Relaxation vs Vedic Meditation, The Dark Night of the Soul, Death and Dying, Spiritual Diets

“Consciousness is immortal. Bodies are mortal. The Vedic worldview is that there is only evolution. Evolution is all that there is.”

Thom Knoles

Episode Summary

In this episode, another in our ongoing series of Ask Thom Anything, Thom explains the distinction between wellness and relaxation activities and why they don’t deliver the same impacts as Vedic Meditation.

He also explores “The dark night of the soul” and describes how contrasting experiences of the mind and body lead to an unstabilized vision.

He gives us some insights into how we can respond when someone is in the dying stage of their life and the advantages we have as Vedic meditators during this stage. 

And finally, Thom explains a practical approach to diet when we’re on a spiritual path.
If you’d like to have Thom answer a question on the podcast, you can submit your questions here.

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Episode Highlights


Q – Can ‘Wellness Activities’ Be as Effective as Vedic Meditation for Releasing Stress?



 It Depends on Consciousness



They Might Be Relaxing But…



An Opportunistic Brain



Absolute Unboundedness of Being



 A Consciousness-Led Approach



No Special Environment Required



Q – What’s the Vedic Worldview on the Dark Night of the Soul?



An Unstabilized Vision



The Body’s Prime Directive






Our Body Needs to Catch Up



Mind and Body in Complete Agreement



Q – How Can I Navigate Having Someone Dying or Getting Close to Death?



Speed Grieving



Be the Strong One



There is Only Evolution



Don’t Be the Needy One



Restoring a Sense of Peace and Happiness



Q – Do You Recommend a Special Diet for a Spiritual Practice?



Toxicity Begins With Your Consciousness State



The Art and Science of Ayurveda



Balancing Behaviour for Different Body Types


Jai Guru Deva


Relaxation vs Vedic Meditation, The Dark Night of the Soul, Death and Dying, Spiritual Diets

Welcome to my podcast, the Vedic Worldview. I’m Thom Knoles. Today we’re going to have another session of Ask Thom Anything. I hope you enjoy the questions and answers. Jai Guru Deva.

Q – Can ‘Wellness Activities’ Be as Effective as Vedic Meditation for Releasing Stress?

[00:57] Hello, my name is Felix and I reside in Tauranga, New Zealand.

Dear Maharishi Thom, after listening to your recent podcast series on Gods and Goddesses, the following question arose.

If our beliefs shape the world we perceive and interact with, and there is no objective reality out there, why is it that common forms of stress release, such as lying silently in a secluded forest, physical exercise, or sitting in a sauna cannot be just as effective as meditating? If a person has adopted the belief that they are much calmer and experience a different consciousness state after engaging in these other wellness activities, can the experience they are having not be just as powerful at expanding their awareness and releasing stress from their physiology?

Jai Guru Deva.

It Depends on Consciousness

[01:47] It’s a very good question and it all depends on the extent to which our consciousness has explored, and then become one with that deep, inner least-excited state prior to doing these other activities.

If all we have is a lie down in the forest, or a lovely massage, or a nice restful experience of some other nature, to give our mind the quietude that it needs for us to have broadened experience, then we’re going to have some limitation, and the limitation lies in just how rested can the body get during these activities.

So if I’ve never learned to meditate before in this particular style of Vedic Meditation, and I’m having a massage, then my body’s being massaged, but my consciousness may still be, “This is not done. That’s not done. My friend’s become mad. How am I going to race around, make all the phone calls I need to make, and the revenge Instagrams I need to send? And whatnot and whatnot.”

And someone’s massaging away, and yet the consciousness is still living inside this conviction that, “I am only the little tiny self living inside of this little body that’s being massaged,” and “Oh, that massage feels so good,” but the consciousness has not yet had an opportunity to expand to its fullest.

They Might Be Relaxing But…

[03:09] We know very well that people who even live in forests and who’ve made that their life’s career, living in the forest, that these people are not uniformly enlightened people.

You can meet them almost anywhere on any continent, people who have decided to live in a forest, but we don’t necessarily find that when we approach them that they’re radiating the peace and love and depth of life and assuredness and the freedom from fear, and so on that we might expect someone who has gained enlightenment to radiate.

And so then these experiences and activities might be relative to say, working in a stock market, might be very relaxing. They might be very helpful to gaining some kind of quietude. However, when we practice Vedic Meditation, it needs to be clear that the mind systematically settles down to increasingly quiet least-excited states.

As the mind regularly settles down, and then goes beyond the least-excited state to experience the unboundedness of Being, it’s that experience of the unboundedness of Being that then causes the body to follow into unprecedented levels of restfulness.

An Opportunistic Brain

[04:27] Whether one is sitting in a chair on the selling floor of a major stock exchange and meditating, or riding in a subway seat with the world jostling all around, but transcending all of that during meditation, or whether one is sitting in a beautiful forest, being able to have a complete neutral attitude about all the mosquitoes that are whining and buzzing around one’s ears, one can still go beyond thought completely, and then the body can follow into that deep restful state.

Now once we have mastered the technique of letting our mind settle down to its least-excited state, once we have habituated to that, then as meditators, we will find that any opportunity to become a little quieter is really capitalized on by our brain.

You might notice yourself, as a practitioner of Vedic Meditation, that having done it regularly twice a day, every day, even if you lie down to go to sleep at night, even if you’re just having a little rest in the afternoon, that your brain looks at that and says, “Hmm, this could be quite similar to that transcending phenomenon that I’ve been doing twice every day during meditation,” and without using the mantra, or any of the other mechanisms that we use for systematically creating that experience of transcendence, our brain will automatically think, “Well, I think I have permission right now to settle down to my least-excited state.”

Absolute Unboundedness of Being

[05:55] And it may do so during a nap. It may do so at the onset of sleep, or coming out of sleep, before the beginning of the waking state and those two junction points. It may do so during a massage. It may do so during taking in the forest, or indeed with a little bit more practice, as you consolidate more and more, stabilize more and more that deep, inner least-excited state, you could sit in the trading floor of a major stock exchange and be experiencing total unboundedness.

Absolute unboundedness of Being and absolute realization of the Self wouldn’t be overshadowed even by the most excitatory environment.

And so then rather than having the environment lead by, “My body’s part of the environment,” and situations like forests and so on, these are part of the environment, that an environment-led approach to enlightenment, is not going to be very effective.

A Consciousness-Led Approach

[06:51] What we’d need to do is have a consciousness-led approach to enlightenment. Irrespective of our physical positioning and situation, we can easily, with the knowledge of how to transcend, how to step beyond thought, we can easily go to that infinite, deep, quiet state of Being with such a great systematic and strategic fashion regularly, daily, that we can end up turning any environment into an absolutely conducive environment for enlightenment.

And so these other environments can be lovely and things that you can enjoy, but also even sitting in a stinking, rotten bus, riding around in a suburb somewhere, if you’re in the highest consciousness state, that also is something that can’t overshadow your enlightenment.

So this needs to be something that is enlightenment led, but that is to say, we take our consciousness regularly to the deepest, quietest possible state on a regular basis, and then these other phenomena can either assist us in some way or be enjoyable, but we’re not reliant on them.

No Special Environment Required

[08:00] We’re not relying upon having specialized environments in which we can experience enlightenment. Enlightenment is something that is capable of being experienced by anyone, even one who’s never entered a forest in their lifetime.

One could be a completely city-bound and yet fully-enlightened being. One could have never had a massage in one’s life or ever had any other kind of physiological quietude, and yet, if they practice this beautiful technique of Vedic Meditation morning and evening, can stabilize the unbounded state of Being and live it in everyday life without having to create special environments to do so.

Jai Guru Deva.

Q – What’s the Vedic Worldview on the Dark Night of the Soul?

[08:42] Hi Thom, Elaine from Ottawa here.

I’m wondering if the Vedic worldview has a concept similar to the dark night of the soul, which may present itself during the process of deepening one’s meditation. Thank you very much.

An Unstabilized Vision

[09:07] Jai Guru Deva. Yes. The “dark night of the soul” is an experience that was very often described, particularly in Roman Catholic mysticism, and not limited to Roman Catholic mysticism, but the actual term was one that was coined by Roman Catholic mystics.

A mystic by the way, is someone who has higher consciousness experiences.

And in one of these descriptions, there is a phase through which one may go where an illumination has occurred. That is to say one has a realization of truth and reality that is so liberating, a vision of all the possibilities, and then a period of time that follows that, where it appears as though that vision is lost.

A period of time where one feels bereft of that wonderful vision that one had and then the crushing reality of coming back to just the regular waking state and having to spend some time in the regular waking state, but with the distinct memory embedded deeply that there was this other experience that was had, that was so promising.

And this is what is referred to as “the dark night of the soul,” that period of time where one has had the vision, yet hasn’t yet stabilized it.

The Body’s Prime Directive

[10:33] And certainly we can relate to this in Vedic Meditation, fortunately. We have an understanding that should help us transcend that which we prefer not to experience, which is the dark night of the soul.

We may have experiences, as we continue to grow in our practice, where, as our awareness opens more and more to that deep inner unboundedness, that truth, that reality of the nature of our inner Self, our true identity.

And then as we open that experience up, then naturally we have to bring our body along into that realization. And what do I mean by that? The body that we have has a prime directive. It has to become whatever the consciousness is. This is the body’s prime directive, to become whatever the consciousness is.

So if I’m convinced in my consciousness that I’m deeply sad, then my body creates all of the biochemistry and structural and material transformations that create a body of sadness. If I have fear, then my body naturally will go into the body of fear.

The body you see is a conception. Consciousness conceives the body. Consciousness constructs the body. Consciousness governs the body and ultimately consciousness prints itself out in a body that is representative of it.

So, fear consciousness, fear body, sad consciousness, sad body, anger consciousness, anger body. Like that.


[12:12] Now our body has been given so many commands to be something other than enlightened that the body has created these cellular shrines and biochemical mechanisms that are simply the response to it having been commanded to be like that by the consciousness in times past.

Our consciousness is, by comparison to the body, very quick and nimble. But our body has to print out whatever our consciousness is. So then we have an experience of great, unboundedness, a vision of all possibilities, a taste of Cosmic Consciousness, a taste of the truth, the deepest truth of what our reality is, and our body wants to print that out, but it has another job to do.

In order to print that out fully, our body has to go through a process of deconstructing, re-engineering, dismantling, old irrelevant structures in the brain and in the body. And when the body does this, we refer to this phenomenon as “unstressing” or normalization and purification.

Our Body Needs to Catch Up

[13:25] While the body is normalizing itself, trying to rapidly prepare itself to become the consciousness that we have cognized in our highest state, the body’s activity of normalization and purification can actually, for moments, or those moments may be weeks or perhaps months, overshadow the experience that was the very stimulus for the body making its way into the physiological reproduction of the enlightened state.

And so our body needs to catch up and we need to be very sweet and kind to our body because we’ve told it to do so many things. “Be the body of fear now. Be the body of sadness now. Be the body of anger now. Be the body of jealousy now. Be the body of uncertainty now.”

And so then we have this great unbounded vision. “Now be the body of total enlightenment” and the body is, if it could speak, it might say something like, “Okay, hold on for a minute, let me just make arrangements.” And our body takes a little while to catch up.

Mind and Body in Complete Agreement

[14:27] In that process of catching up, the mind that has the memory of the wonderful unbounded vision of life, just has to be put on hold and wait a little while so that the body can catch up. And when it does, the body begins to print out the neurophysiology of enlightenment.

The body has to do that. It has to print out all of those materials, structural relationships, that will sustain the enlightened state that the mind has so clearly experienced.

A day comes where the body manages this and then mind and body are able to be in complete agreement about reality. And then the dark night of the soul, as it’s been called, the obscuration of the unbounded vision of the truth of life, comes to a close and one’s mind and one’s body together are able to enjoy perpetually the gift of full enlightenment.

Jai Guru Deva.

Q – How Can I Navigate Having Someone Dying or Getting Close to Death?

[15:28] Hi, Thom. I’m interested in what could be some Vedic practices or tips on how to deal with loved ones dying or getting close to death and if there’s any advice on how to best navigate that. Thank you.

Speed Grieving

[15:50] It’s such a sweet question, and my condolences if this is something that’s actually happening for you and not a hypothetical question.

First of all, let me say that it is perfectly natural and human to grieve. Though I do recommend “speed grieving.”

Speed grieving to me means to bring the process to a conclusion quickly. And partly for that, we have two elements.

One is through our regular practice of meditation, we end up building adaptation energy. Adaptation energy is a propensity that we naturally have that assists us in meeting demands with an abundance of energy, intelligence and creativity, with the ability physiologically to have stamina.

Be the Strong One

[16:44] And whenever there is a death, particularly in a family situation, there are those who require someone else to be strong, and then there are those upon whom it falls to be the strong one.

And I do believe that as a Vedic meditator, you can volunteer that position of being the strong one. And there are a few reasons for this.

One, I’d like you to listen to a previous podcast that I’ve made entitled Death Is Not Real. We go into a lot of detail about why it is that the death of the body is not in fact death of consciousness.

This is a very important thing to understand because, in general, we’re going to find that as we age and evolve, as we get older, and as meditators, we are gifted with greater longevity, there’s going to be around us naturally, an increasing ratio of death.

People’s bodies die. The death rate on earth is 100%. So we’re going to find that we have to come up with, and confront, and deal with, and interact effectively with this kind of phenomenon regularly.

There is Only Evolution

[17:57] Consciousness is immortal. Bodies are mortal. The Vedic worldview is that there is only evolution. Evolution is all that there is.

When the body dies the consciousness has an opportunity to spend a period of time resting before returning into the world of earthly concerns, into a body. This is the idea of being born again into another body, and continuing our path of evolution.

And for those of us, who’ve practiced Vedic Meditation, as we continue practicing regularly, our consciousness grows and grows and grows to a point where it is absolutely evident that what you are, not just who you are, is not merely a body, you are a consciousness field.

And when that reaches its crescendo, in Cosmic Consciousness, there are no more unfulfilled desires. All desire has reached its apex of fulfillment in that experience of the underlying field of Cosmic bliss.

This is a natural occurrence with regular practice of meditation. We’re all headed in that direction and when that happens, there’s no need for us to go anywhere. Consciousness that realizes itself as unbounded and already everywhere cannot conceive of anywhere else to go.

And so going or coming, these things belong to those who have not yet fully realized that totality.

So for us, we’re on that path. Everyone is on that path, but we’re practicing a technique which is going to give us that status.

Don’t Be the Needy One

[19:40] Meanwhile, someone else in the family or a close friend or relative may need our attention and our best attention will be an attention that is not one of neediness.

If somebody is coming to the end, the natural end of the conclusion of a chapter of their evolution, and their body is coming to a conclusion, then the worst thing that we can be for them is to be the needy one who, in a sense, tries to compete with the dying person over who should be grieving the most.

Grieving just means I’ve lost the capacity to continue communing with my loved one in the way that I’ve become familiar with. That way might be through their body is present.

Our consciousness has loved them and can continue to love them in the same way, whether they’re in their body or not.

Our love for them shouldn’t be brought to an end simply because their body’s come to an end. We don’t wish to treat a person who “has died” as if they don’t exist anymore.

Now we can find them in our heart where they will always be, where always they have been actually. Even when they’re in their body our love for them was a love that we felt in our heart. There’s no need for us to terminate that simply because a body has died.

Restoring a Sense of Peace and Happiness

[21:07] So I strongly recommend that you listen to my podcast on the subject of “death” and perhaps listen to it a couple of times, because this will not only give you some good information that will make you the strong one in the family, but also it will relieve you of great fears for yourself and bring that sense of peace and happiness in life and restore that quickly after the death of the body of someone we love.

We want to get through this process as quickly as possible and then continue to be able to make ourselves as relevant socially as we can possibly be.

Jai Guru Deva.

Q – Do You Recommend a Special Diet for a Spiritual Practice?

[21:51] Hi, Thom. Madison here from Gold Coast, Australia, and my question is, do you recommend a special diet for a spiritual practice? Jai Guru Deva.

Toxicity Begins With Your Consciousness State

[22:04] What I recommend is becoming more and more conscious. As we expand in our capabilities as meditators we’re going to begin to notice that certain habits that we may have had of inadvertently poisoning ourselves with things that may not have been actually food, or even eating nectar-like food, but having a poisonous consciousness state while ingesting it.

There’s an ancient saying from the Vedic tradition that, if you are stressed you could eat nectar and your body will turn the nectar into poison. In other words, the toxicity begins with your consciousness state, and if you release all of your stress and you have the most expanded awareness, you could even eat poison and your body will figure out how to turn it into nectar.

And so then really it’s not so much what we eat, it’s what we can do with what we eat, and what our body’s capable of doing is directly a product of what our body has been built from. You see our consciousness conceives the body, our consciousness constructs the body, our consciousness governs the body. The body is a printout of our consciousness state.

So this is the ultimate statement from the Veda about your body and its needs. If you are far more conscious and less stressed, you’re going to be very aware of exactly what your body needs, how much of it, and exactly what the timing is.

The Art and Science of Ayurveda

[23:43] Now when, over periods of millennia, observations were made by the great rishis, the seers of the Vedic tradition, about the way in which different people with different body types progressed into enlightenment, it was noted that there are certain balancing agents that make up the different kinds of body types that we see and a science was created, which was the science known as Ayurveda, A-Y-U-R, ayur, veda, V-E-D-A. It could be all one word or two separate words. It doesn’t matter.

Ayurveda is the science and art, it’s an art as well as the science of creating for yourself, maximizing the joy within your relevant longevity.

Why do I say relevant? Well, longevity is a thing, you can live for a long time, but then you die.  These bodies are designed to die. If you live 200 years, highly unlikely by the way, then your body will die, because you lived to 200 years. If you live a hundred years, then your body will die.

And so how to postpone death, how to postpone undue early death, how to maximize the joy that you can have in the time that your body has for living in life, how to maximize the joy is the most important, and how to not inadvertently violate the laws of Nature that go to govern the way that your particular body works.

Balancing Behaviour for Different Body Types

[25:23] There are different kinds of body types, and there are different kinds of mind and body types. And so Ayurveda has recognized what it is that is balancing behavior for each of these particular body types so that you do not inadvertently create problems for your digestion or for other things.

So Ayurveda is a tool. It’s a tool for meditators to use and you can draw upon Ayurveda very easily.

Ayurveda is part of our offerings on our annual retreats in India. The senior-most members of the most ancient and most illustrious Ayurvedic tradition, the Raju family, come to visit our retreats. And there you can have a consultation with one of the Ayurvedic doctors who will be able to tell you all about what your body is subtly craving and what your body is subtly hoping you’ll stop eating so that you can achieve balance very quickly.

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