If you’re looking into transcendental meditation, you’ve probably heard about TM mantras.
Unlike mantras you might use for mindfulness meditation or a healthier mindset, the mantra for transcendental meditation are all about sound—not meaning.
For decades you could only get a TM mantra from an official TM teacher.
But does that rule still hold?
And what if you can’t afford TM instruction from a recognized teacher?
Read on to learn everything you need to know.
- What is Transcendental Meditation, and How Does It Differ from Other Meditation Practices?
- What Are Transcendental Mantras?
- What Are the Benefits of Using A TM Mantra?
- How Do I Choose a TM Mantra?
- Can I Make My Own TM Mantra?
- How to Use Transcendental Meditation Mantras + A List of TM Mantras
- List of TM Meditation Mantras (Printable PDF)
What is Transcendental Meditation, and How Does It Differ from Other Meditation Practices?
Right off the bat, we can point out the following differences between TM mantras and mantras you would use and speak aloud for other forms of meditation:
- A mantra for Transcendental Meditation is for thinking — not speaking aloud;
- TM mantras shouldn’t mean anything to you. It’s all about the sound;
- Traditionally, you get your mantra from an official TM teacher;
- As you advance, your TM teacher may add other sounds to your mantra;
- Your TM mantra is (typically) private and not to be shared with others.
The history of the transcendental meditation technique is worth knowing. Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought this practice to the United States in the 1950s.
Originally, you could only learn this practice from a fully-trained TM teacher. With this exclusivity as an essential driver of its business model, TM grew in both capital and influence for decades.
In 2010, American filmmaker David Lynch put some of the accepted ideas to the test by using a random German word for his mantra instead of paying a licensed TM instructor to give him one.
He shook the TM world by challenging the idea that only a TM teacher’s specially-chosen mantra could be effective. More on that in a bit.
Let’s look behind the curtain to learn more about this unique type of meditation mantra.
What Are Transcendental Mantras?
TM mantras are a special breed in that their usefulness lies not in their meaning but in the vibration it causes when you repeat that mantra in your mind.
At its essence, a TM mantra is a sound that creates a desirable vibration.
When it comes to words you know — like love and dislike or compassion and cruelty — you can feel the difference when you repeat these words, even if you only repeat them mentally.
Words with a positive association (love, kindness, peace) have a vibration that helps us feel calmer; words with a negative association (hatred, violence, discord) have a vibration that leaves us feeling agitated and unsettled, often leading to physical discomfort.
This is true even when you only think those words without saying them aloud.
You can be outwardly polite while seething with dislike for someone, and the takeaway will be predominantly negative — because of your thoughts.
On the other hand, if you’re around someone you typically find less pleasant to be around but choose to think about qualities you admire in them, your net takeaway will be positive.
TM mantras may not have a meaning you’re consciously aware of, but they can still create vibrations in your mind that strongly affect your mental well-being.
For this reason, every TM mantra (which is more sound than word) must be chosen carefully.
Fully-trained TM teachers knew this and were careful to assess each student before assigning a mantra, even if they knew a specific mantra was effective for many people.
How a particular mantra (sound) affects you depends on word associations that may come up when you repeat that mantra in your mind.
Always tell your TM teacher if specific words often come to mind with your given mantra.
What Are the Benefits of Using A TM Mantra?
To fully appreciate how TM can change your life for the better, let’s look at the most significant benefits of regular meditation practice.
1. Improved Self-Awareness and Coping Skills
Transcendental meditation enables you to gain a deeper awareness of the person beneath the noise.
The more you practice TM, the more you learn about yourself, and the more confidence you gain in your ability to deal with the challenges that come.
2. Better Brain Function
The more you practice TM, the more you’ll see an improvement in your cognitive ability.
Studies on the effects of transcendental meditation show a thickening of the brain centers responsible for high-level functions like awareness, learning, decision-making, and focus.
3. Reduced Anxiety and Lower Stress Levels
With meditation, your mind goes into a state of total relaxation. With gentle repetition, the TM mantra causes disruptive thoughts to recede, quieting your mind. That state of peaceful awareness changes the way you respond to anxiety and stress—for the better.
4. Improved Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Profile
Research shows a 35% reduced risk of developing high levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol and a notable decrease in cholesterol.
It has also shown TM to increase the production of a compound in your body that dilates your blood vessels, lowering your blood pressure.
5. Lower Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke
With lowered cholesterol and blood pressure, TM also lowers your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Cardiologists have even weighed in on the benefits of transcendental meditation for your heart and circulation. The reduction in stress and anxiety also help.
6. Reduction of Chronic Pain
Studies have shown a link between a regular TM practice and changes to your brain structure that improve your ability to deal with pain.
According to a 2018 study, TM affects cortical thickness in areas of the brain that deal with pain tolerance, making you less pain-sensitive.
7. Better Sleep Quality
Since TM helps quiet your mind and nervous system, it makes sense that people who practice it regularly experience better quality sleep.
By lowering your anxiety and stress levels, you deal with a significant sleep disruptor, leading to better sleep, which has a tremendous effect on your overall health.
How Do I Choose a TM Mantra?
Less than a century ago, the only way to get a mantra of your own was to have a TM teacher assign one to you.
That said, a closer look at the way TM teachers assigned them revealed a chart of mantras based on the age and gender identity of the student. You’ll see those here in the post.
While you can still find a TM teacher or sign up for a TM retreat to receive a mantra from an official guide, it’s not strictly necessary to do so.
You may, if you prefer, choose a mantra of your own.
Choose a mantra you find easy and enjoyable to repeat. By that, we mean it should resonate with you. Be aware of what you feel when you repeat a mantra. Go with the one that feels right to you, whatever your age or gender identity.
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Can I Make My Own TM Mantra?
In his documentary, David Wants to Fly, filmmaker David lynch used various lab EEG experiments to gauge the effect of TM using a random German word.
He found it even more effective than the super-secret guru-assigned TM mantras.
People who wanted to learn TM but couldn’t afford official instruction were thrilled with that discovery. However, people still wanted “official” mantras without spending a lot on private instruction or expensive TM retreats.
So, when a chart of TM mantras went public, folks realized that these mantras, which were supposedly unique to each person, were based on age and gender rather than anything more specific.
That doesn’t make them less effective; it just takes away some of the mystery.
It turns out, mystery isn’t an essential ingredient to TM’s success. You can still use these mantras to great effect. Or, if you prefer, you can create one of your own.
How to Use Transcendental Meditation Mantras + A List of TM Mantras
Now that you know what TM mantras are, it’s time to learn how to practice Transcendental Meditation to gain the most benefits. We’ve broken it down into five steps.
Timing is important. Don’t plan this during work hours or when someone may need to get a hold of you (your kids, your partner, your boss, etc.).
Turn off or silence your phone and put it out of reach. If you can use a separate room with a door that locks, use that. Or put a sign on the door to let others know you’re not to be interrupted except in an emergency.
You won’t be long, anyway.
Set a timer for 15-20 minutes — ideally, one that isn’t jarringly loud and that shuts itself off after a few beeps.
Sit quietly and comfortably with your eyes closed.
Find a comfortable place to sit, whether in a chair, on a cushion, on the floor, on a yoga mat, or your bed. The important thing is to make sure you can sit without discomfort for at least 20 minutes.
You don’t have to sit in a perfect lotus or even half-lotus position if you’d rather not. Avoid positions you can’t hold comfortably for a few minutes.
This is not the time to push your flexibility to its limits. Discomfort is a distraction you can’t afford if you want to make these 20 minutes count.
Allow the mantra to come to mind gently.
For about 30 seconds, just relax and let the mantra come to mind. It’ll linger in the background, behind other thoughts, for some time. Gently bring the mantra to the forefront of your mind, choosing it as the focus of your attention.
Don’t expect other thoughts to fade away simply. As they vie for your attention, simply redirect your attention to the mantra and allow the other thoughts to recede.
Use your breath to draw the mantra up and gently sweep other thoughts on their way.
Repeat the mantra without conscious effort.
Allow the mantra to circulate in your mind at whatever frequency happens. Repeat it only mentally, without using your voice or even forming the mantra with your lips. The TM mantra’s place is in your mind.
Repeat it as you breathe, without forcing the mantra to conform to your breathing pattern. Let it pulse in your mind at its own pace.
If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the mantra.
This effort includes difficult thoughts or those that keep coming to mind and disturbing your peace. Let them go without judging yourself, and return to the mantra.
Keep drawing your attention back to the repeating mantra. It’s not there to condemn you for not having perfect focus. It’s there to be your beacon, gently leading you back.
Mantras were conceived with imperfect humans in mind. Accept and let go of random, disruptive thoughts.
You don’t have to do this perfectly to benefit from a daily TM practice.
Continue like this for twenty minutes.
To help with this, you can set a timer or ask someone to give your door three gentle knocks when 20 minutes are up.
The main thing is to set something up so you don’t spend too much time and end up late for something or shortchange yourself with your meditation time. Timers help.
You’ll want to be able to keep to your time without opening your eyes, so just having a clock in the room is probably not enough — unless your internal clock is consistently accurate.
When twenty minutes have passed, stop repeating the mantra and sit quietly for two more minutes.
Keep your eyes closed during this time and simply enjoy the quiet of the moment before you come back to the world. Take this moment to continue relaxing quietly, especially if your timer has disrupted the calm. Use this time to reclaim it.
When your time is up, open your eyes and look around you, continuing to breathe calmly as you pay attention to how you’re feeling. Do a brief body scan or take a few more deep, calming breaths before you unfold yourself and rise to your feet.
For best results, make time for 20 minutes of TM every day — am and pm. That said, even a once-daily practice can yield tremendous benefits. Do what works for you.
List of TM Meditation Mantras (Printable PDF)
Below is a list of transcendental meditation mantras used by TM practitioners worldwide. Choose the mantra by your age, or select one that sounds and feels good to you.
Click on the image for a PDF download of this infographic.
We’ve covered all the bases in this post, and we hope you give TM a try this week. Choose one of the mantras from the list in this post or create your own, and carve out 17 to 22 minutes for the whole meditation. May it become one of your favorite new habits.