Recent research reported in the New York Times found that people who had more “deep discussions” and who spent less time in idle chatter seem to be happier.
The author of the study, Matthias Mehl , a psychologist at the University of Arizona, explained that meaningful communication seems to hold the key to happiness for two main reasons: because human beings are naturally motivated to find and create meaning in their lives, and because we are social beings who want and need to connect with the world around us.
My wife, Linda Mainquist, has been a practicing therapist for over 20 years and a teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique for over 35 years. She says that one of the reasons people who meditate are noticeably happier people is because they take 20 minutes twice a day to deeply communicate with themselves. They transcend the “chatter” of the surface, active thinking level of the mind and connect with the more silent and more expanded levels of their essential Self.
Linda is not alone in her analysis. Many communication skills textbooks make the point that interpersonal communication is based on “intra-personal” communication. Communication courses often point out that you have to be able to communicate effectively with yourself before you can communicate effectively with others.
I teach the TM technique to homeless men in a re-entry program in New York City. One of the men, Kennthan, who learned to meditate, agrees. “TM helps me in a lot of ways, but especially in communicating with people. It’s easier for me to express myself now. I used to be afraid to communicate with people. But now I am so much more in tune with myself that I feel free and happy to communicate with others. I think it is from taking the time out to get to know who I am, connecting and bonding with my spirit—that’s one of the aspects of TM that I get a lot out of—I am more in tune with my spirit. I truly believe that every person could benefit from that experience.”
Kennthan is not the first person to have noticed how important it is to get in touch with one’s Self. In Maharishi’s revival of the Vedic science of consciousness he continually emphasized the importance of experiencing one’s own “Atma”—the essential Self. Most of the world’s great wisdom traditions have spoken of the preciousness of this inner experience of the self, communicating with the “Self.”
“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look there.” — Marcus Aurelius