Thom Knoles is a funny, grounded and warm meditation teacher who studied with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late 1960s, I think he may have overlapped with the Beatles’ tenure in Rishikesh. I felt like too much of a Beatles nerd to ask when I learned Vedic meditation from him last year.
Learning to meditate was one of the greatest decisions I ever made.
Thom opened the lecture with this anecdote about speaking at the G8 summit. “I was the only one there wearing beads,” he laughed. “Everyone here is suffering from chronic brain failure,” he said to the assembled leaders of the world. “Nothing’s going to come of this summit. Any questions?”
I don’t know how the G8 leaders reacted to that, but the crowd at the Santa Monica Marriott really dug it.
In a metaphor I remembered from the meditation class, Thom compared the human brain to an overloaded iphone that can barely process any new information. Decisions made using 2% of the stressed out overtaxed human brain are never going to solve terrorism, global warming, etc.
That’s where meditation comes in. And dharma. And karma.
Dharma is our personal role in the evolution of the universe. When we are living in dharma, doing what we’re meant to be doing at any particular moment, living is effortless and expansive.
To understand what we need to do, to know our dharma, Thom says we must learn to recognize and be receptive “in our least excited state”(meditative) to what “charms us” and to recognize what we have an aversion to.
Karma, on the other hand, is not the word plastered on tip jars in coffee shops. Karma is, according to Thom, “an action that binds.”
“The universe is not angry with us,” he explained. “It’s not punitive. It’s just hoping we figure things out.”
Unlike dharma, karma is restrictive. It is what we experience when we base our decisions purely on intellect and inaccurate assumptions. For example, “If I just keep doing this work (that I don’t really love) it will become something I love.” Or “I will repeat the familiar even though the familiar makes me unhappy.” Karma is that corrective suffering that happens when we refuse to take risks, when we cling to the known world, when we are not courageous.
And like Thom’s brief address at the G8 summit, today’s talk at the Marriott was ultimately about courage:
“Find out what you should be doing. Embrace potential. Is it enough for you to continue eating, sleeping, pooping, taking up space on the earth? We must make our existence relevant. Urgently examine what you’re capable of giving to the world. Be courageous.”