The History of Transcendental Meditation
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (“Maharishi”) (1917-2008), is the founder of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is the great teacher and sage from India who introduced the TM technique to the wider world. Maharishi began publicly teaching a Vedic-based meditation technique inspired by his teacher, a leading figure in the Vedic tradition, an ancient tradition of knowledge rooted in the sub-continent of India.
What is Transcendental Meditation?
Transcendental Meditation, also called TM, technique of meditation in which practitioners mentally repeat a special Sanskrit word or phrase (mantra) with the aim of achieving a state of inner peace and bodily calm. The technique was taught by the Hindu monk Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, also known as Guru Dev (died 1953), and was promoted internationally from the late 1950s by one of his disciples, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, through the latter’s Spiritual Regeneration Movement.
The Maharishi coined the term Transcendental Meditation to distinguish the technique from other meditative practices and to emphasize its independence from Hinduism. In the West, Transcendental Meditation eventually came to be taught and practiced as a secular path toward mental, emotional, and physical well-being. The popularity of Transcendental Meditation in the West increased significantly in the late 1960s, when the British rock group the Beatles and other celebrities joined the Maharishi’s following and began to meditate.
Through the repetition of a mantra, the practitioner of Transcendental Meditation aims to still the activity of thought and to experience a deep state of relaxation, which is said to lead to enhanced contentment, vitality, and creativity. To practice Transcendental Meditation, a person must first be initiated by a teacher. This involves sessions of formal instruction followed by a brief ceremony in which the person receives a mantra, which is selected by the teacher on the basis of the person’s temperament and occupation. There are three subsequent “checking” sessions, in which the person meditates under the teacher’s observation. The person then begins meditating independently twice a day for periods of 20 minutes each and continues to do so indefinitely.
Transcendental Meditation relaxes and vitalizes the body and the mind by reducing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure (hypertension), enhancing creativity and other intellectual abilities, and relieving depression.
Learning and Practicing Transcendental Meditation
Unlike some forms of meditation, TM technique requires a seven-step course of instruction from a certified teacher.
A TM teacher presents general information about the technique and its effects during a 60-minute introductory lecture. That’s followed by a second 45-minute lecture in which more specific information is given. People interested in learning the technique then attend a 10- to 15-minute interview and 1 to 2 hours of personal instruction. Following a brief ceremony, they’re each given a mantra, which they’re supposed to keep confidential.
How to Do Transcendental Meditation
The journey of Transcendental Meditation begins by finding a certified TM teacher and taking courses to learn the practice. Teachers are certified by Maharishi Foundation USA, a federally-recognized non-profit organization.
Here’s what a typical practice looks like:
1. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the ground and hands in your lap. Leave your legs and arms uncrossed.
2. Close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths to relax the body.
3. Open your eyes, and then close them again. Your eyes will remain closed during the 20-minute practice.
4. Repeat a mantra in your mind. This is typically a Sanskrit sound learned from a TM teacher.
5. When you recognize you’re having a thought, simply return to the mantra.
6. After 20 minutes, begin to move your fingers and toes to ease yourself back to the world.
7. Open your eyes.
8. Sit for a few more minutes until you feel ready to continue with your day.
The standard practice is to commit to two 20 minute sessions a day, and many people experience a general improvement in their stress levels after, or even during, the very first session. So, give your body, mind, and spirit the boost that it deserves. Set that time aside, just 20 minutes a couple of times a day, and watch your life change for the better.
Transcendental Meditation Mantras
The purpose of the mantra is to help get you to a meditative state. It’s not entirely important to know what the mantra you choose means. In fact, it might help you more if the mantra is meaningless, so that you’re not attaching a meaning to the mantra or contemplating/thinking about the meaning as you chant it.
This is why when you are given a mantra in TM from a teacher, you’re asked not to share it with anyone. Sharing it with someone gives the mantra meaning, especially if they respond with a judgement or interpretation of the mantra.
What Are The Alleged Benefits?
Below is a long list of alleged benefits that have been associated with TM:
- Increased happiness
- Greater creativity
- Increased focus
- Improved memory
- Improved cognitive function
- Increased productivity
- Increased emotional control
- Better sleep
- More energy
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Reduced risk of heart attack and stroke
- Decreased blood pressure and cholesterol
What Kind of Results have people experienced?
The results have been truly incredible, including:
- An overwhelming sense of calm
- A feeling of peace and happiness
- Greater control over my emotions and reacting to inconveniences
- More energy and no need for energy drinks
- Increased memory
- Increased creativity
- Greater ability to make decisions and consider long-term planning
- Reduced obsession with my phone, social media, notifications
- Massively improved ability to focus and solve problems
The benefits of TM can be felt in mind, body and spirit. Immediate benefits include feelings of rejuvenation and quieter thoughts. Once you establish a regular practice, you may feel an increased creative capacity and notice you’re able to achieve a state of relaxed consciousness much more easily.
The TM method is designed to inject stillness, clarity of mind and renewed energy into the daily lives of their practitioners. It essentially provides a reboot to your nervous system. The salutary effects on stress level are well-documented and quite stunning.
A regular TM practice is associated with a 30% drop in cortisol, the stress hormone released by the body in moments of stress. That’s tremendous, especially when compared with sleeping which usually decreases cortisol by only 10% with a good night’s sleep. This means a meditation practice of two-20 minute sessions a day delivers three times the stress reduction of a full night’s sleep. Transcendental Meditation is particularly helpful to those struggling with stress and anxiety.
The benefits of TM are far-ranging. It’s been shown to improve brain functioning, creativity, memory and self-confidence also been found to be helpful for anxiety, depression, grief, PTSD and ADHD. TM gets us out of our heads and helps us find inner peace.
Make It a Daily Dose of Happiness
According to the Himalayan Tradition, we are able to meditate—and ultimately reach samadhi—when we cultivate these two dimensions of yoga in a systematic, methodical way. As the ancient sages discovered, this process leads us to a peaceful, inwardly flowing mind. When we practice meditation regularly (daily), over a long period of time, and with sincerity and full faith, we make huge strides quickly, and our practice becomes unshakeable. This is what forms the backbone of a sustainable—and rewarding—meditation practice. It allows us to reach our goal with joy and ease.
As you continue to refine your practice beyond the basics, you may discover that meditation is the most joyful, rich part of your day, and you may want to start sitting for longer periods of time. This is when the rewards of yoga truly start to unfold, and when you will discover the lasting, transformative benefits of practice.