Transcendental Meditationby Nicola on 2012-03-17
By Dr Nicola J Davies
Transcendental meditation (TM) originates from India, where it was introduced in the 1956 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. TM stems from an ancient Vedic tradition which holds that all creation comes from one, universal foundation of pristine, sublime consciousness. Today, it remains a popular meditation practice among millions of followers all over the world. Many find TM to be a source of profound strength in a modern world where it is easy to become obsessed with the technological and material, at the expense of the natural and spiritual qualities of human existence. This article offers a general introduction to TM, highlighting some of its benefits and how to apply it within your life.
What is Transcendental Meditation?
Transcendental meditation is a specific state of consciousness induced by practising meditation using a mantra. A mantra is a specific word, sound or phrase that is silently repeated to help achieve a state of transcendent awareness. In this state, the mind is settled, deeply relaxed, but very alert. It’s a state of pure consciousness, in which the mind is at one.
TM produces what Eckhart Tolle refers to as ‘space consciousness,’ which is different to ordinary object consciousness. In the latter mode we are aware of thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, which create the illusion that we are separate from nature and the world around us. However, when aware of space consciousness, or transcendent consciousness, we lose this sense of separation and arrive at a true state of connectedness and oneness with all life.
Why Practice Transcendental Meditation?
More than 500 scientific research studies, performed in at least 30 countries at more than 200 universities and institutes, show TM to have a positive impact on the mind, behaviour, body, and social environment. Not only are people who practice TM less prone to illness and heart disease, but the biological age of those who practice it resembles that of people 5-12 years younger. The improved health, reduced anxiety, increased self-confidence and development of positive relationships, as experienced by people who practice TM, also affect others nearby.
Regular practice awakens and develops the individual’s intuitive faculty, to the point where intellectual and creative breakthroughs occur spontaneously and more frequently. A deeper and convincing relationship of trust develops towards innate wisdom, which comes increasingly to the fore. People find that over time life becomes more purposeful and there is less need to rely on outside sources for guidance about major or everyday decisions.
This form of meditation animates individual creativity, making life more spontaneous, free, and exciting. Some describe the experience as being in direct connection with the source of creative intelligence. Many professionals and scientists who have been practising TM for years believe in it as the source underlying the drive to discover more about their respective fields.
TM has also proven effective in restoring psychological well-being among people with a range of emotional symptoms connected with anxiety, depression or dysfunctional personality styles. Clinical and behavioural psychology conferences and journals over the last 10 years often document studies which prove that this kind of meditation significantly lessens the symptoms of depression. It has also been effective in education, helping to reduce stress, hyper activity, and anxiety among students.
Practising Transcendental Meditation
Practitioners meditate twice a day, each session lasting 20 minutes. It usually involves getting seated comfortably on the floor or in a chair, and closing your eyes in a quiet environment with no interruptions or distractions. To reach the transcendent, meditative state, the person silently repeats a mantra, literally meaning ‘revealed sound,’ which is a word or phrase with special meaning for the individual. The idea is that through repeating and focusing on the mantra, the person will eventually slip from consciousness into a state of pure, transcendent awareness.
Learning this form of meditation typically involves getting instruction from a certified TM teacher who takes the newcomer though a program with seven steps. This includes lectures, interviews and practising the technique. Practitioners are meant to apply TM every day for the rest of their lives. It’s true power and benefits emerge with regular practice, and the TM process becomes an indispensable part of an individual’s life, like breathing.
Issues and Answers
The controversies regarding TM centres mostly around its quasi-religious nature, or that people have to pay to learn something that’s ostensibly so simple and that comes naturally to human beings. TM followers agree that practising this kind of meditation does not require adherence to any religious faith. Many of the believers in TM belong to diverse religious doctrines, while many more have little or no such sensitivities. The fact is that anyone can practice TM. Where it seems to resemble a cult following has more to do with the personalities of some of its practitioners, and is not something intrinsic to the philosophy of TM itself.
The money issue is puzzling to most people. However, almost all TM practitioners agree that compared to the benefits they derive from having engaged in it for long periods of time, the initial costs are negligible.
Some points of contention stem from comparing TM to other traditions of meditation. Some former practitioners of TM, who subsequently took up other forms of meditation like mindfulness or Zen meditation, complained that after a while of practising TM it made them feel rather dissociated, withdrawn, and almost aloof to the world and others around them. One line of response to this involves the question of personality differences and types. Some people, because of their psychological constitutions, are more attracted to other forms of meditation, whereas some individuals prefer using techniques that allow focusing on the free flow of conscious content, others gel better with TM and similar disciplines that require constricting the concentration to a single mantra or object.
Over all, the fact that thousands of people take up the discipline every year is evidence of its power in transforming lives and the world for the better. Perhaps the best evidence lies in trying it out, and witnessing the effects it has on the body, mind, spirit and environment.
For a good overview, see Jevning, R, Wallace, R.K, Beidebach, M (1992), "The physiology of meditation: areview. A wakeful hypometabolic integrated response", Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, Vol. 16 pp.415-24.
The founder of TM, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, talks about TM - http://www.alltm.org/
For a good overview of the evidence supporting TM - http://maharishi-india.org/programmes/p1tm.html
The Transcendental Meditation Program - www.tm.org
Science of Being and Art of Living: Transcendental Meditation by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Oct 30, 2001).
Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity by David Lynch (Dec 27, 2007).
Everything You Want to Know About TM - Including How to Do It by John White (Apr 1, 2004).