What is Transcendental Meditation (TM practice))

What is Transcendental Meditation?

Natalie Buchwald, LMHCMeditation and the Art of Being

By Natalie Buchwald, LMHC | Last Updated: June 15th, 2023
Reviewed by Steven Buchwald

Transcendental meditation (TM) is a form of meditation that involves going beyond, or transcending, thoughts to experience being alive in a fundamental way. Underneath the loud surface layer of thoughts lies that state of Being, an enjoyable place of stillness beyond our conscious awareness. TM is a method to reach that deeply calm place.

Transcendental Meditation Vs. Mindfulness

Transcendental Meditation is different from mindfulness meditation in that mindfulness meditation directs your thoughts to the present moment whereas TM involves transcending all thoughts and experiencing Being. In mindfulness meditation, you may be directed to breathe deeply and focus on how your body feels against a chair or what noises you hear around you. TM does not involve any concentration. It is an effortless method designed to experience the pure state of Being; a place beyond the thinking process and your physical perceptions.

Ancient Indian Origins

TM is an ancient Vedic tradition that originated in India and inspired the Transcendental Meditation Movement. Led by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the movement popularized the practice first across India in the 1950s, and then around the world in the 1960s.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi earned acclaim when he initiated a world tour following his personal calling to bring TM to more people. The movement gained momentum when he received endorsements from celebrities like the Beatles and the Beach Boys, whom he personally mentored.

Maharishi’s movement and organization continued after his death in 2008 and the practice is still followed by high achievers including, among others, Clint Eastwood, Hugh Jackman, Martin Scorsese, Jerry Seinfeld, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lenny Kravitz, and Ellen DeGeneres.

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The purpose of Transcendental Meditation

It feels good to do TM. That sense of deep calm that you can tap into during the meditation is a very satisfying experience. The purpose of TM is to bring that pleasurable feeling of inner calm into your daily life and to bring your mental, physical and spiritual capacities to their fullest potential.

TM is also a tool to explore reality at its most basic level. By transcending thoughts, you can experience being alive in its purest form, in the absence of content.  

TM is first and foremost an experience. And like every experiences, it is difficult to describe. Words do not do justice and elude experiences, be it witnessing a sun rise, eating a tasty treat or practicing transcendental meditation. Trying it out for yourself is the only way to truly comprehend what TM is and how it might benefit you.  

The Ubiquitous Benefits of TM Practice

The benefits of TM can be felt in mind, body and spirit. Immediate benefits include feelings of rejuvenation and quieter thoughts. Once you establish a regular practice, you may feel an increased creative capacity and notice you’re able to achieve a state of relaxed consciousness much more easily.

The TM method is designed to inject stillness, clarity of mind, and renewed energy into the daily lives of their practitioners. It essentially provides a reboot to your nervous system. The salutary effects on stress level are well-documented and quite stunning.

A regular TM practice is associated with a 30% drop in cortisol, the stress hormone released by the body in moments of stress. That’s tremendous, especially when compared with sleeping which usually decreases cortisol by only 10% with a good night’s sleep. This means a meditation proactice of two-20 minute sessions a day delivers three times the stress reduction of a full night’s sleep. Transcendental Meditation is particularly helpful to those struggling with stress and anxiety.

The benefits of TM are far-ranging. It’s been shown to improve brain functioning, creativity, memory and self-confidence also been found to be helpful for anxiety, grief, PTSD and ADHD. TM gets us out of our heads and helps us find inner peace.

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The Basic TM Process

The official TM training program requires specialized 7-step training from a certified instructor. They use a precise, structured one-on-one approach to ensure the most effective results. In its most basic form, a normal TM practice looks like this:

  • Sit comfortably and silently with your eyes closed and breathe normally,
  • Repeat a mantra to yourself,
  • Any time your mind wanders, use the mantra to return to the meditation,
  • Repeat twice a day for 20 minutes.

During the TM training program, your teacher gifts you with a special mantra passed down by Maharishi. The mantra is usually a Sanskrit word or sound you repeat to yourself, simply to rest your attention.

Of course, there are many more specifics and nuances to this that must be learned through qualified instruction, but TM is meant to be easy to learn and put into practice, accessible to all. Learn more about TM instruction through the Transcendental Meditation organization. A therapist who received training in TM or mindfulness might also be able to help. Look for a therapist.

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