Arden Martin is a meditation teacher and co-founder of The Spring, a meditation studio in New York City. She learned to meditate while working as an elementary school teacher in the Harlem borough of New York City where her days were long, demanding, and turbulent, and the practice allowed her to stay calm in the chaos. She has personally experienced mental, emotional and physical benefits to her Vedic meditation practice and now shares the practice with others. Clay Hamilton interviewed Arden in summer 2019.
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Briefly describe yourself as a meditation teacher.
I’m a Vedic Meditation teacher living and working in New York City. I teach out of The Spring, my studio in Manhattan, along with my co-founders Maya Kumits and Rick Little. I love the personalized, intimate nature of the courses we currently offer.
How did you first learn to meditate and why/how did you become a meditation teacher?
I learned to meditate while working as an elementary school teacher in Harlem. My days were long, demanding, and turbulent, and the practice allowed me to stay calm in the chaos. Since learning to meditate, I have experienced more self-love, confidence, and clarity than I ever thought possible. After decades of sinus issues, hormonal imbalances, and trouble sleeping, my physical health is also better than ever. Although my life always seemed good on the outside, meditation has empowered me to thrive on the inside. I teach Vedic Meditation to help others uncover their best selves.
What is the greatest benefit you personally get from meditation?
Meditation allows my mind and body to settle, rest deeply, and connect with the quiet place inside that I’ve come to realize is my most essential self. Closing my eyes to meditate twice a day allows me to be the best version of myself when my eyes are open.
What is your favourite meditation technique or form of practice?
Vedic Meditation, hands down. It’s the only technique I’ve found that is deeply restful and requires no effort, discipline, or concentration.
What important aspect of meditation do you find yourself teaching over and over again? Is there a phrase or message or quote you repeat to students again and again?
New meditators tend to place too much importance on their experiences inside meditation, rather than how they feel outside of meditation. I constantly remind my students to gauge their “success” by how they feel with their eyes open. After all, the point of meditation is to enhance our experience of life when we’re not meditating.
Should someone have a goal in mind when it comes to a meditation practice? If so, how should someone think about goals in meditation?
Although many people pursue meditation with goals around mitigating stress, anxiety, and other imbalances, it’s not necessary to have a goal. Mere curiosity is enough for someone to begin meditating, and the presence or absence of a goal will not affect your results.
What misconceptions about meditation do you hear in the media or popular culture?
I often meet people who think that meditation is a focused mental discipline. In fact, meditation doesn’t require any focus, concentration, or effort, and it can be as easy as thinking a thought. Vedic Meditation, the technique I teach, involves silently using a mantra (a meaningless sound) to naturally settle the mind and body to their least excited state.
What advice do you give people who struggle to maintain a consistent practice?
People who struggle to maintain a consistent meditation practice would benefit from comprehensive, personalized instruction. Meditation happens consistently when you feel confident in how to do it, and you experience benefits that motivate you to continue. These two factors reinforce one another, and learning how to meditate with a trained teacher is the simplest and surest way to make them happen.
What books/courses/resources do you have available? What makes them special and how can they benefit a reader?
My studio co-founders and I teach Vedic Meditation courses each month at The Spring, located in Manhattan. Vedic Meditation is a simple, effortless technique that requires no focus or concentration. It involves silently using a “settling sound,” or mantra, to de-excite the mind and body so they can rest deeply and release stress. The technique is taught over the course of four consecutive days, 90 minutes per day. Vedic Meditation course graduates can meditate self-sufficiently without needing an app, guide, or book.
Is there anything we forgot to ask? Anything else you want to explain about your practice or meditation in general, or advice to give?
I want people to know that meditation doesn’t have to be hard, and it isn’t something that you “get better at” over time. Rather, if you meditate consistently, you find yourself having better eyes-open experiences over time. Also, meditation isn’t something you should do when you’re stressed – it’s something you should do to prevent stress from taking over your life.
How can readers get in contact with you or find out more?
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[This interview is an extract. You can read Arden’s full interview, plus 29 more interviews, in the book How Do You Meditate? Interviews with 30 Meditation Teachers. Available from Amazon.]