts and less “drama” with their staff members and a decrease in sick days. And it is also important to note that the employees feel cared about so they are more vested with the company. It’s a win-win.
What meditation books have you read and admired, re-read, or do you recommend to others (they can be directly or indirectly related to meditation)?
I’ve read all books written by Depak Chopra! and I highly recommend them. I also recommend the book “The Power of Now” by Eckhardt Tolle and the book “The Art of Stopping Time” by Pegram Shojai which has short meditation exercises.
How can readers get in contact with you or find out more?
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[This interview is an extract. You can read Miriam’s full interview, plus 29 more interviews, in the book How Do You Meditate? Interviews with 30 Meditation Teachers. Available from Amazon.]