Michael Fischman began his life as the son of an Orthodox Jewish Holocaust survivor in New York, and developed a successful career as a Madison Avenue advertising executive. Later through an unlikely turn of events, ended up as meditation student and teacher. He is also the author of a multi-award-winning memoir, “Stumbling Into Infinity: An Ordinary Man in the Sphere of Enlightenment”.
Here is an excerpt from his interview about the joys of meditation and why we need to meditate. Michael has been with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Art of Living Foundation since 1988 and has been teaching meditation and other courses since then.
Tell us about your personal meditation journey?
I started to meditate when I was 26 years old. It was a rough patch in my life, and many of the social activities I was involved with at that time I have completely abandoned. I was living a very different lifestyle. A friend told me about meditation and it seemed to make sense. I gravitated to it very quickly. In 1988, after practicing for about a dozen years, I came to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living. It was a quantum leap forward in my practice. As opposed to spending a lot of time with a chattering mind in the first half of my meditation, the meditations were profoundly different. I would start my meditation in silence, and that was extremely valuable.
You are a long-time teacher of meditation. Tells us about meditation in the Art of Living?
Meditation is a key part of the Art of Living, and Sri Sri’s approach to meditation in the Art of Living is very unique. He takes a three-pronged approach. The first step is to help an individual quiet down their mind and their emotions with Sudarshan Kriya. This is the meditative rhythmic breathing practice that is taught on the Art of Living Part 1 course.
The second step is giving people instruction in the art of meditation through a course called Sahaj Samadhi Meditation. An individual is given a sound or mantra and taught how to use it, this gives them a deep experience on the basis of regular meditation. It cultures their system to maintain an inner peace and bliss that continues to grow inside.
The third approach is to give people a deep experience of silent awareness in a retreat program called the Art of Silence course. It allows people to spend four or five days in a retreat setting, away from responsibilities. The effect is like polishing the system, expanding awareness, and going very deeply into the experience of meditation and the experience of silence.
How has your life changed since you learned meditation?
It is hard to say why my life has changed, whether it is due to meditation, to Sudarshan Kriya, the deep silence program, or due to interacting with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as a guru and teacher. Or maybe all of it.
I can say that the deep experience of peace and serenity that I get to experience twice a day definitely sets the tone & mood of my mind for the entire day. And that effect has grown through the years. Sudarshan Kriya helped me feel the effect of meditation more during the day.
Do you think it is important to have teacher to learn meditation?
Yes, very much so. I don’t think you can learn it from book or from a seminar. People are blind to their own blind spots. You definitely need a teacher or a guru. The path of getting to the Self is a very interesting journey, and meditation is a key aspect of it. But unless you have the guidance & supervision of a Master, it would be difficult.