Transcendental Meditation, or TM, is a form of mantra meditation introduced in the 1950s and is now one of the most popular forms of meditation in the world.
It has been associated with a number of benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep, and increasing creativity.
Certified instructors can teach you how to meditate, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn this technique on your own.
In fact, it’s very easy to learn and practice transcendental meditation.
Wondering how to get started?
In this complete guide to transcendental meditation, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about this technique, from the basics of how it works to some tips on how to get the most out of your practice.
Ready to learn more?
Let’s get started!
(Sidebar: You may want to check out this post on How To Choose And Use 22 Transcendental Meditation Mantras)
- What Is TM?
- Why Is TM Controversial?
- What Are The Science-Backed Benefits of Practicing TM?
- Do You Need to Take a Course Practice TM?
- What Is the “Ocean Analogy” for TM?
- How Do You Practice Transcendental Meditation?
- How Often Should I Practice TM?
What Is TM?
TM is the shorthand for “transcendental meditation,” a form of mantra meditation that was introduced in the 1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
It quickly rose in popularity and is now one of the world’s most widely practiced forms of meditation.
The goal of TM is to reach a state of “transcendental consciousness” where the mind is free from all thoughts and distractions.
This state of consciousness is said to be a source of great creativity and peace.
Unlike other forms of meditation, there is no need to focus on your breath or empty your mind of all thoughts to achieve transcendental consciousness. Instead, you simply repeat a mantra (a word or phrase) during your meditation.
Background of Transcendental Meditation
The practice of transcendental meditation can be traced back to the Vedic tradition of India, one of the world’s oldest spiritual traditions. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced TM to the West in the 1950s, was influenced by this tradition.
In the Vedic tradition, it is believed that there is a field of pure consciousness that underlies all of creation. This field is known as the “transcendental” or “unmanifest” realm.
The goal of transcendental meditation is to access this realm of pure consciousness and experience its benefits, which include increased creativity and peace.
By pursuing this goal, practitioners of TM hope to create a more harmonious and peaceful world, both within themselves and in the world at large.
While TM has its roots in the Vedic tradition, it is not a religious practice. Anyone can learn and benefit from TM, regardless of their beliefs, making it accessible to people from all walks of life.
Why Is TM Controversial?
Despite the renowned popularity of transcendental meditation, it is not without its controversy.
The Maharishi Foundation, which the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi founded to promote TM, has been accused of being a cult. This is partly due to the high fees associated with learning TM from a certified instructor.
Becoming a certified instructor can cost upwards of $1000, and the fees for taking a TM course can range from $250 to $1500. These high costs make TM inaccessible to many people.
The price has gradually risen over the years, particularly since the death of the Maharishi in 2008. Since then, many practitioners have been accused of price gouging and exploiting their followers.
In addition, the Maharishi Foundation has been accused of using its celebrity followers to further its own agenda. Some well-known individuals who have promoted TM include the Beatles, David Lynch, Lena Dunham, and Oprah Winfrey.
In 2016, Claire Hoffman, a former follower of the Maharishi Foundation, wrote a tell-all book about her experiences with the organization.
In the book “Greetings From Utopia Park,” she alleges that the Maharishi Foundation has made promises for a life of luxury and fame that had failed to deliver in her own case.
Despite the controversy, transcendental meditation is still considered by many to be a beneficial practice and hasn’t shown any overt signs of a cult, such as brainwashing or abuse.
If you’re interested in learning TM, it’s important to research and ensure you’re comfortable with the organization before you commit to taking a course.
What Are The Science-Backed Benefits of Practicing TM?
While TM may seem simple, it is a very powerful meditation form. Studies have shown that it can reduce anxiety, depression, and even blood pressure when regularly and correctly practiced.
Here are some additional benefits of TM that have been studied and observed anecdotally over the years:
It’s Easy to Do Anywhere
You don’t need any special equipment or a quiet place to practice TM. This makes it easy to do anywhere, anytime.
This could be on a busy city street, at work, or even in a noisy environment. You can also do it for as short or as long as you want.
It Balances the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems
These two systems help control the body’s fight-or-flight and rest-and-digest responses. When they are out of balance, it can lead to stress and anxiety. TM has been shown to help improve this balance.
Studies show that the transcendental meditation technique can reduce cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, the hormones that regulate this system.
It Reduces Mind Wandering
A common issue people have during meditation is mind wandering or letting their thoughts drift away from the present moment. This can make it difficult to focus and reap the benefits of meditation.
TM has been shown to reduce mind wandering, making it easier to stay present and focused. This is because it uses a mantra, which helps to anchor the mind and keep it from wandering.
TM Accepts All Belief Systems
As we mentioned before, TM is not a religious practice and can be learned by anyone regardless of their beliefs. This makes it an inclusive form of meditation that people from all walks of life can enjoy.
You can use it to enhance and deepen your current spiritual practice, or it can be used as a standalone form of meditation. It can also provide a platform where many different belief systems can come together in a community.
Do You Need to Take a Course Practice TM?
The Maharishi Foundation suggests that people take a course to learn TM, and they provide information on how to find a trained TM teacher on tm.org.
The fee consists of four monthly installments of approximately $380 or a one-time payment of $1000. Discounted options are sometimes offered for low-income individuals, full-time students, and children.
There is a standardized 7-step process taught in the course, which includes choosing a personal mantra and receiving instructions on how to meditate.
This one-on-one process takes place with a trained TM teacher for four to six days. An intimate setting with a teacher provides customized training and is also helpful for those with PTSD or anxiety disorders seeking a safe and structured environment.
During each session, which you can expect to last for 60 to 90 minutes, you will be given a brief explanation of the technique and then guided through a 20-minute meditation.
You will also be given time to ask any questions you may have and receive personal guidance on your practice and chosen mantra.
You can find a trained teacher by going to the website tm.org and clicking on the “Find a Teacher” link. From there, you can search for a teacher by location.
Having a teacher who works directly with you can be beneficial, but it is not required. You can still choose your own mantra and practice TM without taking a course. While this isn’t considered the “official” way to learn the technique, it is an option for those who want to try it on their own.
You can read various books, watch videos, or listen to audio recordings that provide instructions on how to meditate. You can even work with a friend or family member who already knows the technique.
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What Is the “Ocean Analogy” for TM?
The ocean analogy is a way of explaining how the mind works during transcendental meditation.
It is said that the ocean’s surface is like the conscious mind, where we are aware of our thoughts and feelings. When comparing these thoughts to water, they appear very active and chaotic.
However, when we dive deeper into the water, we see that it is still and calm at the bottom.
The deeper we go, the more we see that everything is connected and interdependent. The everyday occurrences live on the surface, but the more we connect with our innermost peace, the less these tumultuous waves can affect us.
Over time, we can journey deeper and deeper into the depths of our consciousness until we reach a state of complete stillness and bliss. Once we have reached this place and practiced returning it, we can begin to live our daily lives in this place of peace.
This analogy helps remind us to visualize and connect with the deeper levels of our consciousness during meditation. It is also a reminder that, no matter what is happening on the surface, there is always a place of peace within us that we can return to.
How Do You Practice Transcendental Meditation?
There are a few things you need to practice transcendental meditation:
- A comfortable place to sit or recline
- comfortable clothing
- A quiet environment with as few distractions as possible, or headphones, or earplugs
- A timer (optional)
Once you have these things, you can begin your practice:
1. Drop Into The Body
First, it’s important to find a comfortable position. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the ground, or you can recline. If you’re sitting, ensure your spine is straight but not rigid. You want to be relaxed but alert.
Take a few deep breaths in through the nose and relax your whole body, from your head to your toes, with a body scan.
2. Start Your Timer and Begin
When you’re ready, start your timer and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths in and out through the nose. Then breathe normally or in any way that feels best for you. TM doesn’t require a specific breath pattern.
3. Recite Your Mantra
The mantra is the cornerstone of transcendental meditation. It’s a sound, word, or phrase you repeat to yourself during practice.
If you’re working with a teacher, they will assign you a mantra. If you’re practicing on your own, you can choose your own mantra.
When using your mantra, you don’t need to think about its meaning. Just let the sound be a vehicle to take you deeper into meditation and drop into the pattern and rhythm of your word.
4. Constantly Bring Back Your Focus
If you notice your mind wandering, which it will, that’s okay. The whole point of transcendental meditation is to let the thoughts come and go without attaching to them.
Gently bring your focus back to your mantra each time you notice your mind has wandered.
Don’t worry if you can’t keep your attention on the mantra for long periods. Over time, with practice, you’ll be able to focus for longer periods.
5. Finish Your Session Gracefully
When your timer goes off, take a few deep breaths in and out through the nose. Open your eyes slowly and take a moment to sit with how you’re feeling.
You might want to journal about your experience or share it with someone you trust.
How Often Should I Practice TM?
You can practice transcendental meditation twice a day for 20 minutes each time. It’s best to meditate at the same time each day, if possible.
Morning and evening are ideal, but you can meditate at any time that works for you. This may include lunch breaks during work or any moment when you have 20 minutes of uninterrupted time.
It’s important to be consistent with your practice, so aim to meditate every day, if possible. If you miss a day or two, that’s okay. Just pick up where you left off and keep going.
What Are The 7 Levels of Consciousness?
The seven levels of consciousness provide a road map for our journey through awareness in life. They include:
- Waking Consciousness: This is the level at which we are most aware of our surroundings and our own thoughts and feelings. We are able to interact with the world around us and make decisions.
- Sleeping Consciousness: This is the level at which we are least aware of our surroundings.
- Dreaming Consciousness: This is the level at which we are aware of our surroundings, but they may be distorted or different from reality.
- Transcendental Consciousness: This is the level at which we are aware of a higher power or reality. We may experience bliss, ecstasy, and oneness with the universe.
- Cosmic Consciousness: This is the level at which we are aware of the interconnectedness of all things. We may experience a sense of oneness with all that is.
- God Consciousness: This is the level at which we are aware of the divine presence of God. We may experience unconditional love, peace, and bliss.
- Unity Consciousness: This is the level at which we are aware of the unity of all things. We may experience oneness with all that is and a sense of interconnectedness with all beings.
Which level of consciousness are you currently operating from? How can you move up to the next level? The practice of transcendental meditation will guide you on your journey through the levels with time and dedication.
Transcendental meditation is a powerful tool that can help you to improve your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be on your way to reaping the benefits of this practice.
Don’t forget to be patient with yourself and to be consistent with your practice. The more you meditate, the deeper your experience will be. Trust that the process is working and enjoy the journey.