Meditation is a powerful tool that can help you reach new levels of awareness. Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a simple yet effective form of meditation that anyone can practice. There are several programs that offer training with certified transcendental meditation instructors. However, it is possible to begin a TM practice on your own. Learn about the basics here and try it out yourself!
What is Transcendental Meditation?
Transcendental meditation is a specific type of mantra-based meditation. During the practice, the meditator sits comfortably in silence and mentally repeats a mantra – a phrase, or string of syllables. The goal is to “transcend” the ordinary processes of thinking. Consequently, the meditator experiences a clearer state of consciousness and relaxation, and the ability to break through mental boundaries.
History of Transcendental Meditation
The roots of transcendental meditation go back to the Vedic tradition of India. Monks of the Shankaracharya tradition preserved these basic meditation techniques. One of these monks, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, provided the inspiration for the modern movement of transcendental meditation. Subsequently, his student Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced Eastern meditation philosophies to the Western world.
In 1955, the Maharishi devoted himself to spreading the teachings of his own guru, and began referring to the practice as “transcendental meditation.” Giving the movement a specific name separated the practice from any specific religious affiliation. Additionally, it provided a distinct identity, and set itself apart from other types of meditation. By 1960, the Maharishi established the International Meditation Society in London and San Francisco, and began speaking throughout the UK and the United States. As a result, by the mid-20th century, the Western world began to embrace the meditation movement.
The Maharishi’s teaching efforts received a boost in 1967, when he made acquaintance with the Beatles. He invited the band to study at his ashram in India for several weeks, and the story became national news. Following the band’s involvement with the Maharishi, “transcendental meditation” became a recognizable phrase in popular culture.
Throughout his life, the Maharishi remained dedicated to spreading the practice of transcendental meditation. He traveled the world giving lectures and sharing his books, and created many meditation centers. Additionally, he established schools to train and certify meditation instructors.
Today, transcendental meditation maintains close ties to celebrity culture. Many musicians, actors, and others in the creative arts industry advocate for the practice. However, this method of meditation is gaining popularity throughout other fields as well. From Wall Street, to public schools, to your own private living room, transcendental meditation remains an easily accessible and effective form of meditation.
How to Practice Transcendental Meditation
Ideally, transcendental meditation demands little effort to practice. It simply requires you to sit silently in a comfortable seat with your eyes closed. Then, mentally repeat a mantra for 15-20 minutes, twice per day.
What is a Mantra?
Some people might associate the word mantra with an inspirational message or an intention. When broken down and translated, however, it takes on a broader meaning. “Man” refers to the mind while “tra” signifies transportation. Thus, you can think of a mantra as something that carries the mind to a meditative state. Mantras may be a repeated sound, word, or phrase. Likewise, they may be audible or repeated only within the mind.
Indeed, there are many different types of mantra meditation. In some cases, a mantra becomes the object of a focused concentration meditation. In transcendental meditation however, the purpose of the mantra is actually to not concentrate! You can actually disrupt your process of thinking – or over-thinking – by repeating a string of syllables in your mind. Gently rest your attention on the mantra. As you release control, your thoughts begin to flow freely. Ultimately, the practice brings peaceful, relaxing feelings.
Many mantras come from sacred Hindu words. In most cases, these words are broken down into simple syllables. Altogether, the string of sounds end up not resembling any language at all. “Om” (actually pronounced “aum”), for example, is perhaps the most recognizable syllable used in countless mantras.
Transcendental Meditation Mantras
Students of a certified TM program receive a specific, personalized mantra from their own teacher. Instructors consider several factors when selecting a mantra for their students. Besides age and gender of the student, the year of the instructor’s certification determine what syllables to include.
In the official TM course, students never share their personal mantra aloud with anyone. Upon hearing the mantra for the first time, the student experiences the sounds and syllables in an individually distinct way. Therefore, sharing the mantra with others, or hearing it spoken in a different way may alter the entire meditative experience.
If you don’t already have your own personalized mantra, here are few mantras you might like to try out for yourself.
This mantra actually has three sounds: “a-u-m.” Each sound represents a state of consciousness. “A” is the awake state, “U” is for the dream state, and “M” is the deep sleep or unconscious state. When chanted all together, “om” represents the entirety of time, from the beginning of creation to the bliss of enlightenment.
“Om Namah Shivaya”
Om Namah Shivaya translates to “o salutations to the auspicious one,” or “adoration to Lord Shiva,” or “universal consciousness is one.” It is a mantra dedicated to Shiva, the creator and destroyer of the universe. When practiced, this mantra rids a person of mental limitations. Similarly, the goal of TM is to remove mental boundaries, making this mantra a good choice for a transcendental practice.
The rough translation of “so’ham” means, “I am that.” It helps develop presence and connection with your higher self. Additionally, it mimics that pattern of breathing. Try connecting this mantra with your breath. Think “so” as you inhale and “ham” as you exhale. If you’re needing to reduce stress or sleep more restfully, give this mantra a try.
“Har Har Wahe Guru”
This mantra (pronounced “har har wa-hay gu-ru”) creates balance. The syllables “har har” produce grounding vibrations, while “wahe guru” has an expansive effect. Translated, it pays tribute to the creative aspect of God or Infinity. Are you wanting to connect with your inner creativity? This mantra may be a good fit for you.
The Transcendental Meditation Movement
Transcendental Meditation-Sidhi program
The TM-Sidhi Program is an advanced transcendental meditation technique. It trains the mind to settle down to a state of near silence. In this state, practitioners achieve optimal brain function. When brainwaves reach peak performance, the body produces a phenomenon known as “Yogic Flying.” It resembles springing forward in short hops. Studies show that advanced practice of this TM technique results in better neurophysiological function, improved cognitive abilities, and increased longevity.
Ayurveda is an ancient, holistic healthcare system mentioned in the Vedic texts of ancient India. Ayurveda translated means “the science of life.” It is a personalized system of healing for the body and mind. When the Maharishi began spreading his teachings on meditation, he also introduced a modern approach to Ayurveda. Patients receive individualized healthcare plans to keep the body and mind in balance and free from impurities. Transcendental meditation and the adoption of a personalized mantra is an essential part of maintaining one’s overall health.
Maharishi Sthapatya Ved
Maharishi Sthaparya Ved expands on Ayurveda’s broad approach to health, and applies the principle to create an ideal community. According to this philosophy, one’s surrounding environment directly influences health and consciousness. Therefore, towns and buildings must be designed with specific orientations and proportions. Natural law (specifically the path of the sun) determines construction and layout of these communities. In the Maharishi Sthaparya Ved tradition, communities have a central green space with ample fresh air, efficient sources of energy and food production, and buildings constructed with non-toxic materials.
Benefits of Transcendental Meditation
There are many different types and styles of meditation which are known to improve health. Likewise, practicing transcendental meditation provides many benefits.
Reduced Stress and Better Overall Health
Regular practice of transcendental meditation increases grey matter in the brain, a characteristic associated with reduced stress. It is also linked to improved brain function and heart health. Furthermore, one study found transcendental meditation helped lower blood pressure. In the same study, participants suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder reported the largest decrease in levels of anxiety.
Transcendental Meditation for Students
In educational settings, transcendental meditation is highly effective. One group of students who practiced TM for fifteen minutes twice a day reported reduced levels of anxiety, but also better sleep, higher resiliency, and greater self-confidence.
Getting In the Creative Zone
Transcendental meditation has always maintained close ties with the creative arts industry. Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation explains how transcendental meditation can enhance the creative process. The mind, he says, experiences waves of “noise.” At times, we may feel mentally scattered, overactive, even agitated. In such a state, obviously creativity does not come easily. The goal of transcendental meditation is to quiet the mind and achieve a sense of inner clarity. From this state of peacefulness, we can access our “reservoir” of creativity.
Begin Your Own TM Practice
Overall, transcendental meditation is an incredibly effective and simple tool used to unlock your full potential. Whether you desire to unlock your creative resources, or simply experience more mental clarity, this method of meditation guarantees positive results. So, if you’re ready to reboot your mind, pick a mantra and try it out for yourself.
Contributor | Joanne Highland