I’ve written What is Transcendental Meditation? What’s the big secret? because I feel that it deserves some attention in challenging the secretness or specialness of Transcendental Meditation (TM).
The views expressed herein are mine and mine alone.
Secret Business and Unique to You!
Let me begin by briefly stating that Transcendental Meditation (TM) has been around since the 1950s. The TM technique and TM movement was developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India.
The Maharishi taught thousands of people and then began training people to become TM teachers through organizations.
The term has now been trade marked.
There has been controversy around the movement but also for me I have an issue that the term has been trade marked and therefore what to me should be available to everyone (the ability to access deeper levels of consciousness beyond the mind) and in fact it is has been turned into a money making machine where it’s use (i.e. particular terms etc) has been limited to a few and you have to pay big money to be privy to its apparent secret methods. Deeper levels of consciousness are always within us we just need to go beyond the mind to find it. This is available through any form of meditation.
I take issue with having to pay hundreds of dollars to be guided in meditation and in being giving a so called ‘secret mantra’ that is in someway ‘special to you’ and exclusive. I also read that there is a new promotion based on earnings, so what you pay is based on what you earn. This is softened somewhat in that they espouse a trust system, that is in essence. we trust that what you tell us you earn is the truth and so we will charge you fees accordingly. They also say that they offer grant support to deserving individuals.
Yes, we can pay to learn to meditate and/or participate in meditation classes at a price. I certainly have. We can all use some guidance and direction but I think it’s assertion that it is somehow different to other forms of meditation and therefore better in some way does not sit well and is not particularly true.
To promote their product they heavily use personalities – big names! Dare I say that these people have the financial means to participate in such programs.
How is Transcendental Meditation different to others?
Ok, so there are a number of claimed differences:
- You are not required to focus on anything and more specifically they state the objective is to “not try to get rid of thoughts”
- You don’t have to believe anything to do it i.e. it’s not religious nor is it religious (this point is debated)
- It is silent and you are seated with your eyes closed
- You are given a mantra that apparently you need to keep secret
- One-on-one instruction transmitted orally over 4 consecutive days for 1 hour.
- You only have to sit silently and quietly for 20 minutes a day, twice a day. Nothing else is required.
It’s really not so different!
- Yes, there are many different approaches to meditation all of which point to going beyond the mind and accessing your true self (your essence/beingness) i.e. higher level of consciousness where freedom, peace, wholeness and joy to name a few reside. Whether it is a breathing meditation or a mantra meditation for example does not make one or the other any less focused. Whether you are focused on your breath, an object or a mantra – it’s still focus. I don’t believe any of them are any less focused than the other. They are anchors to your meditation, not to get rid of thoughts, but to give you a point to return to if you begin to follow and identify with your thoughts. No true meditation is designed to “get rid of thoughts”. On the contrary, it is designed to simply watch your thoughts (not identification with them as who you are), to not resist them, acknowledge them.
- In terms of one not having to believe in anything to do Transcendental Meditation (TM) or having to be religious or follow some doctrine is true of all forms in my opinion. I don’t have to be Buddhist to follow Buddhist Meditation techniques and I don’t have to believe in their doctrines either. Likewise with other forms of meditation e.g. Zen. If one is inquisitive enough to want to know well that’s fine too, but it doesn’t mean you have to believe in them or follow them in your daily life. Personally, I find the Principles useful in understanding why one would meditate in the first place and in understanding that it’s beyond just relaxation. I think it can actually help with the willingness to give meditation a go. Basically, meditation is spiritual in nature, we’re going beyond our mind/ego and accessing that which is already within us – call it our spirit, soul, essence, beingness. Whatever the term it’s that which is formless. The formless does not have to be labelled religious or non-religious, it just is.
- Most meditations are silent and seated. There is flexibility in how you sit. No-one is saying you have to sit cross-legged or in the lotus position. These styles are there for a reason but it’s not mandatory. And though most people choose to meditate with their eyes closed (probably to minimize distractions and support the process of going within), meditation is also done with the eyes open (a soft gaze). This can assist with maintaining alertness. True meditation is not about becoming sluggish to the point of falling asleep. What we want is an alert presence.
- The utilization of a mantra is not unique to TM. Anyone can use a mantra, just google it and a list will appear. If you had a teacher they may suggest a particular point of focus for you via mantra and that may be very useful, but you can use whatever mantra you want. The fact that your mantra is to remain a secret raises questions – why? Is everyone or was someone else given the same mantra? Will people realise that that mantra is available “out there” at no cost?
- It might be nice to have your own personal guide but I would suggest that even if you went to a community meditation session you can always speak to the teacher there. I’m sure there would be avenues for additional private guidance. Various DVDs and online meditations are guided where you will receive instruction. I acknowledge that you may not have your specific questions answered but there are always options available should you require a more personal approach. Also, I can’t think of a form of meditation where teachings or guidance is not orally transmitted in some way at least initially.
- Whether you sit or 5, 20 or an hour a day, once, twice or three times a day is up to you. I don’t doubt that if you immersed yourself in meditation regularly and for lengthier periods that your experience would potentially be more profound and occur more quickly. But, if you are forcing yourself to sit and meditate for a longer period than you can handle and extreme resistance kicks in whilst meditating (some always will potentially and you can ride through some of these) which will ultimately lead to your mind running overtime then there is no point. Take the path of least resistance, don’t try to hard and be patient and kind to yourself. Go forth with ease. And, I would say to you that 5 minutes is better than nothing which is what can happen if we feel like we are having to force ourselves to sit for longer than we think we can. It becomes a chore, very unappealing and we just won’t do it at all. Trust me when I say that if you start meditating in small increments the period of time you meditate will naturally lengthen and you will also want to start to meditate for longer and longer. There may be some discomfort at times but as you practice more and more you will become more proficient at moving through it and if you can well the rewards and benefits are boundless. In terms of having to practice outside of your meditation session well that can be said for all forms of meditation – take it into your daily life or don’t, but if you can bring some sense of awareness or mindfulness to your everyday life all the better. But again, there is no prerequisite not unless you want to become a Lama.
The Benefits of Transcendental Meditation
There is no doubt that meditation has a multitude of benefits: psychological, emotional, physical etc that enhance our health and wellbeing and result in overall better functioning. TM focuses on how it has been scientifically proven. That’s great. I have no doubt that the science supports TM, but in that regard it would also support other forms of meditation. The myriad of health benefits are not exclusive to TM.
Is Transcendental Meditation Better?
There is no doubt in my mind that Transcendental Meditation would be of great benefit but so is all meditation.
I don’t think it is any better than any other form of meditation. All of the points of difference that TM makes are not points of difference to any other form. Whatever tradition, most approaches are seated, silent, with eyes closed (or open) and the option of using a mantra is always available.
Whether you choose to pay what they are asking is entirely up to you and you may find it wonderful and worth every penny. If you have money to burn then there is no harm.
Just know that I don’t think it is particularly unique nor any more special than any other meditation despite celebrities being used to promote it.
So, really I think I’m mostly ethically opposed to it’s promotional approach, the secretiveness and claims of uniqueness than the cost if you can afford it but I would still be cautious.
Learn more and consider your options!
Learn more about the aim of meditation and mindfulness in the following articles:
For other options visit my other articles and product reviews:
Go forth with east and just be!