Though Thom Knoles is from the United States and currently lives in Arizona, he spent much of his career teaching meditation in Australia. Thom usually visits Australia to teach and visit with students every year or two, but due to the pandemic in 2020, travel to Australia became very difficult.
Thom expects to resume his visits to Australia in 2023, and he’s thrilled to reconnect with the community. As a bit of background on Thom’s story and his relationship with Australia, you can read more about his story in this post and understand why Australia means so much to him.
For the full story, listen to Thom’s podcast on his time in Australia.
Thom’s time in Australia
Thom moved to Sydney, Australia in his late teens to participate in the Assisted Passage Scheme. At the time, Australia encouraged people worldwide to move to their country. With ten jobs available for every person, the country needed more people. At the time, the Australian government offered a one-way flight or boat ticket plus a lifetime visa to people who wanted to immigrate to Australia, providing that they would stay for two years minimum and buy back the amount of their ticket if they chose to leave.
Thom had grown familiar with Australians as a child when his father had trained the RAAF at the military base he started in the US. Thom liked Australians, and in particular, he wanted to live in a place with great surfing and lots of beaches. He moved to Sydney and took a lucrative job restoring railway ties (or sleepers) in the outback for a few weeks to build up starting capital.
By about 1970, Thom started teaching meditation and selling surfing equipment in a township called Sylvania, close to the surfing town of Cronulla. He visited the Maharishi often, wherever he was in the world.
Over time, Thom started a family, and his community of meditators in Australia began to grow. He would leave to spend time with the Maharishi for 3-18 months at a time, even flying to Switzerland regularly to spend time with him. At the time, Switzerland was a nearly 30-hour trip. All the while, Thom continued to teach a meditation course Australia welcomed and embraced – the same meditation course that all Vedic meditators take to start their journey with Vedic Meditation.
Thom taught in prisons and he taught politicians, with the acceptance of meditation growing steadily over the years that he taught. By 1980 he had taught a few Premiers (similar to a Governor in the United States) and was part of a comprehensive meditation training program for prisoners. Corporations likewise took an interest in Thom’s teaching, since they could see that meditation helped employees avoid burnout and improve productivity.
Thom moved all around Australia to teach. Thom lived in “Hobart and Tasmania, and going all the way up in the far north into Queensland and Northern Territory in northern western Australia, all over Australia. I lived in Adelaide for about 18 months during the late 1970s and became very fond of that place.”
Thom found that Australians embraced meditation, and although it wasn’t common to be a meditation teacher when he arrived, it was a fairly common career by the time he left. His meditation center in Woollahra, a suburb outside of Sydney, drew thousands and thousands of people from across the city to come and learn to meditate.
Thom taught in Australia for 30 years, growing the meditation community there to about 10,000 people. Many of those students were initiated as teachers with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. By the time Thom moved back to the United States, there were about 130 teachers and a thriving meditation Australia community.
Vedic Meditation in Australia
Thom hosted a meditation retreat Australia welcomed, teaching rounding and advanced courses to pass on the knowledge he absorbed from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Though the community of those interested in mindful meditation in Australia was also growing at the time, Vedic Meditation specifically drew thousands to Thom’s studio.
Mindfulness represented a more general cultural shift toward spirituality, self-development, and interest in eastern ways of thinking, while Vedic Meditation offered a clear technique and learning path for people to effortlessly release stress from the body and enjoy life far more.
Naturally, the practice of yoga was also becoming more popular in Australia alongside the influence of other Eastern practices and ways of thinking. Though Thom practiced rounding and taught the simple asanas that are a part of rounding, Vedic Meditation did not specifically include yoga classes as we think of them in the West.
Meditation is a type of yoga, a pathway to enlightenment (the true definition of yoga), but it is a different pathway than the strenuous exercises in hatha or vinyasa yoga. Australian meditation and yoga grew at about the same pace while Thom was teaching, and now you can find yoga studios and meditation centers all over Australia.
Thom’s Visits to Australia
Thom’s upcoming visit to Australia (in 2023) will be a long-overdue reconnection with the Australian community and a celebration of Vedic Meditation with people he hasn’t seen in many years.
Thom will teach the Learn to Meditate course for new meditators and for those who already have a mantra to review. He will host several knowledge sessions and may teach rounding or an advanced knowledge course while he visits. He will meet with the other Vedic Meditation teachers and see how the Australian Vedic Meditation community is growing, and he’ll enjoy visiting Sydney.
“Every time I return there I look forward to re-meeting and re-greeting the tens of thousands, I believe by now there are about 20,000 meditators of Vedic Meditation in the Sydney region alone. Not to even counting Melbourne and Brisbane and Perth and Adelaide, and all the large regional centers… I look very much forward to returning and to awakening and reawakening the interest in Vedic Meditation there.”Thom Knoles
For the first time in five years, Thom returns to Sydney this June for a 4-week teaching tour.
If you have already learned Vedic Meditation, click here to join Thom for retreat, events, and advanced trainings for Vedic Meditators.
If you would like to learn Vedic Meditation with Thom in Sydney, he will be hosting Introductory Talks and a Learn to Meditate course in June. Visit this page for more details and to sign up for a free talk.