The Simple Science of Happiness: Be Here Nowra Public Talk

“Baseline happiness comes from awakening your ability to contact or to make happen or to wake up that layer of you, which is the deep inner silence. And you reveal it again and again and again through regular practice of meditation.”

Thom Knoles

In June 2023, Thom was the guest of honor at a talk in Nowra, South of Sydney in Australia, on the subject, The Simple Science of Happiness.

The host of the talk was Barron Hanson, a Nowra local and a Vedic Meditation Initiator (teacher) who has created Be Here Nowra, a community happiness project committed to increasing the number of meditators in the town and researching the benefits arising.

This episode is a recording from that event, including a discussion between Thom and Barron, and Q&A with the audience.

To find out more about Be Here Nowra you can visit their website at or on Instagram @beherenowra

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Episode Highlights


Be Here Nowra: The Birth of a Transformational Idea



From Sydney to Goulburn: Freedom Behind Bars



Journey to Nowra: Nature, Art, and Indigenous Wisdom



Q- What is Happiness?



The Harmony of Inner Potential and External Demands



Q-How Does Happiness Affect the Body on a Neurophysiological Level?



The Ever-Changing Human Body



Thoughts and Body Chemistry



Q-How Does Collective Consciousness Relate to Individual Health?



The Science of Collective Consciousness



Impact of Meditation on the Collective Consciousness



Q-What Changes Can We Expect If 1% of a Population Start Meditating?



Measuring the Impact: Crime Rates and Meditation



More People Meditating, How Bad Can That Be?



Q-What Role Family and Community Play in Happiness?



The Tribal Roots of Human Social Behavior



Shared Experience: How We Define Our Sense of Self and Others



Q-How Can Parents Be Happy When Their Children Are Sad?



An Ideal Parent



Meditation in Parenthood



What Truly Makes a Family



Q- What Role Does Sadness Play in Happiness?






Q- What Are the Two Types of Happiness?



Object Referral Happiness: When Events Define Emotions



Baseline Happiness: Finding Inner Certainty



Embrace Baseline Inner Contentedness: The Foundation for Happiness



Q-How Does Meditation Give Us Baseline Happiness?



Meditation and the Exploration of Mind’s Bubbles



Awakening Baseline Happiness through Meditation



Q- Why Doesn’t Everyone Choose Happiness If It’s So Simple?



The Discoveries From Tooth Brushing to Meditation



Meditation as Hygiene: Cleansing the Stress of Everyday Life



Maharishi’s Wisdom: It’s Not About Happiness, It’s About Normalcy



Q-Are Modern City Dwellers More Stressed Than People from 200 Years Ago?



Stress in the Modern World: Is It Really on the Rise?



Q-What Role Social Media Is Playing in the Current Global Happiness?



The Reality of Social Media



Q-What Role Does Love Play in Our Happiness?



Stress and Missed Opportunities for Love



The Link Between Love and Happiness



Q-How to Build a Meditation-Focused Community?



Community Meditation: A Worthwhile Experiment



Q – Why Vedic Meditation Over Other Techniques or Apps?



It’s Effortless



Q – Does the Number of Thoughts Decrease with Baseline Happiness?



Q – Can Growth Overshadow the Objective?



Knowing When Enough is Enough



Q – How Can Vedic Meditation Help Us Discern Truth?



Reducing Suggestibility



Q – How Can Vedic Meditation Shift Repetitive Thought Patterns?



Removing the Stress



Q – Can Happiness and High Consciousness Coexist?



Everything’s Dying



Q – How Can We Support Young People?



What’s Your True Identity?



Jai Guru Deva


Jai Guru Deva


The Simple Science of Happiness: Be Here Nowra Public Talk

Thom Knoles:

Jai Guru Deva. Today we’re going to talk about an exciting project that’s occurring in the township of Nowra in New South Wales, the state of Australia, the southern coast, south of Sydney, a beautiful town nestled between beaches and the beautiful inland ranges, heavily forested inland farmlands, and a part of Australia with a wonderful history.

And coming from that area, one of the scions of Nowra, a young man by the name of Barron, Barron Hanson, who came to me a few years ago to be trained as an instructor in Vedic Meditation.

Barron had put to me that he had a program for Nowra in mind, entitled, as he envisioned it, Be Here Nowra, a play on the old Be Here Now concept, and I thought, well, I’m going to give this my all because I spent considerable amount of time in Nowra during my decades of living in Australia, prior to my moving back to my native United States.

And in the interim, Barron has put together a very impressive program of making sure that a large percentage of the people of the Shoalhaven River area, Shoalhaven River is the river on the banks of which Nowra exists. The Shoalhaven population have a greatly increased percentage of practitioners of Vedic Meditation, and this is because of research that started in the 1970s, sociologically demonstrating that in cities where meditation had become very popular, that is to say one percent, one out of a hundred, or more, had learned to meditate, there were significant drops in crime rates and other negative social indicators, and in subsequent research positive climes and positive trends sociologically.

Barron has got the local university to participate in the carrying out and monitoring the social indices for change in the Shoalhaven and Nowra district, and so we’re hoping to see a very positive change occur in this, what turns out to be a test case for how powerfully Vedic Meditation can work as a sociological tool for improving quality of life.

And now I’d like to hand over to Barron to say a few words, and after that we’ll play a recording of a talk I gave earlier this year in the township of Nowra.

Barron Hanson:

Thank you, Thom, for that wonderful introduction. Be Here Nowra, our community happiness project, was started in May 2022 with the goal of changing our town through meditation. Being a regional town, Nowra was already faced with its own set of social challenges, including drug abuse, violence, and mental health.

In 2019 and 20, we faced bushfires, COVID, and then floods. Our hope is that if we can show how meditation can help our stressed community, it can serve as a blueprint for change, and other communities will be inspired to follow our lead. This recording was made at Nowra Showground. It was a free, public wisdom talk about the simple science of happiness with Thom and myself.

Because this is a live recording, the audio isn’t studio quality, but bear with us. The content is valuable, and we had some great questions from the audience at the end.

Also, I wanted to mention, we are conducting first of its kind research on Vedic Meditation with the University of Wollongong. We have a couple of studies already underway and a number of proposed studies ready to go, but we need additional funding for these.

If you’re interested in supporting that at a philanthropy level, please reach out to me. If you would like to follow our journey, check out BeHereNowra on Instagram and Facebook. Details will be in the show notes. And, most of all, come visit Nowra and our beautiful, evolving town.

Thank you, and enjoy.

[06:02] Be Here Nowra: The Birth of a Transformational Idea

Thom Knoles:

Barron said to me, how many years ago? Some time ago. “If I do this thing in Nowra, will you come?” And I said, “Yes.” Here I am. I love Nowra.

Barron Hanson:

So you’ve given me a good, a good segue into how I wanted to start tonight, and that was how we first met. So, when I was studying to be a meditation teacher, some of the prerequisite courses was a course called Exploring the Vedas.

And in Exploring the Vedas, they talk about, or you talk about this idea about collective consciousness, and that we have the ability to affect the people around us, and I was fascinated by this concept. I’d always thought that our consciousness was located in the brain, and that was it. And it really changed my worldview.

And so, I went and did some more research into this particular topic, and I found out about these studies that said if you get 1% of a given population to start meditating, it could have a seismic effect throughout the collective consciousness of that geographic location. And, I love this idea, and as a filmmaker, I tried to find films about it, and there were no films about it.

And so, I kind of had this idea, and that’s the genesis for Be Here Nowra. And so, I was having a conversation with one of our mutual friends, Nico, and he’s here tonight, a mentor of mine as well, and he suggested that I should pitch the idea to you.

So, it was during COVID, I was living in New York, I flew to Arizona to your house in Flagstaff, and I was extremely nervous to first meet you, and I sat in your garden. We had a socially-distant conversation. I set up my little handy cams, and I pitched the idea for Be Here Nowra.

And we got about five minutes into the pitch, and you just stopped me. You put your hand up, and you stopped me, and you said, “Nowra, I love Nowra. Whatever it is, it’s a yes from me.”

And it knocked me sideways because I had like a half-an-hour presentation prepared, ready to pitch to you. So I would love for you to start out by telling us, how do you know about Nowra?

[08:11] From Sydney to Goulburn: Freedom Behind Bars

Thom Knoles:

Sometime before your parents met, I first came here. I was teaching meditation in Goulburn Gaol, way back in the 70s or 80s, late 70s, actually.

I had been teaching meditation in Sydney since 1969. We had a program for prisons, we, meaning me, had a program for prisons called Freedom Behind Bars.

So, I was up there in Goulburn for quite a while, and I’d just finished having two weeks of lock in.

I used to get myself locked into the prisons with the inmates so that they trusted me. I wasn’t just a consultant who left at 5 pm every day.

And an old mate of mine, a man named Red Mitchell, said, “I’m coming through Goulburn and I want you to meet an indigenous aboriginal friend of mine by the name of Burnum Burnum. We’re going to go for a walk together.”

Red was a forester for the Sydney Water Board, and so he knew all the rivers and all the forests around New South Wales pretty well, and he said, “We’re going to walk to Nowra, following the Shoalhaven [River].”

[09:38] Journey to Nowra: Nature, Art, and Indigenous Wisdom

And the three of us came walking down, Burnum Burnum, Red Mitchell and me. We went and explored the Bungonia Cave system on our way down. Took days and days to get down from Goulburn to here, and followed the Shoalhaven,

and then making our way all the way into Nowra, and finally, I think the first time I had a proper hot shower in two weeks or something, it took us to get down. We took our time and ended up in Nowra.

I’d been to Nowra before on surfing trips. I used to be a surfer, but that was an unusual way to enter, following the Shoalhaven down from Goulburn, and it made such a deep impression on me.

And Burnum, of course, knew everything about everything: every bug, every tree, every turn of the river. How many of you know of Burnum Burnum? Just show of hands, a few of you know? Yeah, oh gosh, half the audience.

Later on, I went to India with him. He accompanied me to India. He wanted to see that country. So we have a history there.

I’m so excited about the concept that Barron is creating here for Nowra, and look, if we end up changing things in Nowra dramatically, that’s fantastic. It would be just wonderful to have a lot of people meditating here anyway.

And I hope that you’re going to explain to them a bit about our meditation, or is that my job?

Barron Hanson:

We’ll get into it.

Thom Knoles:

We’ll get into it. Okay. So that’s my history with Nowra. Thank you.

[11:31] Q- What is Happiness?

Barron Hanson:

It’s beautiful. So the topic of tonight is The Simple Science of Happiness, and so I wanted to start out very broadly, what is happiness?

[11:41] The Harmony of Inner Potential and External Demands

Thom Knoles:

Happiness is a result of a successful interaction between our deepest inner potential and the demands of the world.

When you have awakened your inner potential to the fullest, and you interact with the world successfully, a demand is made on you and instead of reacting to it, because you don’t have enough adaptation energy, you’re able to interact with it.

Then, one of the consequences of a successful interaction is a wave of happiness, and happiness is an active experience, but there’s another state that’s a much quieter state, a supreme inner delight, which I just call Being. It’s the least-excited consciousness state, down deep inside your mind, the place where all the thoughts come from. And its nature is supreme contentedness.

[00:11:58] Q-How Does Happiness Affect the Body on a Neurophysiological Level?

Barron Hanson:

What about on a neurophysiological level, so what’s happening in the body when someone is experiencing happiness?

[12:53] The Ever-Changing Human Body

Thom Knoles:

Well, we have to understand that our body is not a frozen sculpture, although when you look in the mirror, you might think it is. Obviously, it’s changed since you were little.

Our body is made up of about 70 trillion cells, and for those of you who aren’t familiar with the numbers in government spending, a trillion is a thousand billion, and a billion is a thousand million. 70 trillion is a lot of cells.

And these cells are in constant flux. The epidermal cells of the body, the outer skin, changes over about once a month. Sometimes, on a dry day, you can rub your skin in the sunshine, and you can see little flakes of skin flying off. The house dust mites love it. That’s their breakfast. Down deeper than that, you have the fascia. And the cells of the fascia change over about every two or three years.

Down deeper than that, you have the muscles. They change over about every five to six years. And then you have the skeletal structure, the bones, the skeletal structure, changes over about once every seven years.

And so, there’s nothing in your body older than seven years, and yet you are the same you, inside there, that has been here since you first realized, looking in the mirror at the age of two, that you had a body, or that you were identified with a body.

[14:28] Thoughts and Body Chemistry

Every time we think a thought, our thinking changes the chemistry of those 70 trillion cells. So, if you have an angry thought, if I had you in one of my labs— which I had once upon a time, I had laboratories once, so I can tell you more about that later— we could demonstrate how, seconds prior to you having an angry thought, the chemistry of your body was different.

After the angry thought, different chemistry in all the 70 trillion cells. You can measure it everywhere in the body. Sad thought, sad chemistry. Fearful thought, body of fear.

How long does it take? Less than 10 minutes for you to utterly change the chemical composition of your body by thinking. Yesterday’s mind is today’s body, today’s mind is tomorrow’s body. You’re constructing tomorrow’s body right now.

And so our body changes chemically. We get overloads of experience. Too much brightness, or a sudden change of expectation, or emotional stress, and our body ends up printing it out.

I like to say that our consciousness, our mind, conceives the body. Our consciousness constructs the body. Our consciousness governs the body. Our consciousness prints out a body. So, our body is a printout of whatever we’ve been thinking lately.

Thank you, that’s the simple science. That’s not even the hard science.

[16:10] Q-How Does Collective Consciousness Relate to Individual Health?

Barron Hanson:

So, we talked about the body. What about as a collective consciousness, is it the same way that the individual health of ourselves? Do humans make up this collective consciousness? How does the individual consciousness affect the collective?

[16:30] The Science of Collective Consciousness

Thom Knoles:

It’s helpful to think of, and we’re borrowing from physics and particularly from quantum field theory, to think of consciousness as a field. There’s very little evidence that our brain is the creator of our consciousness. It seems as though consciousness is a thing.

When I taught at Goulburn Gaol, and other jails, sometimes when there was a strike going on in there, or the inmates wouldn’t come out of the yard because they were striking about something, the atmosphere in that place was so thick with stress, you could practically cut it with scissors. I mean, you could feel it in the air.

And, if that’s true, that we know that very stressful places are palpably, the atmosphere is palpably stressed, then it must be true in the opposite. There’s a field of consciousness, and we’re all plugged into it.

Our individual brain is more like a transducer, or a radio, that’s tuning into a field of consciousness that’s everywhere, and that field of consciousness is the source of our individual thinking, but we also feed back into it. There’s feedback into the collective.

One of the ways in which economists look at the markets of the world, you only have to have one scare, anywhere, and immediately all the stock markets change, all the commodity markets change. Or a little bit of confidence shown, and immediately all the markets change again like that. That collective phenomenon is something that we draw upon, and we feed back into it.

[18:33] Impact of Meditation on the Collective Consciousness

So consciousness is like a canvas, and if you change the consciousness field in a particular way like, for example, if you were to take a trampoline and roll a bowling ball out to the middle of it, the trampoline would bend.

Now if you took a billiard ball and rolled that into the trampoline with the bowling ball in the middle, the billiard ball would spin around and orbit around and then end up in there too. Now, the canvas is even more deeply distorted. Each time you put a new billiard ball in, the canvas gets more distorted.

And so consciousness behaves the same way that space-time behaves with gravitation and mass.

If you have a particularly powerful event that’s going on in the consciousness field, a de-exciting event, like meditation, then it causes an event horizon. There’s a circumference, a periphery effect, and someone who happens into that particular periphery starts to feel good.

There’s a feel-good phenomenon that occurs in a circumference around a sufficient mass of consciousness that is becoming quieter, experiencing that supreme inner contentedness. It affects the field. It affects the consciousness field.

And people say this all the time that they could be in the home of somebody who meditates. Someone who practices meditation regularly may invite somebody over for dinner who’s never been exposed to the practice.

And the one who’s never been exposed will walk into that house and say, “There’s something different here. I think the atmosphere here is unreal. It feels so good in here.” That’s that effect.

The more, the larger number of people we have practicing the technique in a particular geographic area, the larger and more powerful the event horizon is, the circumference, the periphery of it.

[20:46] Q-What Changes Can We Expect If 1% of a Population Start Meditating?

Barron Hanson:

Sounds fun.

So, we talk about this, this 1% effect, and there’s research that suggests that if you could get, say, 1% of a given population to have this de-exciting effect, that it can actually have a ripple effect throughout the geographic location.

So if, if we were to, say, achieve that in Nowra, if tomorrow 1% or 300 people started meditating tomorrow, what changes may we expect to see, or what things may be affected?

[21:14] Measuring the Impact: Crime Rates and Meditation

Thom Knoles:

I think that in order to be scientific about it, you’d want to do before and after measurements. And one of the easiest things to measure, which is very easy data to obtain, is crime rates.

Where crime rates are at a certain level, and if there’s no change in policing or change in policy, and then you introduce meditation in the community, and you get a large saturation of people meditating, if what we’re saying is true, we should see a decrease in crime rates.

And there are other more positive measures that you can measure. For example, in the United States, unlike Aussies, Aussies are very good about this: you’re required to vote. In the United States, you’re not required to vote.

And so about only 40%, on average, of Americans ever go to the polls at all, which is pretty odd, really. It means that 40% are governing what’s actually going on, and 60% are just apathetic.

In the United States, not only have dropping in crime rates been associated with a saturation point in meditation, but also positive measures like voter participation, people getting along to the polls and actually getting on with voting in a place where they’re not required to. If that goes up, then you can say, “Well, what’s causing that?”

[22:51] More People Meditating, How Bad Can That Be?

And there’s a thing that we use in science, a statistical tool called a time series analysis. If you carry out a time series analysis, you’re able to rule out random effects.

So, supposing you saw crime rates drop in Nowra after reaching a certain saturation point of people meditating, it’s possible that it’s a random event that was going to happen anyway, or was being caused by something else.

And there are scientific methods you can use to rule out the possibility or probability of this happening at random and it not being related to the intervention that you have attributed to it.

And I think it would be very interesting do that, I think, taking a very scientific approach because you could just teach a whole lot of people to meditate in Nowra, and that would be great. More people meditating in Nowra, how bad can that be? That’s a good thing anyway.

But if you don’t measure the before and the after, you’re missing an opportunity to gather some data on the effect that this has had. If you can do that, then you might be invited to replicate it somewhere else, in some other town or city. And if you can replicate it, your evidence is getting stronger and stronger that meditation is having a dramatic effect on social indicators.

[24:21] Q-What Role Family and Community Play in Happiness?

Barron Hanson:

Yeah, that’s interesting thinking about the individual being that bowling ball on the trampoline that’s pulling others in, but then Nowra being a bowling ball pulling other towns in and the ripple effect, the potential ripple effect that we could have by showing what we’re doing here.

And that’s one of the reasons why we have video cameras rolling on this. It’s because, as a filmmaker, I want to be able to show what we’re doing here and inspire other people.

So thank you for allowing us to film as well and roll cameras because I think when we first met, you just, you were so excited about this project, which in turn was your big bowling ball, and that’s what pulled me right in and has really inspired me.

So, I wanted to say thank you as a teacher and as a person who is sharing this knowledge around the world. It means a lot. So, thank you.

I want to ask a little bit about the importance of community because this, being our community happiness project, and what role does kind of family and community play in happiness?

[25:23] The Tribal Roots of Human Social Behavior

Thom Knoles:

We human beings are great lovers of, and don’t get me wrong when I say this word, tribal phenomena.

We’re tribal people. Going back to the origins of wherever all of us came from, ultimately, you go back far enough, our ancestors were members of tribes, and we do have receptors in our brain that can detect and really enjoy shared experience. When our ancestors, ancient, ancient ancestors, paleolithic ancestors, first began discovering the joy of eating together, maybe it was game that was brought, or maybe it was a big fruit tree that was producing fruit, and to be able to sit and eat together and have the same flavors, the same taste and to communicate and discuss and exchange ideas and all of that, usually while eating. And it got programmed into our brain.

The brains that we have now, even though we try to behave like nuclear families instead of like extended families, but we create our own extended families by getting friendships and people who play the roles of the extended family, whether or not we actually have blood relations who are our extended family nearby.

[00:26:05] Shared Experience: How We Define Our Sense of Self and Others

We create tribes, we create them, and families, groups of families who know each other. And then, a town or a city of this size is really, it’s a tribal thing, and you can feel it. There is people who are acceptable but out on the fringes of it, but they’re still part of it, you know, the local color.

And then there are people who are more conservative, there are people who are more liberal, but you have this phenomenon of a sense of communal identity, and there’s nothing that we like more than having a sense of identity.

 What is it that defines our shared experience?

And, so I think that anything that can enhance and bring together shared experience on a human level is going to be something that we just really get into and really like.

That’s why we love sports so much. You have a sporting stadium, and everybody gets together, and they’re battling it out for their own team or, you know… we do like to have solitude from time to time, but we like to have somebody that we can talk to who we can tell how good the solitude was. Do you have three or four days so I can tell you how great it was for me to be by myself? We’re sharers by nature. Our brains are like that. We’re wired that way.

[28:22] Q-How Can Parents Be Happy When Their Children Are Sad?

Barron Hanson:

So, while we’re on the topic of family I’m not a parent yet, you are. There was a saying that someone said to me the other day that you’re only as happy as your least happy child. As a parent, when you see your children sad, how can you be happy, I guess?

[28:42] An Ideal Parent

Thom Knoles:

Oh, I see it all the time, and I don’t agree with the concept. I think my least happy child is only going to be as happy or unhappy as their parents.

If the parents are in a good consciousness state. As a parent, your responsibility is those kids. Their eyes and ears are like videos, like these cameras. They’re just taking it in all the time, the little snarky comments or the loving things that you do or whatever it is you’re up to.

And then, when you see an unhappy child, very often, these are children who’ve been trying out the worst things that they’ve seen their parents get up to. And I think it’s very important for our children that we as parents are exemplars, good examples.

Now, it’s also important for them to see us making mistakes. And to recover from the mistakes, and it’s important for them to see us willing to admit that we made mistakes and that we can gracefully apologize for a mistake, too. That’s also important because we’re not perfect beings, and they’re not going to be perfect beings. They need to see the whole spectrum.

But basically,an ideal parent is not a parent that has perfect behavior, but an ideal parent is somebody who can blow their stack but then recover quickly.

[30:10] Meditation in Parenthood

And one of the things I like about meditation and what it does for parents, and therefore has the knock-on effect to the children, is that meditation doesn’t stop you from ever getting stressed again.

I hope that you don’t have that idea about it. You can get stressed. And getting stressed is not actually all that bad for you. What’s bad for you is getting stressed and staying stressed. When you can’t recover from getting stressed, that’s really bad for you.

We have to be able to recover. Like you know, you have a plasticine ball, imagine, and you can flatten it into a pancake or dig your fingers into it or whatever, but the impressions stay in it.

Now, if you have a foam rubber ball, you can flatten it into a pancake, but the moment you let go of it, it pops back to its spherical shape. It has resiliency. It also, it has malleability like plasticine. You can mold it. But it won’t stay molded. If you take the distorting pressure off, it pops back into a sphere again. That’s a good model for how we need to be.

We have to be malleable. We have to be people who are able to be impacted by the environment, not stoic, not granite, but we also have to be able to recover with a decent speed so that we can come back to learning from whatever our experience was, and that resiliency is very necessary.

[31:53] What Truly Makes a Family

And I think resiliency is something that we’ve lost. As we have become a society that doesn’t just get stressed; we get stressed and stay stressed, and we accumulate.

Accumulation of stress means accumulation of all kinds of irrelevant behaviors that belong to some experience that you had a long time ago is not here anymore. And unless you can recover, your stress is going to force you to behave in ways that are not relevant to the present moment. So that needs to change.

I don’t know if I answered your question about kids and all that. I’ve had a number of children, and when one of them is unhappy, the whole family moves in that direction towards the unhappy child to see if we can help her or him or them come out of their problem and you know, family support.

Families are all about having problems and everyone supporting everyone to come through those problems. That’s what a family is about,. That’s what makes a family.

It’s not about not having problems. That’s not a possibility.

I guess the same goes for communities as well.

Community, big family. Collection of families is just a big family. Yeah.

[33:20] Q- What Role Does Sadness Play in Happiness?

Barron Hanson:

So today, our family lost grandma, my Nan. She’s 94 and just at Shoalhaven Hospital, just down the road. So there’s quite a bit of sadness in our family today.

I’m sorry to hear that.

It’s okay. But I’m curious, like, what, what role does sadness play in happiness?

[33:39] Contrast

Thom Knoles:

I think it provides us with a contrast. It’s very hard to enjoy light in a well-lit place if you haven’t got something to compare it to. And I think that the whole range of human experience, I think it’s absolutely human to grieve.I think that when people don’t grieve, it makes them sick, both mentally and physically. It’s important to grieve.

But we need to be speed grievers. We need to be able to grieve speedily and come back into the light again. And we also have to ask ourselves, what would Gran be wanting us to do today? What would she want us to do?

We have to ask ourselves, when someone is no longer here in their body to speak for themselves, what would they have us behaving like? How would they like us to be?

And if we miss that opportunity because very often when we’re grieving, we fail to face a basic fact. What are we grieving about? For whom are we grieving? And the fact is, we’re mostly grieving for ourself. And if we don’t face that reality, we think we’re grieving for somebody else, but we actually don’t know what they’re experiencing.

Their experience is either over, depending on your belief system, or they’re continuing to experience, but they’re just somewhere outside our reach, and we can’t have that ease of relating to them anymore, and experiencing and communing with them. And so we feel a loss because their physical body’s not here anymore. And we got in the habit of locating them only as a body. So we need to learn how to broaden our context, but in the process of doing that, it’s natural to feel a little bit like askance, what happened? Yeah.

[35:45] Q- What Are the Two Types of Happiness?

Barron Hanson:

Thank you. So, I’ve heard you talk about there’s two types of happiness is: object-referral happiness and self-referral happiness. I was wondering if you could explain those two a little bit.

[36:00] Object Referral Happiness: When Events Define Emotions

Thom Knoles:

Once upon a time, there was a man who had two things that absolutely brought him to light: his son and a little pony. And one day, his son got onto the pony’s back and was riding the pony, and the man saw that and the boy being so happy, and he was just the happiest father now, the pony and the boy riding the pony.

But the pony bucked him off and the boy fell down and broke his arm. So, from the heights of happiness, he went into the depths of misery about his son with a broken arm.

But then along came the army. They were fighting a war in a neighboring country, drafting all the young men to go into the army to fight in the war. But they left his son alone because his son had a broken arm.

So now, from the depths of sadness, he went to the heights of happiness again. And this story could go on and on and on if we want to just keep making things up, right? That’s what I’m doing. This is the story of object-referral happiness.

“I’m happy because there’s an event that suits me. I’m sad because there’s an event that doesn’t suit me. I’m happy again because there’s an event that suits me.”

[37:23] Baseline Happiness: Finding Inner Certainty

Now, as distinct from this kind of object-referral happiness, “The object world aligns, I’m happy. The object world doesn’t align. I’m not happy anymore.” There is another kind of happiness that I call baseline.

There’s a place inside you that’s not like waves of happiness but it’s an inner sense of capability. We’re going to call that self-referral happiness. It’s a sense of you having the capacity, the stability, the adaptability, the creativity, and the stamina, that when things are not going in a particular way that suits you, you’re not going to be defined by events. You’re going to be defined more by that inner sense of what you are.

That’s invincible happiness. Baseline happiness. You get it through meditating, by the way. You practice meditation. It awakens that.

Now, you still have the things that happen in the outside world. Somebody does something, or somebody doesn’t do something, or the weather’s right or the weather’s not right or whatever it may be.

But throughout all of that, you have this continuum of certainty from inside. Whatever the world brings to me, I’m going to be able to interact with it, and I feel good deep inside myself. I’m not waiting for a thing to make me feel good. And there lies the great distinction.

[39:05] Embrace Baseline Inner Contentedness: The Foundation for Happiness

I think, a world is living in object-referral happiness. You’re a little kid, you wanted the dolly and you got the dolly. Or maybe it was a bicycle and you got the bicycle, but you’re happy for a week or two weeks and then it’s all over with.

Now you want the next thing, and you want the next thing, and you want the next thing. And if this is the only kind of happiness we have, we end up living a life of dissatisfaction because no amount of anything is ever enough, frankly, if that’s the way we’re living our life.

So we have to find that baseline, supreme inner contentedness inside of ourselves, and then whatever the world brings, we have a baseline that doesn’t get changed by it.

[39:56] Q-How Does Meditation Give Us Baseline Happiness?

Barron Hanson:

How does meditation do this, or why does meditation give us that baseline?

[40:01] Meditation and the Exploration of Mind’s Bubbles

Thom Knoles:

When we live our life without meditating, think of the mind as being a lake, and from the bottom of the lake are all these bubbles coming. And a bubble could be thought of as a thought.

A thought comes up in the mind from some deep place inside of us, and our mind tends to hop on the surface from one bubble to the next, exploring the surface of the lake, knowledge which is surface knowledge.

When you meditate, you learn how to take a particular bubble and follow that thought, a particular thought, all the way to its source. And the source of thought is a quiet place deep inside you.

Meditation doesn’t create it. Meditation reveals it. It reveals that underlying layer. Now, almost everyone has had an experience of that underlying layer sometime in your life.

Let me give you some examples. You know how sometimes when you’re lying in bed, and you’re almost asleep, not quite asleep, not quite awake, you’re in that in-between place.

And this could happen either when you’re falling asleep, or it could be if you wake in the night and you’re going back to sleep, or it could be where the junction point is between sleeping and waking, where two states of consciousness are changing. There’s a gap there.

And sometimes you get into that gap, and there’s a moment where it feels like, “Wow, this is, this is pretty good, I don’t know what this is, but whatever it is. I’d love to have more of it.” But the problem is we start snoring, and then we’re gone.

[41:47] Awakening Baseline Happiness through Meditation

In that moment, in that gap, that junction point that you get between waking and sleeping, there’s a moment of bliss, and meditation is the technique for sitting upright in a chair and taking your mind intentionally into that gap, into that junction point.

In meditation, you’re not quite awake, but you’re not quite asleep either. If somebody came into the room and snapped their fingers, you’d hear it instantly. You could, you can hear things, but your mind is in a completely de-excited state. And instead of it lasting a few seconds, you’re sitting there for about 20 minutes just reveling in this state, the in-between state. Your body rests much deeper than sleep when you’re in that state.

So the baseline happiness comes from awakening your ability to contact or to make happen or to wake up that layer of you, which is the deep inner silence. And you reveal it again and again and again through regular practice of meditation.

Once you learn it, you do it as a system, 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the evening, and it turns into a strategy. And then from that, you have this kind of sense of that place, that layer in you, that is beyond thought, but I call it Being.

Action comes from thinking. Thinking comes from Being. But we don’t normally experience that silent place of Being.

Meditation wakes it up, and it makes you feel good, makes you feel good. You do your morning meditation. It lasts for hours. You can feel the effect of it. And then it wears off. Around about 3, 4, 5 o’clock, it starts wearing off. So you sit down and give yourself another dose of it, meditation. And then it lasts all the way through till night time.

[43:57] Q- Why Doesn’t Everyone Choose Happiness If It’s So Simple?

Barron Hanson:

If being happy is so simple, why doesn’t everyone do it?

[44:04] The Discoveries From Tooth Brushing to Meditation

Thom Knoles:

There was a time once, not so long ago, about a hundred and twenty years ago, where nobody in the whole of the human race had ever once brushed their teeth. This is an astonishing thought. And if you look at photographs from that era, everyone’s very tight-lipped. And the reason they’re not smiling is not because everyone was in a dour mood, but it’s because they had terrible teeth or no teeth if they smiled.

Imagine it: if we went for a whole day without brushing our teeth, it’d be awful. What about going for a week? How about going for 50 years? Every food particle that you’ve ever eaten just having to be in your mouth all the time, rotting your teeth. Most people had completely rotten teeth by the time they were 30.

Somebody discovered tooth brushing. I don’t even know who it was, but it must have been somebody, right? Probably, there’s half a dozen people who said, “It was me!”

And at some point, somebody might have said, “Well, if this thing is so good, why doesn’t everybody do it?”

And gradually, gradually it caught on. Thank goodness for those of us who have to smell the bad breath, but you know gradually, it caught on.

[45:26] Meditation as Hygiene: Cleansing the Stress of Everyday Life

And now I would warrant that everyone in this room has brushed their teeth at least once in the last 24 hours. We all make it a habit, something that was unimaginable 120 years ago. It’s a habit now, and the whole community participates in it. We don’t even talk about it. We just brush our teeth and get on with life.

Meditation is like that. It’s having a renaissance. It’s not a new thing to the human race. It’s been around forever. And ancient cultures have known about meditation forever. But it’s a new thing for our society as it is today, and it cleans the stress off every day. It’s like physiological hygiene, oral hygiene for your mouth, brushing teeth, physiological hygiene. You want to peel away all the stress of the day twice a day, so that you’re not polluting everybody with your stress. It’s just like brushing teeth. It takes a little longer. You sit down in a chair for 20 minutes, but you come out all clean, cleaned of stress. And the stress isn’t there anymore.

And it’s just not popular yet because not enough people have discovered the effect of it. For people who do meditate twice every day, even if they only do it for six weeks, by the time six weeks have gone by from having learned it, they could never imagine not doing it, just like you can’t imagine not brushing your teeth for six weeks.

 You can’t imagine how you survive life without this beautiful technique that you can do. It’s remarkable how radical and revolutionary it is for individual life.

[47:15] Maharishi’s Wisdom: It’s Not About Happiness, It’s About Normalcy

Barron Hanson:

I remember you saying your teacher, your master Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, said something akin to, “It’s not about getting happy, it’s getting normal.”

Thom Knoles:

Yeah, that’s right. Because stress is abnormality. Living life with accumulated stress is not really the normal state of the human brain and mind. It’s an abnormal state. And so when we peel away all the stresses, day by day by day, getting rid of them by meditating, normality starts to dawn, and normality is not what is average. The average experience is not normal. It’s subnormal.

[47:57] Q-Are Modern City Dwellers More Stressed Than People from 200 Years Ago?

Barron Hanson:

I heard a statistic recently that said the average person living in a city today is exposed to more information causing stress, than an average person living 200 years ago was exposed to in their entire lifetime. Do you think that’s true?

[48:12] Stress in the Modern World: Is It Really on the Rise?

Thom Knoles:

Likely. I don’t know how you can measure such a thing, and being a scientist, I’d love to see how they measured that.

ButI like the idea of it, and it seems right to me. We are overloaded with and bombarded with information. You thought you knew what was happening in Russia two days ago, and turns out you were wrong.

Everybody’s going to start looking at their phones now; well, what happened in Russia? There was nearly a civil war.

But if you’re not up on all of that, then you’re not really with it. And the world is changing at such an astonishing pace, and we’re being bombarded with information because we have reporters everywhere, everywhere, and one person sending one Instagram message, and it goes viral, and all over the world,hundreds of millions of people are either informed or misinformed in a matter of minutes or hours.

And so the change of expectation, the speed of changes of expectation is certainly much higher, vastly higher, and that means that what you thought was true a week ago isn’t true today, and there was certainly a time where whatever you thought was true a week ago probably was still true a week later.

Now, the world is changing so fast, and we’re all so informed about how the world is changing. It’s bewildering, and it’s flabbergasting how fast everything changes, and change takes its toll on us. It eats up our adaptation energy.

And it means that we don’t have that adaptation energy for things at home and for relationships and for other things because we’re just constantly being bombarded with too much information.

[50:14] Q-What Role Social Media Is Playing in the Current Global Happiness?

Barron Hanson:

While we’re on social media, what role do you think social media is playing in the current global happiness?

[50:23] The Reality of Social Media

Thom Knoles:

I think it has a destructive effect if you don’t meditate. If you practice meditation, you can take it in your stride. If you don’t meditate, you’ll take it too seriously. And actually, I think we have a very important, very big responsibility not to take social media too seriously.

We’ve created the reality of it. The reality of social media is the reality that is within the human imagination. It’s not an actual thing, right? It’s a bunch of information, and a lot of it is misinformation.

One of my students, who’s a major media professor, said that lies get around the world ten times while the truth is just first getting out. One minute, in one minute, misinformation can get around the world 70 times. And how fast does truth get around the world? Well, much more slowly. Much more slowly.

So then, we live in a world where we’ve bought in. And the reason we buy in to the social media is because we get little dewdrops of happiness from it. Little dewdrops, like a thirsty person licking dewdrops off the blades of grass because they’re desperately thirsty.

What if you could just fall back into a lake of beautiful, clean, pure drinking water? That’s meditation to me. You’re not going to have that desperate thirst for those little dew drops of happiness that you might get from reading some dirt on some movie star, or reading some new conspiracy theory, or maybe reading some new fact, some new knowledge.

And so it’s a desperation-driven phenomenon, and the more you participate in it, if you don’t have baseline happiness, the more desperate you get. And that sounds like something we already know about that starts with an A, addiction. And that’s what it is. It’s an addiction.

[52:30] Q-What Role Does Love Play in Our Happiness?

Barron Hanson:

Scary. So, I’ve got a couple last questions, and then we’ll throw it to the floor, so I hope you guys have some questions prepared.

So, you once told me, and you’ve had the opportunity to be the advisor for many, some world leaders, I believe, and often when they get behind closed doors with you, the first thing they ask about is love and relationships. And so, what role does love play in our happiness?

[53:03] Stress and Missed Opportunities for Love

Thom Knoles:

I don’t think we can love if we’re not happy. I watched this once, I got invited to the home of a big shot who wanted to learn to meditate in his own home rather than coming to a course that I was holding for the public.

And I went to the home, and mom was there, and little five-year-old girl was there, daughter of the big shot. And big shot arrived late, as big shots often do. Outside of the door of his house, he was winning an argument on his cell phone, and sometimes it’s important to win arguments, especially if you’re a big shot.

He looked quite satisfied, and hung his phone up, and then walked into the house. His little girl had made a picture for him and she came running up and said, “Daddy, Daddy.”

And he didn’t look at her and say, “Hi darling. How’s everything? Is that for me? What a beautiful picture.” He just looked at her and said, “What? Okay, show it to me. Show it to me now.”

And she just folded it up and took off out of the room. So, there was a missed opportunity. And then he looked at me, and he held his palms up like this and said, “You see what my life is like? It’s like this everywhere I go.”

[54:26] The Link Between Love and Happiness

And he doesn’t realize that he’s just radiating stress into the atmosphere. When you feel stressed, you miss opportunities for shared experience. Love is all about shared experience.

And you know, you feel stressed, maybe you want to participate, but you’ve got that kind of angry edge in your voice that’s left over from something you did that was important for you to do an hour ago or something.

Or you’re sad because you discovered something that you don’t like, your favorite TV show got canceled, or something. Or you’re frightened. Maybe you got frightened by something, and this is still having an effect on you, and potential for love is all around you all the time. Are you able to detect it?

You have to be a prospector for that gold. You have to be a prospector for it. It’s gold. And if you miss it because you’re angry, or you’re sad or you’re frightened, and you’re stressed, or you’re tired, then you miss out on the opportunity to experience the real gold of life which is all around you all the time.

Opportunities for experiencing love are all around you all the time, but if you’re stressed, you might as well be blind and deaf to it. You walk through life not having the opportunity.

And at the end of a few years, you say, “What happened? There doesn’t seem to be any love around here anymore; it’s because we’re missing it. It’s right there in front of us.

[56:09] Q-How to Build a Meditation-Focused Community?

Barron Hanson:

Love is all around.

Last question from me. So, we’re building a community here in Nowra. We’re trying to prove this ideal of, , if you get enough people meditating, it can have an effect on the collective. Is there any advice you can give to me as a community builder of how to build a great community here?

[56:33] Community Meditation: A Worthwhile Experiment

Thom Knoles:

I think do it, whether it’s gonna work or not, either prove it or disprove it, but get more people meditating. So, what if you got 1% of Nowra of meditating, and it turns out the crime rates didn’t change? Well, at least you have 1 percent of the city meditating. It can’t be that bad for you, right? Meditation has been shown to produce all these wonderful effects for individuals.

My prediction would be you will be able to find measurable change if you measure it properly, especially before and after. But even if it didn’t work, what’s the worst thing that can happen?

You have hundreds of people meditating in the community, and there’s a shared experience that’s happening with everyone. It’s a worthwhile experiment to either prove or disprove. It’s going to get you somewhere either way.

Barron Hanson:

Thank you very much. And I look around this room right now. And this project’s been going a year. And there’s at least 30 people I can see who I would have never met unless they’d come to learn meditation. And I consider those people friends. And it’s just that in itself is a huge win that I’ve met all these wonderful people.

So, yeah, I wanted to say thank you again. And I just can’t wait to see what questions you guys have.

[57:51] Q – Why Vedic Meditation Over Other Techniques or Apps?


Why does this meditation technique have profound benefits for happiness and less stress when compared to other meditations like guided meditations or apps?

[58:04] It’s Effortless

Thom Knoles:

I think every kind of eyes-closed meditation technique, whether it’s taught on an iPhone app or whether you’ve gone off to a Zen Buddhist place for 20 years or anything, anything that has been around for a long time must work. It must work. I think almost every kind of meditation technique does something for you. I can only speak for the technique that I know the best because I’ve been trained in it. And I’ve spent my life specializing in it. So it’s my specialty.

The reason that this technique works is because it’s effortless. When you close your eyes to meditate, it’s not a strain, it’s not concentration, it’s not control, it’s not faith based. It’s a mechanical technique. And so when you’re practicing the technique, it just has its effect and the effortlessness of it makes it very charming to practice.

It’s not a chore. When you learn it, you start to look forward to it. After about a week of having learned it, you find yourself like, “Wow, I get to meditate now. Not I have to meditate, but I get to meditate. It just feels good. It feels really good.”

And I think this is the brain habituating to it, just like your brain habituates to anything, which is one of the good dependencies. In our life, we have to have good dependencies as well as, and we have to learn how to exclude the bad dependencies.

Good dependencies are things like water, nourishing food, contact with other humans, communication, exercise, fresh air. Good dependencies. We need to have more of them.

And the word dependency has a bad rap because there are bad dependencies, and those are the addictions. But not all dependencies are addictions. And as you meditate, your brain starts to develop a good dependency.

It takes the mind to that least-excited state that’s beyond thought, and that state by nature is a kind of bliss state.

When I say bliss, I don’t want you to think it’s ecstatic. It’s a supreme inner contentedness, as I called it earlier. And it changes the chemistry of the brain, and your brain starts to learn how to rely on that experience.

Your brain wants more of it. And it’s not an addiction because your brain can produce that chemistry with great regularity. And when your brain imbibes the chemistry of meditation, it doesn’t harm other people or harm you. It makes you healthier and makes your relationships with other people healthier. So, it falls into that category of being a good dependency, not an addiction.

And I think to answer your question, from what I hear about other meditation techniques, they sound hard to do. There’s mental effort used. This technique is completely effortless, and I think that’s the magic of it.

Barron Hanson:

The man in the white hat, Dom.

[01:01:16] Q – Does the Number of Thoughts Decrease with Baseline Happiness?


Hey Thom. I believe the statistic is, is it 60, do you have 60 a non meditator has 60 to 100, 000 thoughts per day?

Is that correct? It’s a two-part question.

Thom Knoles:

There’s about 60,000 to 100,000 cognitive processes that occur in the human mind from the time you wake up till the time you fall asleep again.

A cognitive process is defined as an idea, a thought, a memory, a desire, what all of us would simply call thoughts. And you can show that there’s somewhere between 60,000 to 100,000 of these thought events that occur on a given day.


And how many would you have once you’ve got the baseline self-referral happiness?

How many would an enlightened person like yourself have?

[01:01:10] The Same Thoughts Over and Over Again

Thom Knoles:

I don’t think the quantity of thought events is a problem. What’s a problem is that the same studies that try to count these things are able to show that about 90% of the thoughts that you had today are the same thoughts you had yesterday.

That means the mind just keeps on repeating the same thought content over and over and over again.

The volume is not the problem. It’s the repetitiveness of it. It’s the fact that the creativity is, the improvisation, the innovation is so low. And when you have ever-repeating phenomena in any natural system, it starts to take on a quality something akin to stagnation. It has a stagnating effect on us when we just keep on having the same thoughts again and again and again and again, day in and day out, day in and day out, same thoughts, same thoughts, same thoughts.

And so, when we have the same thoughts over and over and over again, we’re producing the same chemistry in the body and the brain over and over and over again. But the world is expecting something different from us every day.

So, if I’m having the same thoughts today that I had yesterday, but today’s world is asking something different of me to what yesterday’s world was asking, but I’m having yesterday’s thoughts today, then I’m not making myself relevant to the need of the time. I’m just too predictable.

Make sense? Okay, great.

[01:03:59] Q – Can Growth Overshadow the Objective?


I just thought I’d come along and I’m blown away with the number of people here tonight.

I was a physics teacher and I’m pretty obsessed with numbers and my question sort of spring boards off Barron’s last question and what I’m hearing is the more people we can get in our community meditating, the better chance we have of getting this collective mindset working. I think if you do something well, it will grow.

I sometimes think, and I’ve got a two pronged question, I sometimes think you can get a certain level of growth and then you seem to sort of hit a stumbling block.

So the first part of my question is… You’ve been involved with this for a long time. What can be done with these stumbling blocks?

And the second question is, sometimes in my life, I’ve seen growth become the primary goal instead of, say, the collective consciousness.

How can we protect ourselves from making the growth the goal and just keep going for the growth, growth, growth, instead of, yes, growth’s important, but it’s not the main issue.

[01:05:07] Knowing When Enough is Enough

Thom Knoles:

I think both of your questions have a relationship to a common theme, and so I’m going to answer the second prong of your question before I get to the first prong of your question. And I think we’ll find common ground in both of them.

Part of any true abundance of any kind is knowing when enough is enough. In other words, being able to just relax and enjoy a certain saturation point, and we as a society, and there’s something in the human brain that is probably one of the evolutionary areas that’s yet to repair itself, does make us feel as though, as I said earlier, no amount of anything is ever enough.

And we see this with people who are in the business of accumulating dollars. You know, what are you going to do with 54 billion dollars? I mean, really, it’s an absurd amount of money, but there are people who have that kind of money, and they’re not content.

That’s the other amazing thing is that they want to get 100 billion or 200 billion. And after they get the 200 billion, it’ll be, can I make the big shot for a trillion and be the first trillionaire on earth? It’s just never ending.

And so, true abundance is not just going on forever and ever and ever. It’s knowing when enough is appropriate and then being able to relax and enjoy what you have.

And I think this relates back to the first prong of your question, which is what are the stumbling blocks? And I think the stumbling block is not knowing that. I think we need to know when a thing has been demonstrated and also not feel as though this has become a project around which you become fanatic.

I think fanaticism is a disease. It’s a disease of the brain. It’s a disease of the mind. So let’s embrace meditation, but for goodness sake, let’s not get fanatic, and let’s not get too literal. Literalism, fanaticism, we see too much of that in the world already. Let’s just try this and relax and see what happens. And if it works, fantastic. It works, and then we can talk about it to other people, but let’s not wear ourselves out or get stressed over it. The worst thing on earth would be to be so excited about meditation that you got stressed because it’s not everywhere.

Have I answered your question? Great.

Barron Hanson:

Actually, just to add to that point, one of the things that you’ve taught me is that it’s okay to have desires, but we’re not attached to the outcome. And so it’s okay to want 1% of Nowra to meditate. If I don’t get there, then it’s like, I’m not attached to that outcome.

Yeah, yeah. That’s supposed to be one of the effects that meditation has, is to get rid of rigid attachment. You can have a preference and lean into the preference. That’s a good thing. But if things don’t go that way, knowing when to let go is a very important thing. Yeah. Hi.

[01:08:39] Q – How Can Vedic Meditation Help Us Discern Truth?


This morning in my text messages there was a message that said, “Mum, I’ve got a new number. Message me on this number.”

And I was like, well that’s not for me.

And it made me start thinking about scam emails and scam text messages and then AI and how that’s going to create all these fantasyful, I don’t know if that’s the word, realities.

How can meditation help us discern truth in a world that’s going to become saturated with what we could say is not truthful or a created form of reality?

Can it help us?

[01:09:19] Reducing Suggestibility

Thom Knoles:

I think that meditation, one of the things that I’ve noticed it has done, and there’s certainly been some objective input into this as well, it’s been measured.

The ability to tell the difference between one thing, and I’m holding up my two fingers here, one thing and another thing that looks like it’s the same, but it’s not actually. These two fingers are actually different if you look closely enough.

And so, the ability to discern, to discriminate, to differentiate is, it’s not a talent of the gullible mind. Someone has a certain level of suggestibility, and it’s my view, and I’m looking over at our science teacher friend over here, it’s my view that the great social malaise of today is suggestibility.

What does suggestibility mean? It means hypnotizability.

How easily can you be hypnotized? And advertisers rely on it. You keep seeing the just say CC, corn chips, or whatever. If sales go up because they put that on the back of a bus, and you don’t think you’re reading it, but evidently you are because it influences people’s buying patterns. That’s suggestibility.

One of the things that’s been noticed with Vedic Meditation, and the practice of it, is that meditators progressively, over a few weeks or months, get less and less suggestible. That means less and less hypnotizable. They’re able to tell what’s real and tell what is being suggested to them to become real, tell the difference between them and to let the latter go, and to kind of lean into what they know to be true.

And for that capacity, we do have to have good, fine-tuned, acute sensory perception. Meditation gives you that. It enhances your sensory perception.

But also, just on the level of your deep inner knowledge, suggestibility can also be driven by desperation. If I’m desperate to be happy, I want something to be true that’s probably not, and or not true for very long anyway, and so then I’m going to fall for it.

And I think we as a society need to wake up from the hypnosis of social conditioning, which a lot of that is provided to us by social media. Social conditioning.

We need to just find the truth within ourselves and live it. And so, removal of two things, hypnotizability and desperation.

[01:12:12] Q – How Can Vedic Meditation Shift Repetitive Thought Patterns?


Thank you so much, Thom. Just on your point about thought repetition, if negative or unhappy thoughts are I guess baked in from earlier experiences early on in life, how can meditation help shift those repetitive thought patterns and ultimately create a happier state of being?

[01:12:32] Removing the Stress

Thom Knoles:

By removing the stress that’s causing them to repeat. The stress is a chemical. If we really want to know what stress is, we can think of just twists and turns and things like that, and muscles and nerves and whatnot. But that’s an analogy.

The truth of stress is that it’s chemically based, so when we have, supposing we’ll just use this flower as a prop, if I’m playing with this rose while I’m talking to you, sniffing it, nice rose, looking at the color of it, great rose. But I get a telephone call that has shocking news in it.

My brain doesn’t know the difference between the shocking news that’s making me feel stressed because I can’t adapt to it, it’s too much.

And the rose, the brain is going to snapshot the color of the rose and the smell of it in that stressful moment.

And so maybe I’ll be able to accommodate and adapt, and recover from the shocking news, but my brain is still going to hold onto that image of this rose, the smell of it, and the look of it.

In neuroscience, we call this a premature cognitive commitment. It’s the way in which the brain prematurely makes a commitment to the stress potential of something that happened to be around when you got stressed about another thing.

The rose was innocent. But now you have a rose stress trigger. And here’s the thing you don’t even know. There’s no inventory or kind of list, a glossary, or anything of all the different things that you have stress triggers for.

One of my mentors was a fabulous Australian. Some of you who have white hair will remember him, Sir John Eccles, who won his knighthood and his Nobel Prize in Neurology in the 1960s. He was one of my mentors in the study of neuroscience.

And Sir John reckoned that an average person who’s had a relatively non-traumatic life may have as many as hundreds of thousands of stress triggers in them that they don’t know they have.

That is to say, things that cause them to think. If you see the rose, and it may not even be a rose, it may be, some of you go to somebody’s house, and they serve you some rose-scented tea.

You have no idea that rose is the thing that’s going to make you get sweaty palms and lose your digestion and make you feel a little odd. And you drink the tea, and suddenly, you think you’re coming down with something. “Maybe I’m getting a cold, or maybe I’m getting sick, or I don’t know what it is.” But you have no idea that it’s being triggered by that rose smell.

And so there are triggers all around us. And when we have a lot of premature cognitive commitments. In neuroscience, we shorten it to PCC. A PCC is a premature cognitive commitment, a stress trigger.

Then, when we walk into any room, our brain is scanning the room for colors and smells and sensations and sounds that could be possibly like something that was around at a time when we got stressed, and it will generate a particular style of thinking.

And that style of thinking is repetitious. This is caused by chemicals in the body that are retaining that memory.

When you meditate, while you’re meditating, your brain chemistry changes, and your body chemistry changes, and instead of having fight/flight reactivity chemistry predominating in your body, your body begins to have stay-and-play chemistry in it.

Stay-and-play chemistry is my way of phrasing it, that is the adaptive chemistry. You lose the fight/flight chemistry, and the chemistry that has in it all the memories of stress reactions, it gets dissolved, and what happens is that the tendency to have repetitive thinking or repetitive mood states that are useless, that goes away.

And so when we meditate, we get rid of the chemistry that causes us to be repetitive.

I think we have time for two more. Was there one?

[01:17:17] Q – Can Happiness and High Consciousness Coexist?


Do you believe there can exist a person that is both unhappy and has a high level of consciousness? Can they co exist?

[01:17:26] Everything’s Dying

Thom Knoles:

Certainly, yes. I do believe that. In other words, could you be somebody who is super perceptive and also be unhappy? Absolutely, I think you can be. If your mind hasn’t had the chance to go down and discover the source of thought, which is the bliss state, it hasn’t had a chance to perceive that, the super perceptive mind, it’s just looking around the ever-changing relative world, and it could quickly arrive at the conclusion everything’s dying. I had a very intelligent 17-year-old come to my rooms once who said that to me. His parents said he was just chronically depressed and I said, “Why are you so depressed?”

He was one of the most intelligent kids I’d ever met. And he said, “Absolutely everything’s dying. There’s nothing that’s not changing, and change means death, right? Transition.”

And I said, “What about a mountain?”

He goes, “It’s dying. It’s just getting worn down. Australia was once a country with big mountains on it. Now they’re all worn down. It’s dying.”

“What about the ocean?”


“What about space?”

“It’s dying. It’s all going to expand out and just cool off. It’s dying. The universe is dying. Everything’s dying. Everything is dying.”

Intelligent kid, super perceptive, absolutely right, everything is. But he didn’t have access to that baseline of deep consciousness that is an absolute state. It’s an absolute state. When you go beyond thought and you experience that quiet state of Being, it doesn’t change.

And the same discriminating mind that experiences The Absolute, we can say capital T, Capital A, the thing that never changes, the Unified Field of consciousness deep inside.

Suddenly, it sees a theme in all of this change.

It’s progressive change. It’s evolutionary change. It is change of storyline.

As you get larger and larger perspectives, you start to see all the braided plots and how it’s all fitting together into one big giant story that makes sense. But if you just have individual snapshots, dying, dying, dying, dying, everything dying, everything dying.

He was desperately unhappy, this 17-year-old. I taught him to meditate, and it took him a good six months of practice of meditation to get out of the, “The world is nothing but a big mass of death” mentality. And, he began to see other more hopeful things braided through all of the tapestry of the world around him. He got more hopeful.

So I think it is possible to be super intelligent, super perceptive, but just not be exposed to the underlying reality. Surface is always changing. That’s true.

Thank you. I think we probably have time for one more at the back.

[01:20:37] Q – How Can We Support Young People?


So, I’m a high school teacher in the Shoalhaven and my question is specifically for young people. How do we support young people to see meditation as something that is useful for them to overcome, exactly like you were saying, some of the feelings and the challenges that they face on a daily basis?

And how are we able to support them to overcome some of the issues that they face every day? Things like TikTok and everything that’s made their attention span so difficult to harness, I suppose, and just really make that investment in meditation for their future health and well being.

[01:21:12] What’s Your True Identity?

Thom Knoles:

I was in London in the 1970s when the most effective, to that point, the most effective campaign against heroin addiction reached the streets of London.

And what was that campaign? It was aimed at young people who were experimenting with heroin, and it had pictures of kids with zits, pimples on their face, and it said, “Heroin gives you zits.”

It wasn’t heroin kills your liver, heroin is addictive, heroin turns you into a psychotic. Heroin gives you zits. And kids were getting off heroin and seeking rehabilitation. Who wants zits? Don’t try that stuff. It was an incredibly effective campaign.

And I think that today, what’s appealing to youth is the subject of identity. Everybody’s into identity. “I’m one of these. I’m one of those. I’m one of these. I like to rub my body against somebody else’s body in a particular way, and so I’m a one of these,” and all of that.

Identity politics, it’s a massive thing for the youth right now. But we’re making a mistake. Identity is not something you do. Identity is something you are. And being is something deeper than a doing. We’re not humans doing. We are human beings.

And so we need to learn how to find identity in a place that is deep. Not based on just what you do. How you think, and what you do. Doing and thinking is not true identity. Being is identity. What are you? What is your essential nature?

And I’ve found young people flocking to that message, finding that deep inside you there’s a place that doesn’t change. And it’s not a thought. And it’s not a sexual behavior. And it’s not a way that you dress. It’s an underlying field of consciousness that you are, and other people who do it agree with you.

And so then there’s this camaraderie in teenagers, “When you meditate, you know about Being.”

“Yes, I experience it twice every day.”

“Me too.”

 We’re this. We’re this thing. This is our thing that we identify with.” 

Of course, you can still have things that you’re proud of that you can describe yourself as, I’m a one of these, and I’m one of those, and I’m one of those, but I’m also one of these people who experiences Being, experiences an underlying reality that doesn’t change.”

I think it might be the new heroin gives you zits campaign. What’s your true identity? Something beyond doing. Something beyond thinking. Something beyond the way you talk. Something beyond clothes. Something beyond fashion. And if there is a good stigma attached to transcendence, then it’s going to make meditation very popular with the youth.

[01:24:40] Jai Guru Deva

Barron Hanson:

Great question, and just finishing on that note, interestingly, I think the number one subset of, or the group that I’ve taught the most to meditate so far in Nowra has been school teachers. And my mum’s a school teacher, she’s right there. But also knowing that it’s very challenging out there right now for school teachers, with the students, and they’re very stressed, and that they’re coming to meditation to help to relieve some of that stress. And knowing that school teachers just have such a big impact and teachers in general.

And I think it’s probably a great place to wrap up. And in this practice of Vedic Meditation, we have a very strong reverence for our teachers, for our Guru.

And I have a very strong reverence for you, Thom, and when I sat in your garden and pitched you this idea, I was sweating, and I was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my whole life.

And you said, “If you do this thing, I’ll come to Nowra.” And so this is you fulfilling your part of the bargain by coming here. And it’s really special to have you here. And thanks for your wisdom tonight. Appreciate it. Thank you. [Applause.]

Thom Knoles:

And uh, thank you, Thank you for giving me a night of your time. It’s a big deal. Really, it’s a much bigger deal than most people think. But thank you very much. And I hope to see you around. I’ll be back. [Applause.]

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