One day in childhood, I received an unusual thought: If ever I find some truth to religion, I will become a minister. This happened roughly at age 10. I recall that it just came to me—not in connection with any particular religious experiences, which always were structured by the Lutheran faith of my childhood.
Perhaps regularly attending a small church with my family in our hometown of Windom, Minnesota, kindled a spark of spirit in me, even at that young age. That spark would ignite into a flame later in my life.
Searching for Inner Peace during the Vietnam War
Jump forward several decades: I needed to learn how to cope with stress in my military duties. During the Vietnam War, I served as officer-in-charge of an 18-hour race relations training program, from January 1973 to May 1974, at U-Tapao, Thailand. My duties entailed presenting the history of minorities in the United States, as well as the nature of prejudice and discrimination, while showing films of the civil rights movement—and being the referee for lots of arguments!
At the encouragement of my supervisor—who by sheer grace happened to practice the Transcendental Meditation® (TM®) technique—I read the Daily Bulletin on base and learned of the availability of meditation instruction. Although TM was not available to learn there, there was yoga and pranayama (breathing exercises), and even some kirtan (singing and chanting). To my surprise, these were offered as approved recreational pursuits! The meditation that was taught was helpful and greatly benefited me.
Upon discharge from military service, I sought out other meditation instruction and continued with it for the next 35 years. It did provide some moments of profound relaxation but not the depth that I’d sought in that childhood thought.
On one occasion of TM practice, I found myself with a fresh experience—being immersed in pure joy that endured for nearly an hour, even while driving my car afterward.
Awakening to Bliss in Iowa
Jumping forward a little more, I moved to Fairfield, Iowa, with my wife Vina and our son Prana. We came here so he could finish his B.S. at Maharishi University of Management. We all learned TM in February 2010. Our daughters Anala and Dhyana also came and learned TM here.
I found that TM awakened in me the following: On one occasion of TM practice, I found myself with a fresh experience—being immersed in pure joy that endured for nearly an hour, even while driving my car afterward.
After I learned the advanced TM-Sidhi® program in June 2011, shades of that very special experience were repeated a number of times, as recorded in my journal: “Bliss; spontaneous; a sweet, tender mood; softness; nearly brought tears. Felt like who I am. Breathing, so delightful! Deep, smooth, with a euphoric flow at the end.” Just what I’d sought for decades.
I felt that with the taste of joyfulness, I’d at least closely approached my age 10 wish to be in touch with the divine.
To make this a bit more clear, the Upanishads of the Vedic tradition explain that there are five koshas or sheaths, from gross to subtle: first the body; then life energy; next, mind; then discriminative faculty; and finally the sheath of joy or bliss, all of which cover one’s innermost Self or Being. While I was perhaps not yet in touch with that Self in the above experiences, I nevertheless felt that with the taste of joyfulness, I’d at least closely approached my age 10 wish to be in touch with the divine.
Growing Awareness of Joy, Expansion, Peace, and Delight
Although the blissfulness in meditation did not continue on a daily basis, I did count 54 occasions of it—I actually kept track! This began in early July 2011, after I learned the TM-Sidhi® program in June. A joyfulness arose, and a few times it lingered for more than two hours after meditation, even when engaged in activity.
I described some of my meditation sessions then as “exhilarating… awareness of expansion… eruption of lava… lightness of spirit… dizzy… peace… centeredness… breath so deep… delight… a wave… amazing… how blissful… euphoria… deep rest… such a gratified feeling… a sweet flavor.”
Together, such experiences left me with a strong commitment to continue with my TM practice to this day, though I’m not yet sure just how the childhood desire to become a minister will manifest!
Together, such experiences left me with a strong commitment to continue with my TM practice to this day.
John Miller lives in Fairfield, Iowa, with this wife Vina. He is a senior volunteer coordinator for RSVP, which is sponsored by United Way.