Students Speak

  • Manish Kochhal

    Manish Kochhal was no stranger to meditation, but he wanted a setting where he could practice in a more disciplined way. He found Advaita Meditation Center on the web and enrolled in Introduction to Meditation, our ten-week evening class. “Because I had meditated before, at first I thought I knew more than everyone else there,” recalls the 33-year-old. “But I was wrong. They really focused on practice—how to deepen your practice of meditation.” Manish did just that and, in the process, realized there was more to learn. He wanted further guidance. At AMC, the next step is Initiation into Mantra Meditation.

    “I just loved that class,” says Manish, a software engineer. “Not only did I learn the technique of mantra meditation, but the retreat where I was initiated was an unforgettable experience for me. I look forward to more retreats.”

    His third class, Meditation and Advaita, pulled it all together, he says. “It combined meditation with philosophy, which validates your experiences. It’s like you know the ABCs, and now you are making sentences.”

    Those sentences have an ongoing, positive impact on Manish’s life. “The center has taught me how to live in the present moment,” he says. “I continue taking classes in order to keep myself there.”

    This higher level of awareness has produced greater satisfaction at work and at home—even when performing the most mundane chores. Relationships are better. “It is very difficult for people to frustrate me now,” he says. “That includes my baby son.”

    Manish has high praise for the center’s teachers. “They are all highly educated, and they are very experienced at teaching meditation,” he says. “This is different from some other places, where you’re not sure if the teachers are certified or not.”

    Looking back, Manish knows that he found the discipline and concentration on study that he sought. “I have benefited a lot from my experience at Advaita Meditation Center. I have recommended the center to friends.”


  • Guy Barbacano

    Guy Barbacano has learned to still his busy mind, and he says the benefits are striking. “I try to meditate twice a day, and for the most part, I do,” says Guy, a contractor who lives in Arlington. “It has really changed my life. I’m much more patient now. What I’ve learned at Advaita Meditation Center has filled something in my life, and it’s helped me with my business.”

    He wasn’t specifically seeking meditation, but he saw its effects when he began a new relationship. “My partner would say ‘Excuse me—I’m going to meditate,’” he recalls. “I saw how she reached a state of peace and restfulness. I have a strong spiritual connection; I pray every day. But I realized I had to learn to meditate.”

    So four years ago, Guy, who is 55, took Introduction to Meditation. “We learned to be in the present—to slow things down and do things like pause before eating,” he says. “After meditating, it’s really wonderful to just be with yourself.”

    He continued with Introduction to Mantra Meditation. “That class includes a lovely ritual when you receive your mantra. I find the tutors at Advaita Meditation Center to be fantastic; they are the nicest people. If you need help, they are there for you. I’ve made some wonderful friends.”

    Subsequent classes have involved extensive reading. “It’s amazing that you can read ancient texts, as we do in class, and apply what you learn to things that happen to you today. I know I’m a beginner, but I’m invested in ongoing study.”

    Guy has enjoyed day and weekend retreats, including at Hill House, the center’s lakeside property in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Volunteer service is a part of most retreats. “Since I’m a contractor, I’ve been happy to do some masonry work at Hill House,” he notes.

    He is grateful for the positive changes that have come with ongoing meditation and study. “I appreciate living in the present,” he says.


  • Spencer Nineberg

    For Spencer Nineberg, Advaita presented a new take on things. “The philosophy itself is profound, simple and all-encompassing,” she says. “Advaita cuts right to the center of things.” Introduced to Advaita Meditation Center in 1980 by her future husband, she became increasingly involved and interested in studying the philosophy itself. “The idea of meditating appealed to me because the idea of becoming calm appealed to me,” says Spencer, a psychotherapist who lives in Cambridge. “I find Advaita to be incredibly powerful. It’s less psychological than other traditions—and more spiritual.”

    She has continued to take classes, including Sanskrit, but finds that the weekend retreats at Hill House, the center’s property in Plymouth, are particularly valuable. “Because we have lots of time to practice and to put what we learn into practice, a lot of change can happen at the retreats,” she says. “That’s where you get a taste of unity, stillness and effortlessness—even while you’re active.

    “There’s a collective effort to transcend personalities. The result is that a feeling of love arises.”

    Spencer, who is 57, has high regard for the center’s tutors. “I think they’re high-level and top-notch,” she says. “Many of the tutors clearly have worked on themselves and really understand themselves.”

    Ongoing study at Advaita Meditation Center, she says, ultimately can transform one’s life, but even beginning students can benefit from useful tools. “I think the most basic tool is learning to live in the present,” Spencer says. “It makes daily life so much more peaceful.”

    She has seen the benefits herself. “I don’t take things so personally, and I’m less reactive when upsetting situations occur,” she says. “Also, I’m able to let go of anxieties—the little ones as well as the big ones having to do with life and death.”

    As she continues to study and practice, she continues to change. “In the past few years, I’ve become more compassionate,” she says, “and I’ve found a greater sense of contentment.”


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