Transcendental Meditation 101
Transcendental Meditation, or TM as it is more commonly known, is a form of meditation that focuses on a particular way of using a mantra during meditation; it is practiced by approximately 4 million people worldwide.
One of the key aims is to enable the individual to limit distractions in the mind and to enter a state of relaxation. In comparison to other forms of meditation, TM is relatively new, having been introduced to India in the 1950s.
TM has subsequently been introduced in many other countries, and is now a popular form of meditation for many. TM has grown into a whole movement, with trained teachers, followers, presentations, and world tours. In recent years, the movement has expanded to include education and health related products and services.
Despite this expansion of the organization, the meditation and principles remain largely the same as when it was first introduced in the 1950s. Part of the increased popularity can be attributed to many celebrities practicing and endorsing the movement throughout the years.
The actual practice of TM involves repeating a particular mantra for 15-20 minutes twice a day, every day, whilst keeping the eyes closed. A mantra is a meaningless phrase that is given meaning by a teacher and often repeated. TM is taught by suitably qualified teachers, often in a group setting. The technique has both religious and non-religious elements, particularly drawing from Hinduism.
The Philosophy Of TM
According to the TM movement, the process of TM ‘transcends’ ordinary thinking and replaces it with a state of uninterrupted, pure consciousness that enables the individual to achieve total relaxation and awareness of the self.
How It Works
In order to practice TM, the individual follows a seven-step course, taught by a qualified instructor. This process includes lectures, personal assessments and individual instruction and teaching.
Each individual is given a mantra personal to them, which they are supposed to keep to themselves. Following this, the individual engages in three days of practice, which is supervised by the instructor. This is where the individual practices their own TM, and is corrected where necessary by the instructor.
Following on from this initial training, the instructor has regular meetings with the individual to ensure they are continuing to practice TM correctly. The TM movement argues that you cannot learn the technique of TM from a book, the internet, or social media; it has to be taught by an instructor so it can be customized to individual needs.
Benefits Of TM
TM has been applied to many individuals in many different situations; notably made more popular by David Lynch and his foundation. The foundation supports individuals such as young people and soldiers returning from duty to address the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. The foundation has brought TM into the classroom, advocating that TM can help school children become more productive and higher achievers.
In addition, the foundation has brought TM to prisons and argues it can help address the causes of offending, therefore bringing benefits to the wider society as well as the individual.
TM is promoted as a way to increase relaxation and reduce stress and tensions in the body. There is some initial research that suggests TM can reduce chronic pain, anxiety, and lower high blood pressure.
Much of the research seems to support TM in the same way as other forms of meditation; it can have a huge range of benefits, but not specifically separate to other forms of meditation. Moreover, much of the research that has been conducted into TM specifically has been organized by people connected to the TM movement.
This inevitably raises questions of bias in the research, and produces questions over the findings. In 2013, the American Heart Association reported that TM could be used and may be beneficial for individuals suffering from cardiovascular disorders. However, they also point out that other treatments, including both mediation and others such as exercise, are more effective than TM.
To partly address these concerns, David Lynch has commissioned the foundation to carry out a large amount of scientific, academically robust research into the effects of TM. However, the research is again designed to support the TM so could still be questioned.
Whether we believe the research is biased or not, it does seem that many people report TM to be highly beneficial for them. David Lynch himself states that other types of meditation or therapy limited his creativity, obviously an issue for someone who relies on their creative talents for a living.