When I first moved to L.A 3 different and unrelated people told me they were practicing meditation with Light Watkins. Who was this man inspiring so many on the westside to meditate ? I then started hearing about an event called The Shine and upon further investigation it appeared that Light was behind that too ! All the roads were leading to Light and we are so glad that after just over a year of being in Los Angeles now we finally got to meet and have a chat about meditation and creating conscious change within our communities. Thanks so much Light !
Tell us about your journey to meditation and how you found TM specifically ?
I started doing yoga in the late 1990's and consequently became what I call a meditation dabbler. I had an interest in meditation, but it felt hard whenever I sat to do it. So I just didn't do it very often.
Then, I met someone who insisted that I meet his meditation teacher. I went along, not because I thought his teacher would be any different from the others I had experienced, but because I admired the way my friend moved through the world. He had a special something that I couldn't fully articulate, but found attractive. He had a calmness, an independence, a happiness that I found contagious.
Sure enough, when I met my friend's teacher, he oozed the same sort of happiness and inner peace, only more. And not in an airy-fairy way. It was the opposite. He was just this normal guy. Not a monk bone in his body. But he radiated, and I found that to be immensely attractive.
And he just so happened to be a TM teacher of 40 years or something like that - he'd taught 10,000 people to meditate all around the world. I didn't know anything about TM before that. So coincidentally, I learned TM, but it could've been anything looking back on it. I was less attracted to the technique, and more to the teacher. If he told me that fly fishing caused all of that happiness, we would be talking about fly fishing now. But, it was the closest I've come to making contact with what I would imagine a true guru to be like. It's been 13 years and I'm still in touch with him as my teacher / guru.
At what point did you decide you wanted to teach meditation ?
I knew I wanted to teach meditation about 10 minutes after meeting my guru. I not only wanted what he had, but I felt an insatiable desire to share it with others. I was teaching yoga at the time, and I loved the art of teaching. So teaching meditation was an extension of that. There was no clear path to becoming a teacher, at least none that I could see at the time. So I apprenticed my teacher for years. And one day, he invited me and a few of his other proteges to travel with him to India where he had lived with his guru, and learn the ancient ways of teaching meditation.
How is the TM practice different to other meditation practices ?
I find it incredibly easy and accessible. One analogy I use is to compare it to AOL, back in the early days of the internet, when mostly internet geeks were able to get on line and access information. The layperson was either intimidated, or confused about the process of accessing the Internet. Then, AOL came along and made the process as simple as clicking "connect," and then you hear "You've Got Mail!" I feel that TM is like that for meditation - an easy, simple way to connect to your inner state of consciousness without much confusion or intimidation. One of the aspects TM focuses on that many other techniques don't is comprehensive instruction. Whereas other techniques will direct you to be indifferent towards thoughts, TM teaches the practitioner why that's important from a biochemical, physical, and spiritual perspective. I liked getting all of the information on the mechanics of meditation, which I had never received before I was trained by my teacher.
You also founded The Shine, tell us why you wanted to start an event like this ?
After starting a daily meditation practice, many aspects of my life began to change. For instance, I became more daring and adventurous, and less concerned for what other people thought about my choices. I got my ears pierced. I got into real estate. I wore Crocs and blazers together. I threw wild dinner and board game parties, and started creating the community that I felt was interested in having fun while sober.
Soon after, I started a weekly pop-up dinner party on Monday nights called The Community Table, where we met at someone's house each week, enjoyed a 5-course home-cooked meal, and a question of the night. My partner in that venture moved away and it fizzled out.
Still wanting to create a more conscious community, I decided to host weekly gatherings where my friends and I could get together, answer a silly question of the night (to get out of our heads), meditate, and learn about something we didn't know about from an expert. We called it The Shine, and started with about a dozen people. Week after week, the numbers grew. And slowly we added more elements: homemade honey, lemon, ginger tea, music, philanthropy and finally food.
The numbers got so big that we needed to begin renting bigger venues and hiring audio/video people. Now we're operating as a cadre of volunteers, and our numbers are between 200-300 per event, and growing. We've also started a Shine in New York, so now we truly are a movement.
How important is it for community to work together to inspire & cultivate real actions of change ?
I think many people feel helpless. Or that they need to have a lot more resources than they do in order to effect change. And the beauty of what we've created at The Shine, is spreading the most important element for change - inspiration. With inspiration, you can do what you never thought was possible. Just seeing someone else do a lot with a very little amount of resources can be very powerful, and every event is potentially creating tens or hundreds of new change agents being released into the world.
If people can't attend The Shine what would you tell them to do within their communities instead ?
Create The Shine. Don't wait for The Shine to come to your community. Build it. Start with 5 or 10 people. Share ideas, meditate together, break bread, inspire one another - and most importantly, pool your resources together and help others.
At the last Shine event the Question was 'Name One Thing You've done which you never thought you'd do?' - you said change your name. Why was this ?
I wasn't born with the name Light, and I never in a million years thought I would change my first name to Light. But again, that just goes to show the power of inspiration.
What is next for your meditation business and The Shine ?
Well, lucky for me, the job I have to pay my bills is right in alignment with my passion, as well as my side projects. So my objective is to keep working with people who inspire me, to stay true to what I'm feeling in my heart, and to keep giving back. The Shine has become the most wonderful community service and I'm more than happy to dedicate hours upon hours to making sure it remains a high-quality event full of surprise and delight.