What happens if you add a daily dose of Transcendental Meditation to the life of a businesswoman from Malaysia and a psychiatrist from Denmark?
Here’s how the practice of TM (trans)formed this lovely couple—and how each of us can become our own therapist and find our way home.
TM at work in business and medicine
Henrik, what made you choose the medical profession in general and focus on psychiatry in particular?
HENRIK WESTERGAARD: Well, my twin brother chose medicine. It was sort of a coincidence that I got into the medical field.
In 1982, when I finished my training, I was already giving lectures about Transcendental Meditation together with TM teachers in Denmark. As I wanted to have something to do with consciousness, I specialized in psychiatry in 1987. I feel like a fish in the water when I do this kind of thing!
How did you discover Transcendental Meditation and what made you learn it?
HENRIK WESTERGAARD: It was in 1977 when I was studying medicine in Copenhagen. There were five students in my college who were practicing Transcendental Meditation, and they recommended that I learn TM.
At first, I thought I could do meditation on my own. I read a book about blood pressure, relaxation and meditation and tried to do it myself for four to five months. I had some quite good results, but I got a bit sensitive. I could not quiet down the noise from outside. I realized I had to have the correct technique from a qualified teacher to meditate just any time I wanted.
So, in February 1978 I learned TM and since then I have done it every single day!
Did learning Transcendental Meditation change you or your life in any way?
HENRIK WESTERGAARD: The transcending transformed my life. To be able to know that there is something more inside, that it is not just that superficial material level….
I developed a deep wish to remain on that deeper level. I have not had alcohol for 25 years and, of course, no tobacco.
In 1993 I got a degree as an Ayurvedic doctor, and for 10 years I had a private practice of Ayurvedic consulting. It was very different from my previous work. The people I treated were very good patients because they were motivated to follow the instructions! (laughs)
In 1999, I finished my Transcendental Meditation Teacher Training Course.
What about you, Feli Hoo? How did Transcendental Meditation come into your life?
FELI HOO: Before I learned TM, I had a big crisis in my life. I had been very successful in business since the age of 21. When I was 33 years old, I faced a huge challenge in my personal life. Even though I had good financial income I was so lost in relationships until I felt life has no meaning.
For a year after that I went around the world looking for the truth. I learned many different kinds of techniques – mindfulness meditation, art therapy, hypnosis, healing, but they were not the answer for me.
One day someone said, “Why don’t you learn TM?” I just went ahead and did!
So what happened? What changed in your life?
FELI HOO: For a whole week after learning to meditate, I was just crying and crying. But my teacher said that was okay and that I should simply continue. After about ten months everything became more settled.
At first I was also struggling because I saw through things more and more. In my company I had a conflict with my manager. Then I went on the advanced TM-Sidhi course and when I came back, I opened up a lot.
I thought, “This is so good! I should become a teacher and spread it around!” So I went to the Transcendental Meditation Teacher Training Course (TTC) for five months.
I let my personal assistant learn TM and she became so good at what she was doing and could take on everything. My company employs 35 people. We are the biggest supplier of cutlery in Malaysia under our own brand, Felli.
On TTC, I did not have any connection with my company for five months. When I came back, I saw that my CEO and assistant had done very well, and the company had actually become a better business while I was away!
So I thought, “Maybe it’s time for me to retire.” So, 2 years ago, I handed the business over to my sister/CEO smoothly. Now, at the age of 44, I enjoy retired life and teach TM full time. I feel it is more balance in this way.
Love moves in mysterious ways!
How did you end up in Denmark? It must have been quite a love to exchange Malaysian weather for Danish weather!
FELI HOO: Yeah, it’s true, you are right! But I knew that if I did not come here, we could not be together. I don’t like long distance relationships, speaking on Skype for hours. We did that for one year.
Henrik could not come to Malaysia because he had to take care of his mother. So I had to decide to come here. It was very good timing to be able to pass on running the company and give up the busy work. I do travel back to Malaysia twice a year for a few months each time.
You are both not only meditating but also teachers of Transcendental Meditation. How do you think this has influenced your relationship?
FELI HOO: I think it is so important that we meditate together. For me there have been a lot of things to adjust to, because life here is so different. By meditating, we transcend a lot of problems, especially when we do it together.
The first half year in Denmark I was really struggling. I felt I had sacrificed a lot. I had a good life in Malaysia. But somehow now it’s not like that. It’s a better quality of life! (Henrik chuckles warmly in the background)
When we both meditate and move in the same direction, we create that heaven on earth.
Whenever we go out for a TM lecture and Henrik speaks, I don’t understand Danish much, but I look at him and I feel so satisfied! This is what I want and I feel this is what we can do together. And there is a lot of power in it.
When I teach TM when I’m in Malaysia, I feel lonely sometimes. Here, together, there is none of that loneliness and there’s more fulfilment.
HENRIK WESTERGAARD: That’s right!
FELI HOO: It’s been a big change in life for me.
HENRIK WESTERGAARD: For me as well. A lot has changed and it’s very good!
It does look like it has worked out perfectly; you two radiate such harmony and bliss together!
FELI HOO: If there was no TM, I don’t think we could survive together. I don’t think we’d last long! (Both laughing)
HENRIK WESTERGAARD: I think we both can have hot temper.
FELI HOO: He always says I’m like a boss and treat him like my staff. But I no longer treat my staff this way! (Both laughing even harder)
Becoming your own therapist and coming home
What for you personally are the most important benefits of your TM practice?
HENRIK WESTERGAARD: I would say it keeps peace in the mind. You can think better, adjust better, socialize better, understand better. Your sense of what is going on is very quick.
My job as a psychiatrist was a lot about empathy: going to the patient and feeling what is going on there. You use yourself as an instrument to get an idea of the problem, go deeper into it, and be soothing and encouraging.
With TM the whole thing goes automatically. Without thinking too much you just feel, “This is where we go to improve things.”
Someone once told me that instead of my giving a tranquilizer, my presence was just as effective. It’s like that when you meditate! You use yourself as a kind of medicine.
We actually have a headline on our posters: “Transcendental Meditation – your own medicine.” You can bring TM with you and be your own therapist. We cannot all go to psychologists. There are not enough of them for everyone! So to become our own therapist—that’s the idea.
In Denmark, many have a habit of drinking a lot of alcohol and being a brave, tough guy. But instead you should go with something else. You should drink some of the inner Self—it’s much more healthy and satisfying. Change your consciousness towards this kind of drinking. This should be the habit!
I really believe that many people have avoided becoming depressed by doing TM. I’m sure it is very helpful for people with a tendency to become depressed, or for those with bipolar disorder.
We had a famous theatre director in Denmark who had bipolar disease. He found a lot of help from TM. In my private practice for some of my patients, I recommended TM. Once I had a nurse in my private practice with burnout symptoms who had the choice between doing TM or going to a psychologist. I taught her TM and she recovered.
FELI HOO: For me it’s about coming back home. In Chinese I like to say huí jiā, which means that you go home, go back to the home inside of you. I had been searching for it all around the world but discovered that this home is inside me. How we can come back to that home, the Self, is by breaking through to the truth. If I have silence and that connection with myself, then I can break through.
And then we actually become ourselves and we are not so attached to other people and their reactions. I used to be very hot tempered and get upset with the people in my company. Now when I talk with my husband and get a bit louder, I can already imagine my mouth going blah-blah-blah….
Whenever I had problems before TM, it took me maybe 3–4 days to recover. Now it takes me 3–4 hours. The quality of life is better!
Thank you both for these words of inspiration!