An introduction to Ben Turshen is not your typical meet-and-greet; it’s 60-minutes of authentic storytelling and wise lecturing that may – quite literally – change your way of
thinking forever. Every month, this former attorney turned full-time meditation teacher leads a 4-day Vedic Meditation Course sharing how to integrate this 5,0000 year old meditation technique into modern day living.
YogaCity NYC’s Ashley Rose Howard joined this New York-native Vedic Meditation master, on the cushion to learn more about his transformative journey from corporate law to meditation, and why sitting 20-minutes 2x/day may be the magical key to unlocking the mind’s greatest potential.
Ashley Rose Howard: What drew you to meditation?
Ben Turshen: It was really out of a necessity. I was suffering from depression insomnia and on a regimen of prescription medications and therapy sessions. My whole life I had been rattled with anxiety and mild depression and insomnia. Law school was when the anxiety became so insurmountable that I couldn't keep up with my work. I couldn't focus, concentrate or get ready for class and was having panic attacks. I went to the doctor and they prescribed anti-depressants, Adderall for focus, Ambien for sleep, and for panic attacks, Klonopin. My therapist at the time suggested meditation. He asked what my spiritual practice was. I talked about my religious background, growing up Jewish. He responded, “I’m not asking what you believe in -- what does your spiritual practice look like?”
ARH: How has being a former attorney played a role in your meditation practice?
BT: My hope during law school was once I get out of school and start practicing law, then I’ll be better. In 2008 I joined a practice group that specialized in investment management. The timing to start my legal career couldn't have been worse with the financial crisis. I was a junior associate and it was all coming down on me and I really felt it. My anxiety actually got worse. I decided to go out on my own and research various forms of meditation. I tried guided meditations, but the moment I took off my headphones, and the track would end, I’d realize I’m not at the beach, but rather in my office with 80 emails to go through. I started reading some books and tried more focused meditations like counting and timing breathes, but I found that inherently frustrating. I went to a Buddhist meditation center and learned about monks who sat in stillness with no thoughts in their mind. I thought, I’m not the meditation type; my mind is in a state of constant worry and fear of what the next moment would bring. Until, I learned Vedic Meditation.
AH: Why Vedic Mediation?
BT: I started to feel better from the twice-daily 20-minute meditations; it was the hardware upgrade I needed. My mind knew how I wanted to react and respond, but my body reacted to stress response. Vedic falls into the category of automatic self-transcending techniques. I was researching Transcendental Meditation (“TM”) and I ended up learning Vedic meditation instead. Will Dalton was the first person to teach me and later I studied with Thom Knoles, who trained as a teacher of TM by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (“Maharishi”). I showed up to my
first session where I received a mantra and was walked through the meditation instruction. This was the first experience my mind went into this silent, yet still consciousness state. I felt totally calm, relaxed and at ease. I was so tightly wound for so many years that it was almost brand new to me to feel that relaxed. I showed up for a second session and received another lesson on how to use the mantra properly and be effortless, which had an even more powerful and profound effect. This was the first time I thought I wouldn’t have to take Ambien to sleep. I slept through the night and woke up feeling great. I was sold.
ARH: What inspired you to start teaching meditation?
BT: When you consistently meditate, you begin to see more clearly. Rather than accepting being stressed all the time, it became clear to me practicing law didn’t have to be my life and it shouldn't. I started working with a career consultant. After a few years working together, it became even clearer that the skillset I’m good at and enjoy most is teaching. That's where I thrive. I was a good lawyer, but I didn't enjoy one minute of it. Vedic Meditation played such a profound role in my life at this time of transition that I decided: THIS IS THE THING I NEED TO GIVE TO THE WOLRD.
ARH: What’s most challenging about teaching Vedic Meditation in Manhattan?
BT: Although the Vedic Meditation technique is over 5,000 years old, the necessity is greatest for it now. Everyone’s lives are so out of balance. The challenge becomes
understanding what it means to be effortless. This is a foreign concept because no one has ever taught it to us -- we can’t be told, we need to be shown. Hard work needs to go into planning your meditation practice as a busy New Yorker, so you actually do it. Once you decide you’re doing it then becomes how often? A consistent meditation practice is what offers the best results.
ARH: What would you say to the attorneys who are meditation skeptics?
BT: Most people think meditation is a good thing, but they have two common roadblocks: “my mind is too busy to mediate.” Vedic meditation doesn't involve focus and concentration; it is a natural, effortless technique. The second: “I’m too busy for a daily meditation practice.” Meditation is the only thing that gives super busy people time back. In Vedic Meditation, particularly, the body goes into deep rested state, exponentially deeper than just resting at night. It gives you a rested body, and a rested body is more proficient then when you’re walking around exhausted.
ARH: What does your spiritual practice look like now?
BT: My spiritual practice is 24-hours a day. My mind and body are at the same place, all the time. It feels like you’re meditating even when you’re not meditating. I’ve diminished the inventory of accumulated stress. I’m no longer trying to be present. I am present.