If you’ve heard any celebrity or other famous person talk about spirituality and meditation, they are often talking about transcendental meditation. It is the meditation of the stars.
It is the meditation of the rich.
Why do I call it the meditation of the rich?
It costs money.
Does that mean it’s not good? No. On the contrary. It seems to be a fabulous form of meditation.
But I am typically hesitant about any form of spiritual practice that sits behind a paywall, and transcendental meditation absolutely sits behind a paywall.
So, let’s explore this much touted form of quieting the mind.
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What Is Transcendental Meditation?
Transcendental meditation, also referred to as TM, is a form of meditation that calls you to repeat the same word or phrase over and over again for 20 minutes, two times a day.
There is no app required, no music, no insistence on concentration or focus or quieting the mind.
You simply sit for 20 minutes and repeat this phrase.
Now, the phrase is not in English; it is given to you by your teacher after a couple of teaching sessions, and it becomes your phrase or word.
In order to learn transcendental meditation, you must enroll in a certified course, that ranges from $500 to $1000 depending on your class, and the teacher is one who has undergone a 5-month training and is required to maintain certification as long as he or she practices.
Typically, you will have a one-hour session with your teacher, you will be given handouts and even a book, and then your meditation will be specifically designed for you, along with your word or phrase.
You will then begin your practice, and you will have support from your teacher when you need it.
The selling point of transcendental meditation is the absence of the need for self-control and mind control.
The goal of transcendental meditation is to connect with your higher consciousness, to sink into yourself, to, effectively, “transcend,” or to go higher.
During transcendental meditation, ideally, your body becomes completely rested, your mind becomes completely at ease, and you are wide awake.
This phenomenon is often called a restful awakening.
Proponents of transcendental meditation swear by it, including active meditators who try transcendental meditation after years of holding their own practice.
They say it is a game changer.
Origin of Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental meditation was founded by an Indian guru named Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who developed this practice in the 1950s as a form of reaching your consciousness through yoga.
It does not involve or require any religious or philosophical affiliation. Anybody can do it.
Anybody, that is, interested in reaching a higher state of consciousness.
Transcendental meditation as taught by Maharishi established a fourth state of consciousness, after waking, sleeping, and dreaming.
It is, basically, the zen state.
TM has reached the entire globe by this point, with the David Lynch Foundation and the Maharishi Foundation being the two biggest nonprofit organizations to teach it and train new teachers.
Bob Roth is likely today’s loudest supporter, practitioner, and teacher of transcendental meditation, with a huge following and several books on the subject.
He was recently on an episode of Russell Brand’s podcast Under the Skin talking about this practice, and, while I agree with much of what he says about how psychedelic drugs are a shortcut to spirituality and meditation takes a more holistic, long view that has lasting benefits, the thing I found most interesting was his reluctance to guide Brand through a meditation.
It is not that I am necessarily suspicious of the paywall required in order to really learn transcendental meditation, but I have questions.
If the meditation is so life changing, why can’t it be taught, or at least attempted to be taught, in a book?
The TM website compares it to learning how to golf, and how you need a good teacher to really learn, and, um, okay, but golf is physical.
Also, people can actually learn golf through practice.
Would it be nice to learn from a coach, if you can afford it? Sure.
But is it essential?
So, I struggle to get on board with a meditation style that demands payment before you can learn it.
Benefits of Transcendental Meditation
The benefits of transcendental meditation are many. They include, according to the Cleveland Clinic, a reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression, management of post-traumatic stress disorder, and improved self-esteem, among other things.
But, if you look up the benefits of meditation in general, you will find all the same benefits listed as those you get with transcendental meditation.
So, are the benefits of transcendental meditation exclusive to transcendental meditation?
I don’t think.
It seems to me, from the research, that TM is simply another great form of meditation. And meditation in general is good for you.
Everyone should do it.
Should You Try Transcendental Meditation?
Should everyone try transcendental meditation?
Not everyone has $500 or more to shell out for a meditation course.
You can listen to Pema Chodron on YouTube or Abraham Hicks on YouTube for free.
Both experts in meditation and guiding others into a state of higher consciousness.
You could also buy a book, or two or twelve, on consciousness, meditation, meditative states, self healing, spirituality, and get all the same benefits for a fraction of the price.
Should you try transcendental meditation?
If you’ve been practicing meditation for awhile, if you’ve studied other teachers, if you’ve done all the free stuff and read a bunch of books, and you’d like to invest in going deeper, aiming higher, and you’ve got the money, go for it.
It cannot hurt.
I certainly don’t think it is a scam. I just think there are several ways you can practice meditation that is beneficial to your health and wellness without spending hundreds of dollars to learn how.
7 Tips for Practicing Meditation that May Very Well Be Transcendental
What are those ways? Some of them are books, some of them are practices, some of them are tips. Take them for what you will.
- Read Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul
Singer is great at helping his reader understand the power of quieting the mind. He describes the feeling of sinking in, of going behind your thoughts, and of why it is so important to us, regardless of religion or spiritual belief.
If you start anywhere with meditation, this is a great place.
- Read Pema Chodron’s Things Fall Apart
A true master of meditation, Pema Chodron has been a Buddhist monk for decades; she’s funny, smart, and quick witted while also teaching peace and true zen states with style.
This book gets into letting go and detaching, which are critical lessons to learn for life as well as meditation practices.
- Try Dr. Joe Dispenza
I would venture a guess that Dr. Dispenza’s form of meditation taught in Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself is much akin to transcendental meditation. He has several studies and examples that show how his meditation techniques heal people from all sorts of illnesses and help others manifest the lives of their dreams.
I am still making my way through the mediation technique as it truly does call for you to break the habit of being yourself. No easy feat.
- Do some yoga
As Maharishi himself noted, yoga is an excellent entryway to meditation.
If you’re looking to take your meditation deeper, or begin somewhere, start with yoga.
Wake up in the morning, stretch and flow your body through 15 minutes of gentle yoga, and then lie in corpse pose and quiet your mind.
Pema Chodron recommends silently saying the word “thinking” whenever thoughts come in. No judgement, no anger, just “thinking” and then let your mind go silent again.
- Create a sanctuary
It is hard, especially for newcomers, to meditate in cluttered, noisy, chaotic spaces.
So, if you are trying to practice or build a practice, create a clean, quiet space for yourself where you are at peace.
I won’t meditate in my office, even though I love it here, because my mind is on work in this room.
So, I meditate in my living room before my kids wake up. But yes, it has to be clean, quiet, and feel peaceful.
- Make it a habit
Like anything else, meditation must be a habit you create. The more you do it, the better you will get at it. So build 20 minutes into every day for meditation.
- Pick your own word
Finally, pick your own word.
Would it be nice to have a zen teacher listen to you and study you for an hour and then give you your own special word?
But if you don’t have five hundred bucks, just pick your own word.
It can be anything.
I use Pema Chodron’s “thinking,” but you could simply say “zen” or “peace” or “love.”
Make sure it’s not an object or an activity, and it could be something you are aiming for.
Remember, in the end, that the goal is to find peace, to bring yourself to a higher consciousness, and to improve your total state of health and well-being.
Can you do transcendental meditation for all of these goals?
Do you have to?