You might have heard the phrase before and thought it was some sort of weird hippy dippy cult thing, or maybe a spiritual journey that you’d have to undergo months in the Himalayan mountains to master. The truth is, Transcendental Meditation (or TM, for short) holds no ties to any group, spiritual belief system, or philosophy – and it’s so simple that anyone can practice it pretty much anywhere. Follow along, and we’ll teach you how to learn Transcendental Meditation by yourself!
What Exactly is Transcendental Meditation?
Transcendental meditation is a silent form of meditation that ideally takes place for twenty minutes, twice a day. It involves the use of a mantra, but because of its muted nature it is not considered to be “mantra-based”. The technique was first implemented by meditation teacher Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1958 and its effectiveness has been touted over the years by influential figures such as The Beatles, Russell Brand, Oprah, and many more.
What’s the Point?
The goal of transcendental meditation is to achieve such a sense of deep inner relaxation that you come to a state of total awareness. According to Maharishi, there are 7 Levels of Consciousness available to humans. Levels 1, 2, and 3 (which denote waking, deep sleep, and dreaming) are, according to Maharishi, available to “every adult human with a working nervous system”.
It is at level 4 which transcendental consciousness is said to be achieved. This is, as mentioned above, a state in which you are completely and energetically attuned to the noise of the world around you, while simultaneously maintaining a deep sense of stillness and calm within yourself.
How Will Transcendental Meditation Help Me?
As with other forms of meditation, TM is purported to host an array of health benefits. Various forms of meditation have been around for thousands of years, but science is only slowly catching up to the measurable benefits of regular practice.
Various studies have shown that mindfulness & transcendental meditation practices help to reduce stress and lower blood pressure, battle emotional disorders and/or states such as depression or social anxiety, enhance self-awareness, lengthen your attention span, improve the length quality of your sleep, and even assist in inherently controlling pain.
How is Transcendental Meditation Different than Other Meditation Techniques? The “Ocean” Analogy.
Bob Roth, from The David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, has explained the difference between transcendental meditation and other mindfulness-based types of meditation with what has come to have been known as the Ocean Analogy.
He likens an overactive mind to being in a boat in the middle of the ocean, with tumultuous waves swelling around you. The ocean appears to be in upheaval, but in reality, it is only so on the surface. At its greatest depths it is naturally silent.
This is relevant because most forms of meditation rely on quieting and controlling your thoughts, which although a completely valid and beneficial goal of practice, can end up being frustrating for those with particularly hyperactive minds.
It’s the difference between learning to manoeuvre the boat to get over and through the waves more efficiently, rather than merely observing the waves from a place devoid of apprehension or worry.
Transcendental meditation is particularly well suited to such hyperactive folk, as it doesn’t take nearly as much discipline to successfully complete a session (as with your more common mindfulness techniques) and has been shown to achieve levels of relaxation deeper than your deepest level of sleep when practiced correctly.
How to Practice Transcendental Meditation
First thing’s first – you have to decide on a mantra. Picking your mantra has two basic requirements.
The first is that it must be a meaningless sound. This is because the mantra is not meant to be a point of focus for your meditation session. Rather, it is simply there to help you rest your attention on something that doesn’t promote conscious thought. This helps your mind descend into lesser conscious levels of thinking, until eventually achieving inner silence.
The second is that its vibration must have a resonance to it. We can think of the well-known “Om” used by yogis for centuries. This is supposed to match the natural vibrational frequency of the mind, which in turn will soothe and quieten it as it is attracted to your chosen mantra.
After you’ve chosen your mantra, set aside some time and find a seat to position yourself comfortably sitting upright. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to relax.
Now you may begin. If at any point you find your mind wandering during your session, gently steer your thoughts back toward your mantra. Continue to focus on your mantra for 20 minutes.
At the end of the 20 minutes, open your eyes and remain seated. Take a few more minutes to wiggle your toes and “wake up” so to speak. When you feel ready, you may continue on with your day. Done!
The Bottom Line
If you’ve been skeptical in the past of whether meditation will benefit you in any way, or perhaps the closest you’ve gotten to a guru is getting coffee at the Starbucks outside of your local Ashram, it might be worth your salt to give TM a try.
Not only are the scientific benefits numerous (and growing), the technique itself is so flexible that its positive effects are attainable by basically anyone.
So, sit down, be quiet, and go on to live a happier healthier life!
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