My Personal Experience with Transcendental Meditation
DISCLAIMER: I am not a Transcendental (TM) teacher or trainer. I am not affiliated with any of the TM professionals. This is only my personal experience.
Transcendental meditation was the first meditation style I learned. Within a week I was sleeping better than ever and had extreme focus and clarity, like I was really living wide awake.
You might be wondering what transcendental meditation is. Transcendental meditation, from a distance, seems like a very exclusive type of meditation, because only certified trainers can teach it. This also makes it that much more important to find someone legitimately trained to teach this style.
Transcendental Meditation is a high-profile meditation technique among all other methods. It became popular in the 1960’s when many celebrities such as the The Beatles, became faithful enthusiasts. Later, Clint Eastwood, Deepak Chopra, Jennifer Aniston, numerous successful business leaders, and Dr. Oz became faithful enthusiasts.
As the science has caught up with the practice, it’s also been taught to veterans, PTSD sufferers, and even prisoners with remarkable results.
In transcendental Meditation, you have a teacher who advises you and assigns you a personal mantra. You will typically pay for the teacher as this type of meditation is shrouded in exclusivity and secrecy. In addition, you can never tell anyone else your private mantra. The mantra can be chosen regarding your age, sex, and other factors.
Similar to mantra meditation, you will repeat your mantra (a Hindu word typically) each time your mind becomes distracted. Your center of focus is your mantra. Perhaps you drift off and think of your to-do list… then you would silently bring your mind back into focus by repeating your mantra once every so often.
This meditation practice encourages 20 minutes of meditation (ideally, twice a day), on a regular basis for optimal results. I began with once a day, and continue a once-a-day practice because I sometimes do other meditations such as mindfulness and guided meditations.
Bonus: Brain wave studies show that there are no substantial differences between an expert and a beginner in transcendental meditation, which is very encouraging! You can feel better your first session!
Where did it originate?
The TM (transcendental meditation) technique (formerly transcendental deep meditation) was introduced to the wider world by Indian guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who learned the technique while studying as a Hindu monk. He promised his late teacher to spread inner peace to the world through a non-denominational meditation practice.
What are the benefits?
It is the most studied type of meditation boasting evidence-based proven benefits that range from lowered cortisol and stress, lowered risk for heart disease, heightened creativity and productivity, improved sleep and memory.
These benefits can show up quickly such as improved sleep and other benefits taking months (with continued practice) such as improved cardiovascular health.
What’s the difference between typical meditation techniques and transcendental?
Mindfulness meditation for instance asks you to be present with your thoughts, being aware of them, but not overly bothered by them; sitting with your thoughts. Your “anchor” (or point of focus) is usually your breath or a background noise of your choice, like a fan.
Transcendental meditation encourages you to transcend your thoughts so that you are no longer aware of them. It can even feel as if you exist outside of them, sometimes forgetting time and space. If this sounds like hallucinating on LSD, you may be on to something. I’m not keen on recreational drugs, but I’m sure it would be easy to make the connection between Transcendental meditation and the side effects of certain drugs. It’s no wonder The Beatles were fans of this meditation…Lucy in the sky with diamonds…
Transcending thought is described as “pure awareness” or “oneness”- not knowing where your self begins and anything or anyone else ends. Some people describe it as losing themselves. I experienced it as a blank space that remained untouched by thoughts, but could also include random, incredible insights too.
How to practice Transcendental Meditation?
It is recommended that you seek a practicing teacher to properly learn these methods. This of course costs money and time commitment. Some people try to learn themselves, online.
I have no doubt that if you only practiced mantra meditation with your chosen mantra, you will receive wonderful benefits! Mantra meditation is ideal in a world when focus is scarce.
How can meditation be controversial?
So far I’ve introduced to you a seemingly infallible method of meditation, but it may surprise you to know TM has undergone criticism as well. In fact, it’s a highly controversial method.
The first reason is since this method is based on Hindu texts (The Vedas), which are notoriously considered religious texts by historians, how can we be certain that practicing TM is not inadvertently practicing Hinduism as a religion? Not many people can properly translate The Vedas. This is especially troubling to devout religious folks who are not of the Hindu faith.
When Buddhism became popular in the west, many practiced the principles of Buddhism without considering it a religion yet some people do actually consider it their religion. With it becoming mainstream however, it is more widely accepted as simply part of a personal meditation and wellness program.
There’s a fine line between “spiritual” practices and religion so if this makes you uncomfortable this meditation method may be one to skip.
The TM movement continues to be a tight-knit community where certain teachers are the chosen ones to pass it on to others. TM can only be taught by a trained teacher, guru, or spiritual advisor who is well-versed in the practice.
This means you are putting blind faith in another person to guide you on a very personal psycho-spiritual journey that may or may not affect your mental wellbeing.
In my experience it works quickly- my first session and I felt light as a feather and freakishly friendly and loving to everyone (at the grocery store!).
The lure is the promise of easy and natural benefits. Some teachers claim it’s the easiest of all meditations and the biggest bang for your buck.
I noticed my sleep was perfectly sound with little to no interruptions.
I definitely felt like I was Transcending my thoughts with the occasional out-of-body experience.
Peace and Be Well,