First of a three-part series | Listen to the Edge Talk Radio podcast
Meditation — the act of silencing the mind and basking in the serenity that lies deeply within each of us — is not new, but many of the most entrepreneurial and creative among us cite meditation as a vital component to their success. The late Apple founder Steve Jobs practiced Zen meditation to reduce stress, calm the mind and enhance creativity. Film director David Lynch and celebrity CEO and actress Oprah Winfrey are outspoken proponents of Transcendental Meditation (TM).
Bob Fickes, who has begun his fifth decade as a lecturer and teacher of meditation, says friends from his early days of practicing TM — including bestselling authors Dr. John Gray (Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus), and Dr. Barbara DeAngelis (How to Make Love All the Time) — “are at the top of their fields, wherever they are in the world and whatever they’re doing.”
Fickes teaches Fulfillment meditation and is the author of many CDs, DVDs and books, including the recent bestseller, Quantum Enlightenment. He has taught meditation to hundreds of thousands of students worldwide. His spiritual lineage comes from three traditions: Maharishi, Babaji, and the Ascended Masters. He also is a healer in the ancient Buddhist Shamanic Healing Arts and currently lives and teaches in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
He is returning to the Twin Cities on September 11-13 to present The Love Mantra at the University of Minnesota Continuing Education and Conference Center, St. Paul Campus.
In a recent phone interview with The Edge from Japan, Fickes says he often meets people whose quality of life has been dramatically enhanced through meditation.
“I had lunch with a man yesterday, a Japanese man, who leads seminars for big companies all over the world,” Fickes says. “He had discovered TM maybe 20 years ago, and now he is doing Fulfillment meditation. He said, ‘You know, I don’t really tell people to meditate, but I tell them that I meditate — and the next thing I know they’re all looking to see what’s going on here. Without meditation I never would be doing what I’m doing today.'”
Our recent conversation with Bob Fickes explores meditation, mantras and how his spiritual practices have led him to where he is today.
To give readers an idea of who you are, what were like as a boy and what did you hope to be when you grew up?
Bob Fickes: (Laughs). I was a strange boy. I always felt that there was something more to life and I also had experiences of seeing beings that nobody else saw — and I would communicate with them without realizing that they were not in the body. As my life progressed, I realized that most of all I just wanted to find God and find out the real reason of life.
When I was 12, my Lutheran minister said, “Do you want to be a minister?” I said, “No, I don’t really want to be a minister, but I will be doing something like that.” I had no idea what it was. When I was about 19 I began a very strong quest to find the meaning of life, this thing called God and whatever consciousness was. By the age of 22, I started meditation with TM.
What originally led you to meditation?
BF: I was exploring in those days. I was a hippie, and so I explored a lot through recreational chemicals. That opened my consciousness to realize there is something more to life, and gradually I started being drawn more towards the Eastern philosophy. I read a lot of Western philosophers and never was quite satisfied with the conclusions. It’s like they got up to the Truth and then something was missing.
One day I picked up a book by Lao Tzu, the Tao Te Ching, and when I started reading it I remember I was sitting under a tree at the university. As I was reading, all of a sudden my consciousness just transformed and I felt like I had insight. From that point on, I started to do my own style of meditation and gradually the intensity of my desire to find enlightenment grew. I told my school faculty advisor that I wanted to go to India to become a yogi, and he said, “Did you tell your parents about that?” And I said, “No.” He said, “Well, I think you should get on the phone right now and tell them.” So, I called home and I said, “I’m planning to go to India to become a yogi.” And they jumped in their car in Pennsylvania and drove all the way up to Northern New Hampshire where I was at the university and took me home. (Laughs). They were very afraid of my future.
That would be the normal reaction.
BF: My mom had seen Maharishi on TV and she said, “Well, rather than going to India, why don’t you just start meditation. I’ll pay for it.” And I thought, “Well, this guy is too commercial for my taste. He can’t really know the Truth.” And then I saw his interview and thought, “Well, the guy has something. I can at least start there.”
So I started TM in New York City in 1968 on my birthday, and I still felt, “Well, I’ll just do this until I can save up enough money to go to India. This is good, but it’s not really what I was looking for.”
Two years later, I had a chance to meet Maharishi and it was miraculous. As soon as I saw him step out of the car, I couldn’t move. There were 1,500 people there waiting for a lecture and all of them were greeting Maharishi outside. We were told, “Get out of the way so Maharishi can get into the lecture hall!” I couldn’t move. And Maharishi walked up to me. It was very common in those days to give Maharishi a flower, so I was standing there with my carnation. As he touched my hand to grab the flower, I went into white light for about 10 minutes. The next thing I knew, everybody was inside and he had started the lecture. I had no idea what had happened.
That was the start. I realized that this was the path that I was on — and I got my enlightenment not long after that, in December 1970.
What inspired you to become a teacher of meditation? Was it just a continuation of the journey you were on?
BF: Yes, it was just a continuation of the journey I was on. TM had offered me the chance to become a teacher of meditation, so I thought, “This is great.” The course was to be held in India and I thought that would fulfill my desire to get to India. As it turned out, at the last minute Maharishi changed his plan and gave the first course in Estes Park, Colo., in November and December of 1970. I was in that first course. After that I began teaching mostly in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, and then I gradually started traveling and teaching in many different places.
You currently live and teach in Chiang Mai, Thailand. What led you there and where else do you teach?
BF: The day I started meditating in New York, I went into an Indian restaurant with my mom. The owner of the restaurant came over to me and said, “Oh, you’ve finally come. Please sit down. I’ll get your food.”
My mom looks at me and said, “Do you know this guy?”
I said, “No. I don’t know this guy.”
“Well, he seems to know you. But, does he know you are vegetarian?”
“Obviously, I didn’t tell him.”
Sure enough, he brought chicken for my mom and vegetarian food for me and sat down and said that I was his brother in a past life and he had been waiting to meet me. He basically told me my future. He said, “Eventually you’ll be teaching in Asia.”
I continued teaching in the States, for a very long time. One day in Hawaii, a friend of mine walked up to me and said, “I think it’s time for you to go to Asia.” A day later, another friend said, “You know, I’m feeling that this is your time to go to Asia.” A few days later, a third person said, “I think you need to be going to Asia.”
I said, “Okay. I guess it’s time.” I pulled out the map. Where shall I go? Should it be India or Japan? Chiang Mai, Thailand jumped off the map. So, I ended up going there on a visit for six weeks and realized that I was feeling more at home there than I was in the States and decided to move there. So, that’s how I ended up in Chiang Mai.
How long have you been there now?
BF: Almost 25 years. A long time. Not long after I first arrived there, I got a phone call from California, a man who had been looking for me for several months. He said, “Finally I found out where you were and got your phone number. Can you come to teach in Japan?” At that time, I was teaching mostly channeling, and so they invited me to Japan to start teaching channeling classes. Within two weeks, I had 300 people coming to my lecture and one thing led to another and I have been in Japan working ever since.
Were you channeling the Ascended Masters back then?
BF: Yes, I was channeling the Ascended Masters at that time.
Do you still do that?
BF: Yes, I still do channeling for the Ascended Masters from time to time. As one of the founders of the New Age movement in the United States and in Japan, I started feeling like there were too many people who were not verifying the source of their channeling. Everything seemed to be going into what I call “Twinkie land.” And, so I kind of backed away from the New Age movement and just taught meditation. I thought, yeah, it’s nice to channel the Masters, but too many people are saying, “The Master said this and the Master said that.” And I thought, “No, you really need to think for yourself. What do you want for your life?”
So I backed off from channeling until very recently, when my promoter in Japan had asked me to start doing some channeling again. Mostly my life is about teaching meditation now. I like to give people tools that they can use for themselves.
How do you define meditation — and has that definition changed over the years?
BF: No, my definition really has stayed pretty much the same, although I have refined how I explain it. Now I think of meditation as an inward journey, an exploration of the inner universe.
It’s not just closing the eyes, it’s more tuning in, like transforming the mind into a microscope that can explore deeper levels of consciousness — more quiet, more silent, levels that are also more powerful — until we get to what in Japanese is called Ku, Infinite Space. In that place of Infinite Space, we arrive at the Source of all consciousness.
Meditation takes on a journey inside to realize we are more than just a wave on the surface as an individual personality, but we are, in fact, an ocean of consciousness moving through that wave.
As a teacher of meditation, you are a guide on that journey.
BF: Yes, exactly. I have a technique that helps to trigger that ability. Everyone has the ability to meditate. In fact, research has shown that when people go into a real state of meditation — whether they’re doing Zen or Fulfillment meditation, or Yoga meditation or Christian meditation — a very specific physiological state occurs. and it’s common with everyone who does it, any time they do it, no matter what their subjective experience of meditation is. I’ve learned how to turn on that switch that everyone has inside so that they can open to that state within a few minutes.
What separates the different forms of meditation from what you describe as Real Meditation?
BF: The best way to describe that is to say that most states of meditation take you inside, layer by layer. They give you a different sequence of instructions or a guided meditation to take your attention deeper. Eventually, after years of practice, you arrive at Source — and in most cases people say at that time you get your enlightenment, that you’re awakening to your full realization of what life is and what consciousness is.
But my experience is that you can go directly down to the bottom of the ocean if you have the right technique to bypass all those other layers — and then from that inner Source of consciousness you begin to explore. Basically, you find the Observer inside.
What I teach is to go directly to Ku, directly to that ocean of consciousness, and let it unfold by itself in a daily way. Interestingly, over all the years that I have been teaching I’ve had many people who have done other forms of meditation and they all come out of the meditation saying, “This is what I’ve been waiting for!” It’s very rewarding to hear that. My whole heart just jumps when they say that. I tell them, “Thank you. I’m just teaching this. I don’t really know whether it is the greatest or not. It seems to be the greatest that I have found, but to hear you say that after having done other forms of meditation it really makes me feel good that I could give you that gift.”
For those who haven’t been in Infinite Space, the Ku, can you describe what the experience is like for you in exploring that?
BF: In the beginning, pure consciousness has no object of perception. It’s when we have gone beyond anything that the mind can identify or focus on. It’s not like just closing the eyes and going into silence. It’s going into a state that’s fully alert, but the consciousness is quietly infinite.
When we first experience it in meditation, it’s usually, “What happened? Where’d I go?” And we look at the clock and 10 minutes have passed and we had no idea where we were. Was I asleep? Well, if I was asleep I’d be coming out of the meditation like, “Oh, I’m sleepy, what happened?” But in this case, it’s more like a sudden shock. “Where’d I go?” There is just the space and time. The mind has not focused on something, so it is still alert, but it doesn’t remember where it was. After we have had that experience for a while, then it starts to become more clear and we feel like, “I’m watching myself meditate.” Or, “I’m watching myself walk down the street.” We’re more of an observer from silence as though looking into a movie.
And that Observer is able to discern more of what’s going on?
BF: Yes, exactly. The big problem in life is that we are so focused on what we are doing that we forget who we are. It’s kind of like when you watch a movie for a period of time, you forget that you’re even watching the movie. You respond, “Watch out! Watch out!” We get totally absorbed in the movie. Our life is like that. We have gotten so absorbed in our movie of life that we forget who the Observer is and our participation in the movie.
This is where I change my analogy to say that we’re the user of the computer. The computer is our mind. It’s been programmed. It’s got all this information inside. We’re so occupied in our computer that we think that the thoughts that we’re having are coming from ourselves. Do a simple exercise to step back from your mind and just observe — close your eyes and observe your thoughts — and within 10 or 15 minutes you’ll notice that, “Gosh, there’s a lot of thoughts there that I’m not trying to think. In fact, they’re kind of nonsense thoughts.” Where are these thought coming from? Well, they are generated by our computer.
We’re not the computer. We’re the Observer and user of that computer. Once we know that we can start to reprogram the computer, put some files in the trash and upgrade the system, it improves the way the computer performs.
Does the use of mantras allow you to do some of that?
BF: The use of mantras helps us to explore. It is just like when we go someplace. We need to get in a taxi or our car, and the car takes us there. The mantra is like the car. It takes us deep into consciousness.
Now, the real questions is, “What is a mantra?” Most people think it’s a word that you just repeat in meditation. That’s not really a complete Truth. That’s a partial Truth. The mantra is a word, but it represents a vibration of nuclear energy. Long ago when the atmosphere was clear and people’s lives were more clear and there was not so much stress, masters could sit in meditation and see those nuclear vibrations. They did not have scientific language to describe them, so when they saw vibrations, they described them as a mantra. When we see them as a life force, they might be described as a god or an angel. Their language can be translated into science, because the perception of the same reality is there.
A mantra is a nuclear energy that is in perfect attunement with the whole universe. As we use a mantra, the mantra adjusts the vibration of our consciousness. It adjusts our mind, our body and our soul to be more in harmony with the way the Universe moves — and in that way, consciousness starts to grow and explore.
You teach a variety of mantras. Can you mention some of them and why you might use more than one mantra?
BF: It’s possible to get your enlightenment — get everything that you need — from just one mantra, but it takes a while. So, what I do every now and then is give it a boost, and recharge the battery, so to speak. I have discovered a variety of mantras, and there is a sequence in using them. One builds up a certain experience and the next adds to that experience and expands your awareness. Each mantra affects our nervous system and our perception differently. As we use different mantras, it opens new avenues of perception.
The techniques I have created are what I call the Core of Life Program. These are the four core elements that we need for our daily living:
- The first, and most important, is the Heart. Masters always have said that the heart is the doorway to God. So, that’s our starting place. We start with the heart, open our Self to the inner Universe, and start to become more present in our life, more self-motivated, more confident. We start to explore how much consciousness we have and how we can use that in our daily life.
- After maybe three to six months, we get the next mantra, which I call Prosperity. Prosperity is not how much money we have in the bank. It’s how much the Universe smiles at us. We have a desire, the Universe smiles, then things happen. As the Heart mantra takes us inside, Prosperity starts to make the Universe more in harmony with us and we start to open to things outside of us and find that the Universe is smiling.
- The next step after Prosperity is Wisdom. I call Wisdom knowledge and love combined. Knowledge without love can be blind and reckless. Love without knowledge can also be blind and reckless. True wisdom is when we have both knowledge and love. We can see what we’re doing and can have a better life. This is the union of the mind and the heart. The Wisdom mantra helps us to unify our mind and our heart, so there is no conflict. All confusion comes from a dialogue between heart and mind. Heart wants one thing and the mind says, “I can’t.” When we have the Wisdom mantra, these things start to balance out and we have a better direction, more confidence in our life, and get less confusion.
- The fourth step is Supreme Unity, where we unite with everything in the Universe. This is a time when we look at our life and realize, “Oh, that’s why I did that. My life is really perfect. Everything that I did in my life, even those traumatic events, have made me take the path that I’m on.” The whole life gets unified and comes together and, “Ah, yeah. I never made any mistakes.” So, that’s the final step.
So this is all used as a process to progress deeper into the Infinite Space?
BF: Yes, exactly. Deeper into our own Infinite Space, our own consciousness. Another interesting thing that I like to tell people is that we think of space as this empty reality, but, in fact, space is nothing but consciousnessness. Everything in this Universe is conscious, and our individual lives are just waves of that consciousness. If we look at it from that perspective, God moves through everyone all the time, but we’re not aware of it. Ego mind wants to control our life, wants to focus and never notices the God within.
Is quantum meditation a particular challenge for those who live in a culture that seeks the fastest way to get things done?
BF: On the surface, people might say, “Well, why do I want to meditate? I don’t know that I have the time in my life.” But, on the other hand, it’s like saying, “I don’t have time to go to the bank before I go shopping.” We really need to look inside and recharge ourselves, clear our stress, open our consciousness and open our heart so that we have a better potential to accomplish the things we want to do in life.
Next month: Bob Fickes shares about enlightenment and The Love Mantra.
Bob Fickes will be presenting a three-day initiation of The Love Mantra meditation Sept. 11-13 at the University of Minnesota Continuing Education and Conference Center, St. Paul Campus, Room 135BD, 1890 Buford Ave., St. Paul. The cost is $345 (includes lunch) by August 11 ($40 more afterward), exact cash only at the door. For reservations and more information, email email@example.com. Bob will present the same event on October 9-11 at the Marriott Residence Hotel in Valencia, CA.
Listen: Bob Fickes speaks on Edge Talk Radio on “InnerView” with Cathryn taylor here.