Set the tone of your day with meditation
Michael Fischman is a former advertising executive and former president of the U.S. Art of Living Foundation. Beginning life as the son of an Orthodox Jewish Holocaust survivor in New York, as an adult, he gave up a successful career as a Madison Avenue advertising executive, and, through an unlikely turn of events, ended up as friend and helper to spiritual leader and humanitarian Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
Fischman tells his story in his multi-award-winning memoir, “Stumbling Into Infinity: An Ordinary Man in the Sphere of Enlightenment,” now being released in India. He talks with us the joys of meditation, and the gift of writing.
1.Tell us about your personal meditation journey?
I started to meditate when I was 26 years old. It was a rough patch in my life, and many of the social activities I was involved with at that time I have completely abandoned. I was living a very different lifestyle. A friend told me about meditation and it seemed to make sense. I gravitated to it very quickly. In 1988, after practicing for about a dozen years, I came to the Art of Living. It was a quantum leap forward in my practice. As opposed to spending a lot of time with a chattering mind in the first half of my meditation, the meditations were profoundly different. I would start my meditation in silence, and that was extremely valuable.
2. How has your life changed since you learned meditation?
It is hard to say why my life has changed. I can say that the deep experience of peace and serenity that I get to experience twice a day definitely sets the tone & mood of my mind for the entire day. And that effect has grown through the years. Sudarshan Kriya helped me feel the effect of meditation more during the day.
3. Do you think it is important to have teacher to learn meditation?
Yes, very much so. I don’t think you can learn it from book or from a seminar. People are blind to their own blind spots. You definitely need a teacher or a guru. The path of getting to the Self is a very interesting journey, and meditation is a key aspect of it. But unless you have the guidance & supervision of a Master, it would be difficult.
4. A lot of Psychologists are using mindfulness and it has become quite mainstream. It has been taught by many people who aren’t enlightened masters. Do you think what they are doing is meditation?
There so many kinds of people on the planet and so many personalities with so many different patterns that the important thing is to meditate, and if you find a system what works for you, that is great. If you feel that you are going deep, if it is an effortless type of meditation, and the mind is experiencing stillness and expansion, then that is great.
5. To people who have never experienced going deep, what does that mean?
I think even having that concept can cause problems for people meditating. Because you think “I need to go here”. The system takes what it needs during meditation. Some stress may need to be released at one point, some expansion may come. So every meditation is different and it is best not to try to repeat an experience you liked, but to be innocent and let it be a natural journey inward. Rather than give you my definition of what going deep means, I think it is best to say that meditation is a state of restful alertness. The mind is at peace and very much relaxed, just like when you are asleep, except that it is alert at the same time. That is the common experience of meditation.
6. As a writer you have written this book Stumbling Into Infinity. How has meditation enhanced your writing abilities?
If I wasn’t meditating this book wouldn’t exist, because the book grew out of my experience with meditation. And meditation did give me the fuel to write.
When you are in a state of quiet stillness that is when you are most creative. When you are worried, having problems, and there are negative emotions such as anger or jealousy, it is more of a challenge to be creative. Creativity blossoms out of being in the present moment, and that is what mediation is all about. It brings the mind into the present moment.
7. You have been associated with the TLEX (Transformational Leadership for Excellence) program, which is often taught in business and government settings. How do you think that meditation can contribute to the transformation of leadership qualities in a person?
If one is tense, irritable, frustrated or exhausted how can they be a good leader? A good leader means having a calm, clear mind, and being completely flexible. You can’t be rigid or closed to ideas. If Plan A doesn’t work, you need to be able to quickly jump to Plan B. If you are stuck in one paradigm and are not flexible and adjustable, you can’t lead. At the same time, you need to focus. You need to have access to inner strength, inner peace, and an inner rudder. The quality and state of mind of a leader is so critical.
Meditation is essential for a person who is a leader. That doesn’t just mean corporate leadership. If you are a mother you are a leader, if you are a father you are a leader, if you are a student you are a leader. You are always in a position of leadership.
These spiritual practices are there to make better leaders in this world, and to make a better world.