What is Transcendental Meditation?

By Michael Quesada August 02, 2018

What is Transcendental Meditation?

What Is Transcendental Meditation?

Cultivating the practice of meditation is crucial in the modern society we live in.  In an age where stress and anxiety are so commonplace, setting aside time to meditate every day can make a world of a difference.  We underscored the importance of practicing mindfulness and meditation in recent posts. Today, we’re putting the spotlight on another meditation technique for wellness and inner peace

Transcendental meditation.

Also referred to as TM, it is a simple, effortless and effective meditation practice.  It allows the mind to naturally settle down into a state of restful alertness and deep relaxation.

Unlike most mindfulness meditation techniques that require one to clear the mind and focus on the present, transcendental meditation does not involve too much effort or concentration.  The practice, however, requires the silent mental repetition of a mantra.

The word mantra has its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism.  Oxford Dictionaries defines it as ‘a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.’  This mantra acts as a vehicle that allows the practitioner’s mind to naturally settle down and ultimately, transcend thought.

What is Transcendental Meditation?

Mahesh Prasad Varma, founder of the technique, explains the idea behind it: “By using this mantra, the practitioner experiences the thought of that sound and starts minimizing that thought to experience the finer states of that thought – until the source of thought is fathomed and the conscious mind reaches the transcendental area of being.”

A brief history of transcendental meditation

Transcendental meditation originated in India, where many forms of meditation have been practiced for thousands of years.  For generations, each technique is passed on from master to disciple.

In 1953, distinguished meditation master Brahmananda Saraswati, also known as Guru Dev, tasked one of his disciples to introduce his meditation technique to the world. The student who was given this mission was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the spiritual leader who founded the transcendental meditation technique.

The guru, originally named Mahesh Prasad Varma, was born on January 12, 1917 in Chhattisgarh, India.  In 1940, he received his Master’s degree in Physics from Allahabad University.  Around this time, he felt a calling towards spiritual life and shortly became a disciple of Guru Dev.

What is Transcendental Meditation?

When his guru passed away, Mahesh spent two years in the Himalayas to further deepen his meditation practice.  In 1955, he decided to introduce the traditional meditation techniques he learned from his Master to the world and called the technique transcendental meditation.

He began his first transcendental meditation tour in the Far East.  He later brought TM in the West in 1958 where it was well-received and quickly gained popularity. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi became teacher of many well-known figures including The Beatles.

At the time of his death in 2008, he had successfully certified over 40,000 meditation teachers, toured the world to teach the practice, and written books about the subject, and set up academic institutions and TM centers all over the world.  At present, over four million people all over the world practice TM.

How To Practice Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental meditation can only be learned through a certified teacher. The technique is taught in four sessions of formal instruction under the guidance of the teacher.  Subsequently, the student will be given a mantra based on several factors including age, occupation and temperament.  The individual can then start meditating independently for the recommended amount of time every day and ultimately, reap the many benefits of practicing TM.

What is Transcendental Meditation?

While there is no exact way to practice it, here are a few simple steps you can follow:

  •  Sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed.  You can meditate anywhere as long as you can sit comfortably. However, the most common position used by long-term meditators is the cross-legged lotus position.
  • After a few moments of silence, start thinking of the mantra.
  • With your eyes closed, slowly repeat the mantra in your mind. Relax and allow thoughts to come and go.
  • Continue to do this for twenty minutes.
  • At the end of each session, stop thinking about the mantra and wait two minutes before opening your eyes.

It is recommended to practice TM twice a day for twenty minutes each session.

What is Transcendental Meditation?

Benefits of Transcendental Meditation

TM is more than a tool for relieving stress and anxiety. Millions of people from different corners of the world practice it for its many benefits.  While scientific research on meditation continues, there are already a number of published studies that show the positive effects of practicing TM.  Here are a few of them:

Lowers risk of heart disease and stroke

In a study conducted in 2012, researchers ran a randomized, controlled trial on 201 patients with coronary heart disease who were given either a transcendental meditation program or health education. The research, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, concluded that TM significantly reduced coronary heart disease patients’ risk of mortality and stroke.

Therefore, the American Heart Association (AHA) expressed in a statement that the practice of TM might be considered in clinical practice for the prevention and treatment of hypertension.

What is Transcendental Meditation?

Improves relationships

Having healthy relationships can greatly improve the quality of your life. Research has found that the regular practice of TM, individuals can have a better understanding and acceptance of who they are.  As a result, they are empowered to become more accepting of other people. nThis applies to every relationship from your parents to siblings, romantic partners, and even your colleagues.

In one study, those who practiced TM are observed to have a better appreciation of the important people in their lives compared to those who did not. 

Reduces PTSD symptoms

A study conducted in 2016 has found that regular practice of TM is helpful for active duty service members who battle post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety disorder. Research participants who practiced TM reduced or completely eliminated the use of psychotropic medications.  Further, it is also seen to help them better manage the severe and often debilitating symptoms of PTSD.

Slows the aging process

Want to keep your youthful looks?  A research published in 2009 has shown that individuals who practice transcendental meditation are associated with a younger biological age.

Helps improve productivity

Research shows that regular practice of TM considerably improves productivity in the workplace.  High levels of stress can lead to poor health and low performance at work.  Setting aside time to practice TM can lower stress levels and provide you with the mental clarity needed for higher work efficiency.

Another study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked into the benefits of TM. The findings from a randomized controlled trial indicate that regular practice in the workplace greatly contributes to job satisfaction and overall productivity.

Resources for Transcendental Meditation

If you are keen to learn more about the practice, here are a few resources you can check out:

Science of Being and Art of Living: Transcendental Meditation

  • Another book written by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, this book is an exceptional introduction for beginners to the practice. In the updated print, the TM founder shares his vision for "a new humanity developed in all life's values - physical, mental, material, and spiritual."

Transcendence: Healing and transformation through Transcendental Meditation

  • Written by Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, the book provides an overview of the scientifically proven benefits of practicing transcendental meditation.

 Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad-Gita: A New Translation

  • The book is Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s translation and commentary of the first 6 chapters of Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Vedic scripture. It is an advanced read suitable for anyone seeking to deepen their knowledge about the practice.

Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity

  • The book is an autobiography and self-help guide by renowned filmmaker and transcendental meditation advocate David Lynch. In it, he shares his creative vision and the role TM plays in it.   

Super Mind: How to Boost Performance and Live a Richer

  • In this book, New York Times-bestselling author and clinical psychiatrist Norman Rosenthal, M.D shows how TM can result in better productivity, emotional strength, and aptitude for success.

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What is Transcendental Meditation

Michael Quesada

Founder of this website; currently living vicariously through himself.

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