Transcendental Meditation provides effortless access to unlimited reserves of energy, creativity, wisdom, and happiness deep within.
Founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Transcendental Meditation (TM) is one of the most widely practiced meditation techniques. With a 50-year history, Transcendental Meditation is endorsed by hundreds of studies from over 250 universities and research institutes around the world.
This research — and 6 million practitioners worldwide — confirm that Transcendental Meditation is a hugely successful meditation method because it creates far better state of relaxation than any other technique. It’s easy and enjoyable, and has more optimal stress-relieving effects than most medicines, but without any adverse side effects.
Norman Rosenthal, MD, from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health says the following about Transcendental Meditation:
“No other stress management technique has anywhere close to TM’s amount of hard data in support of its claims to reduce stress.”
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Image source: theage.com
So, What Exactly Is Transcendental Meditation?
The Transcendental Meditation technique is a very simple, natural and effortless way of letting your mind settle down into an extremely calm and wise state of rest.
- Promoting a state of relaxed awareness with eyes closed for 20-minute twice a day
- Avoiding distracting thoughts when in a state of rest
- Reciting specific mantras developed specially for each practitioner by his/her teacher
- Allowing thoughts to come in, and not forcing any return focus back to the mantra
A proper Transcendental Meditation definition would therefore be:
Transcending ordinarythinking processes to experience a state of pure consciousness in perfect stillness, and complete absence of mental boundaries.
The History Of Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental Meditation originated in the Vedic traditions of India.
In 1955, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi took a traditional meditation technique (learned from his master Brahmananda Saraswati) and started Transcendental Deep Meditation, which he later renamed Transcendental Meditation.
The practice became a proper Transcendental Meditation movement when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi initiated thousands of people in the practice. Due to its popularity, and with the aim to bring TM’s benefits to people worldwide, he developed Transcendental Meditation teacher training programs, which include the TM-Sidhi program (Yogic Flying), the Maharishi Sthapatya Vedan, and an alternative health care program called Maharishi Ayurveda.
He inaugurated a series of world tours to promote Transcendental Meditation, and soon several celebrities started practicing this meditation art.
When scientific research finally validated the technique, it spread like wildfire across the world in the 1960’s and 1970’s. By the late 2000’s, TM was taught to millions of individuals and the Maharishi was overseeing a massive multinational movement which continued after his death in 2008.
Despite organizational changes and the addition of advanced meditative techniques in the 1970’s, the Transcendental Meditation technique has remained relatively unchanged.
In 2000, Dr. Tony Nader received the title of First Sovereign Ruler of the conceptual country, Global Country of World Peace from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and in 2008, was named the Maharishi's successor.
The Beatles learned Transcendental Meditation from Maharishi in an Indian ashram (1968). Image source: dailymail.co.uk
The Benefits Of Transcendental Meditation
Meditation research studies have found that any meditation can reduce chronic pain, anxiety, high blood pressure and cholesterol, with a positive influence on the immune system, eating habits, and sleep.
This is because meditation quiets an overactive brain and helps you become more present right here, right now, in this very moment. It stops over-attending to your thoughts and feelings, and helps you get a better perspective on the situation, thus cultivating an attitude of non-judgmental acceptance.
You’ll never get to a place where your life is entirely free of challenges, but meditation helps you accept their existence without overvaluing them.
When you practice TM, you’re conditioning your mind to have a whole new response to the thought itself, meaning you don’t dwell on the thought, or take the time to invest emotion or carry out action in response. You simply return to the mantra and therefore become non-reactive to your thoughts.
Practicing TM regularly will make your mind-body system naturally wiser (you become more open, clear and insightful) and calm (by letting your nervous system settle into a state of deep rest).
Do You Need A Teacher To Practice Transcendental Meditation?
Prime advocates of this art say yes.
According to late Una Kroll in her book, The Healing Potential of Transcendental Meditation, the technique needs to be taught individually by certified TM teachers. Kroll says the Maharishi was aware the technique could be discredited over time if taught incorrectly.
Transcendental Meditation: How To Guide
As with all unfamiliar meditation practices, if you have an existing mental condition, consult your doctor before starting TM. Also, let your meditation instructor know about any condition you may have.
Unlike most forms of meditation, TM technique requires a 7-step course of instruction from a certified teacher which generally consists of:
- TM teacher presents general information about the technique and its effects during an introductory lecture
- A second lecture provides more specific information
- People then interested in learning the technique attend an interview, and 1-2 hours of personal instruction
- Following a brief ceremony, they're each given a personal mantra, which they're supposed to keep confidential
Next, comes three days of checking for correctness with 1 or 2 more hours of instruction. In these sessions, the teacher does the following:
- Explains the practice in greater detail
- Gives corrections where needed
- Provides information about the benefits of regular practice
Over the next several months, the teacher regularly meets with practitioners to ensure correct technique.
People practice TM twice a day for 15-20 minutes. That usually means once in the morning before breakfast and once in the afternoon before dinner.
The Importance Of Mantras
“Mantra” comes from a Sanskrit root meaning “a sacred message, or text, charm, or spell.”
“Om” or “Aum” is the most basic and powerful mantra you can chant, as it creates powerful, positive vibrations in your lower abdomen. It’s often combined with the mantra “Shanti,” which means “peace” in Sanskrit.
However, author George D. Chryssides wrote that, according to the Maharishi, using just any mantra can be dangerous. The Transcendental Meditation mantras are appropriate mantras for householders, while most mantras such as “Om” are mantras for recluses and can cause a person to withdraw from life.
Neurological theories also highlight the importance of selecting the correct mantra for each individual, since the mind is the programming language that helps communicate with the body, and practitioners should be mindful of what they program into the body’s nervous system.
How Are Mantras Used In The TM Discipline?
The Maharishi standardized and mechanized the mantra selection process by using a specific set of mantras and making the selection process foolproof for each initiate.
According to the Maharishi, the Transcendental Meditation technique consists of experiencing a “proper thought” (mantra) in its more subtle state, until its subtlest state is experienced and transcended.
The Maharishi said the selection of a proper thought or mantra is paramount, as the power of the thought increases when appreciated in its infant stages of development.
In his 1963 book, The Science of Being and Art of Living, the Maharishi writes that words create waves of vibrations, and the quality of vibration of a mantra should correspond to the vibrational quality of the individual and suit their nature and way of life.
Mantras chosen for initiates should resonate to the pulse of his/her thought and as it resonates, create an increasingly soothing influence.
As practitioners repeat their mantras with gentle effortlessness while sitting comfortably with eyes closed, the mantra allows the individual's attention to travel naturally to a less active, quieter mind, and reach a unified and transcendent state.
This brings about feelings of serenity, good positive energy, and balance as it lowers the heartbeat, calms brain waves and relaxes the breath and body.
Where Can You Learn TM And How Much Does It Cost?
The fee for learning TM varies across countries, but it can reach as much as USD $1,000 with several options of scholarships and paying schedules available.
The goal of all TM organizations is to make the TM technique available to everyone. Each local TM center offers a payment plan, as well as partial grants or partial scholarships for those facing financial hardship.
Resources for Transcendental Meditation:
The official home page of the TM organization.
During its 50-year history, Transcendental Meditation products and services have been offered through a variety of organizations — primarily nonprofit and educational.
Among the first organizations to promote TM were the Spiritual Regeneration Movement and the International Meditation Society.
In the U.S., non-profit organizations include Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa, the Students International Meditation Society, AFSCI, World Plan Executive Council, Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corporation, Global Country of World Peace, the David Lynch Foundation (offers scholarships for learning TM to inner city schools, veterans of war, people in the HIV/AIDS community), and the Maharishi Foundation.
The TM movement operates a worldwide network of Transcendental Meditation teaching centers, schools, universities, health centers, herbal supplements, solar panel, and home financing companies, plus several TM-centered communities.
Here’s the list of contact information for teaching centers by continent and country.
People who practice TM include Oprah, Dr. Oz, Jim Carrey, Hugh Jackman, Gisele Bundchen, Ellen Degeneres, Nicole Kidman, David Letterman, Rupert Murdoch, Gwyneth Paltrow, Katy Perry, Dilma Rousseff (the president of Brazil), Martin Scorsese, Jerry Seinfeld, Naomi Watts, and Candy Crowley.
You can find a longer list here: People who have learned Transcendental Meditation
And a continually updated list of TM celebrities, from A to Z on the official TM website.
Transcendental Meditation channel on YouTube
This introductory video is extremely useful. It’s recorded by Bob Roth, one of the most qualified TM teachers around. The 20-minute video covers all the most important topics — what happens during TM, how you know if it actually works or not, what’s its effect on the brain, and more.
The 10 best books on Transcendental Meditation can be found here.
From scientific research to first-hand accounts, from basic introductions to pointers on the road towards more advanced levels.
For Further Reading
Scientific studies in the field of meditation is an ongoing process. This page will give you all the most important studies and cutting-edge results. From health issues such as addiction, heart disease and multiple sclerosis, to various skills and experiences.
TM for women (note the technique itself is exactly the same; the website just offers information from and for women practitioners).