Tom Cronin has been meditating for 25 years and teaching Vedic meditation techniques for 10 years. He is an author and documentary film maker who is committed to reducing stress and chaos in people’s lives, cultivating peace, calm and shared abundance around the globe. His book, The Portal, and the film of the same name, follows six people (and a robot) who transform their lives using stillness and mindfulness, and considers ways that meditation can impact the world and solve problems for the future. Clay Hamilton interviewed Tom in the summer of 2019.
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Briefly describe yourself as a meditation teacher .
I was traditionally trained in Transcendental Meditation under the tutelage of Thom Knoles, however due to a split in the TM organisation, the practice is now called Vedic Meditation. I’ve been doing this for 25 years now as my daily practice and I’ve been teaching this technique to students around the world for almost 10 years now. I’ve also evolved and adapted the technique to make it accessible to people who couldn’t access it for locality or financial reasons. So I created a 21 day online meditation program called “Faster Deeper Bliss” which enables people to access a very similar style of meditation using a mantra that will take them deep into the transcendent experience of stillness. I’m based in Sydney however I’m mindful of the fact that there are people all over the world that need, and should, be able to access meditation and have this as part of their daily life. For this reason I embrace technology as a means for that to happen. This is what is led me to create The Stillness Project which was a global movement to give accessibility to meditation to people across the globe.
How did you first learn to meditate and why/how did you become a meditation teacher?
I learnt to meditate around May 1996. I was searching for a way to get out of the state of stress and anxiety that I was in, and the meditation payed a huge part in my recovery. It changed my life so much for the better that I was inspired to become a teacher and share this with the world. I just couldn’t believe how the simple technique could remove my insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks and depression. I felt an unstoppable urge to share this with as many people as possible and help them get through those challenges as well.
What is the greatest benefit you personally get from meditation?
This is something that is constantly changing and evolving. Initially the greatest benefit that I got out of meditation was that I could sleep as I was suffering from most chronic insomnia. That was something that kicked in within the first week or two, then after that I noticed the anxiety and depression starting to lift and I felt greater calm coming into my life. But as time went on and the anomalies went away, I started to find the benefits of meditation became more profound and deeper. I noticed the dissolving of the ego and the background silence of stillness pervading more of my days. These days meditation is the device that I continue to use to help me to sustain an enlightened experience, even if at times it is only glimpses of it.
What do most students struggle with or get wrong?
Most students tend to think that meditation is about being still and not having a thought. We will get glimpses of this experience however it’s something that is very unsustainable in a meditation practice due to the amount of stress that is stored within the body. When the mind becomes still in meditation the physiology which is a print out of the mind, will also reach a very deep state of restfulness. When the body is in this profound deep state of rest, it will unlock stress which will stimulate the body and in turn stimulate the mind and bump you out of your deep state of meditation. So understanding the mechanics of meditation and the effect it has on the body should give the student a greater sense of awareness about why they won’t stay deep in meditation for the entire experience.
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?
The main message that needs to be continually conveyed to students over and over again is that there are no good or bad meditations, and that some meditations will be deep and some meditations will be shallow. The saying that we repeat is ‘we just take it as it comes, as it comes we take it’.
Describe your ideal meditation session (location, length, outcome, etc)
I couldn’t really say there is an ideal meditation. I have had deep profound ones in places that you would never expect, like on trains, in cars or in a boardroom. Even the shallow meditations have huge benefits so I’m not attached to the experience. The sessions are usually 20 minutes, however every now and then I will sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
What misconceptions about meditation do you hear in the media or popular culture?
There is often some misunderstanding about meditation, most often that it is hard, or that it is a spiritual practice. Meditation is as much about your body as it is about your mind. Down the track you can get into the spiritual aspects of it but first and foremost it is about clearing the body of stresses. It is perceived to be hard because people believe they should be still with no thoughts, without realising that this is something almost impossible to completely achieve when there is stress in the body.
What advice do you give people who struggle to maintain a consistent practice?
Firstly I ask them what technique they are doing…because some techniques are less enjoyable than others and we tend to not like doing things that aren’t enjoyable. Some techniques feel much more blissful and are therefore more compelling to embrace each day. Secondly I ask them what are they filling their day up with? We all have 24 hours in the day to find fulfilment and if the allocation of that time to activity’s that aren’t leading to fulfilment, then perhaps tweak your day and add the activity of meditation into the mix and you will find greater fulfilment.
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)?
Some essential reading includes The Power of Now and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, Emmanuel’s Book by Pat Rodegast and Oneness by Rasha.
What books/courses/resources do you have available? What makes them special and how can they benefit a reader?
I recently released my book that I co-wrote with Jacqui Fifer called The Portal, which is released with the film of the same title. Created as part of an epic global vision to usher humanity into a new era, THE PORTAL is an immersive experience that answers the question: How can we really change the world?
A genre-defining approach to personal change—with global implications—THE PORTAL follows six people (and a robot) who transform their lives using stillness and mindfulness, providing inspiration as we embark on the next phase of evolution. Supported by insights from three of the world’s foremost futurists, this experiential project takes the viewer on their own mindfulness journey through a tapestry of technology, love, existentialism, human potential, brain hacking, stillness and inner peace. Released with this will be a Masterclass called Enter the Portal and an app. I also hold weekend meditation courses, retreats and an online meditation program called “Faster Deeper Bliss”.
How can readers get in contact with you or find out more?
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[This interview is an extract. You can see Tom’s full interview, plus 29 more interviews, in the book How Do You Meditate? Interviews with 30 Meditation Teachers. Available from Amazon.]