Transcendental Meditation - My Experience

Transcendental Meditation - meditation for daily life?
Transcendental Meditation - meditation for daily life?

Transcendental Meditation, or TM, is a meditation technique which claims to be effortless, very effective in improving concentration and relieving stress, and easy to fit into your daily routine. But is it true - and is it for you? As someone who practiced TM for 17 years, I can vouch for its many benefits - but there are some downsides too. In this article, I'll share my personal experience of both - and explain why I gave it up.

Effortless?

Yes, TM is effortless. In fact, some people find it hard to accept just how effortless it is. That's why you need a TM teacher to instruct you: if you just take the mantra and repeat it, you'll try too hard - and it won't work.

Improved Concentration?

TM's ability to improve concentration was the reason I decided to learn.

At the time, my (very stressed) boyfriend was struggling at university. He started TM, and I was stunned by the difference in his academic performance. He said he found it so much easier to absorb information, and he just seemed more focussed. I was so impressed, I learned TM myself.

Those were the days when managers still dictated letters for a secretary to type up. My boss used to dictate all her letters to me on a Monday, then go off travelling. When she returned on Friday I had to have the letters typed up for her signature (it seems unbelievable now that a letter could wait that long, but business was different in the 70's!).

Before I started TM, it used to take me all week to type up Monday's dictation. The week after I learned TM, I got the whole lot done in two days!

Better Reaction to Stress?

I'm also a good example of how TM reduces anxiety and helps you react better to stress.

Before TM, I was best described as "highly strung" - if a nasty manager barked at me, I'd flee to the ladies loo and sit there in floods of tears. TM helped me feel less anxious almost at once - but I didn't realize quite how much until a few years later, when my boss of our frantically busy office referred to me as "the calm in the eye of the storm" - and everyone agreed!

You can meditate on the train
You can meditate on the train | Source

Easy to Fit into your Routine...

When you start practicing transcendental meditation, you'll meditate twice a day for around 20 minutes. Because there's no concentration involved, you don't have to be in a quiet place - so a lot of people meditate on the bus or train on the way to work. While you're meditating, you simply sit quietly with your eyes closed - so other commuters will just assume you're asleep.

I learned TM when Maharishi was still regularly giving lectures. He always emphasized that TM was a "householder's meditation", designed to be fitted into a busy life. So don't let anyone tell you TM "won't work" if you meditate in a noisy environment, it's not true!

While I was practising "ordinary" TM, I was happy to recommend it to anyone. I was leading a more confident, stress-free, happy life because of it. Yes, learning was expensive - but in return, I had lifetime support and access to (free) weekly or monthly get-togethers and lectures.

Or Not?

As time went by, we saw less and less of the original lectures from Maharishi himself, and more from other leaders of the movement. Then the Siddhis were introduced.

Siddhis are an advanced program and completely optional - but the average meditator is so impressed with their experience, the offer to "enhance" it is irresistible. Plus, of course, if everyone else at your local TM is going on courses and learning new things, you feel left out if you don't.

The trouble is, that adding to your practice means taking more time out of your day to meditate. And that's where it began to stop being a "householder's meditation" and more a way of life ...

Rishikesh (where the Beatles learned TM)
Rishikesh (where the Beatles learned TM) | Source

The Siddhis

When I started TM, Maharishi was at great pains to stress that TM was a meditation to fit into your everyday life, not take it over. Maharishi refused to tell meditators what to eat, how to think or how to behave.

He used to say, "Different people need different things at different levels of consciousness. You know, deep down, what is right for you. That will change as you evolve, and you should let that happen naturally."

He also emphasized that although it had its roots in Hinduism, TM was not religious in any way. He warned against "polluting" TM by mixing it with other practices.

When the Siddhi program was introduced several years later, it seemed to contradict those statements. The program promised to speed one's path to enlightenment and develop supernatural skills. It included readings from the Bhagavad Ghita. We were given guidelines on diet (vegetarian, but no mushrooms or onions), and offered Ayurvedic medicine and massages, special oils and supplements, horoscopes and more. We were told we must control our thinking and shun negative thoughts.

Instead of two 20-minute sessions on my daily commute, the Siddhi program required total privacy and took two full hours every day. For me it was more like three hours, because the meditation would send me to sleep every time! By the time I'd done my program in the evening, there was barely enough time to eat before going to bed - and I had to get up at the crack of dawn to be sure of making it to work on time.

I was never quite comfortable with allowing TM to take over my life in this way - I kept thinking of Maharishi's original words. And it worried me that some of the most respected members of the TM community - the individuals who welcomed Maharishi when he first arrived in the UK in the 1960s - refused to take part in the Siddhi program.

However, I was married to a man who enthusiastically embraced TM and so I swallowed my misgivings. But then the wheels started to fall off...

"Roughness"

Soon after starting the Siddhi program, I started to lose the serene happiness I'd got used to. I felt disconnected, tired and irritable. Then things started to go inexplicably, horribly wrong - where previously, I'd got used to having a charmed life.

I couldn't see any results from the Siddhi program and I blamed it for what was happening - but the TM teachers pushed me to keep going.

Their explanation was this: when you meditate normally, small amounts of old stresses and bad karma are released from the mind and body, and dissipate harmlessly. Because the Siddhi program is so powerful, negative energy is released in greater quantities - too much to dissipate easily, so you find yourself experiencing the original stresses again as they come out. Bad karma is also being released.

So you may feel anxious or afraid, cry or laugh a lot, feel aches and pains, or find bad things happening in your life. You may also have difficulty "resurfacing" fully from the meditative state, so you feel disoriented or irrational.

All this is called "roughness" and is a good thing - it means you're getting rid of a lot of accumulated negativity from your being. You're given extra practice to "smooth it out" - extra breathing and yoga exercises, Ayurvedic massages, residential courses with more meditation, not less.

Everything You Want to Know about TM -- Including How to Do It
Everything You Want to Know about TM -- Including How to Do It

If you want an outsider's unbiased view of TM, this tells you the lot. Don't expect to learn TM from this book, even though it gives you the mantras - they're useless unless you understand the right way to use them, and you need a meditation teacher for that.

 

I believed this explanation and persevered - until my mother took ill and I spent six weeks in Scotland while she recovered, away from my husband and my TM instructors.

There, I didn't have two hours a day to spare, so I missed several of my sessions - and guess what, I felt much more like my normal self. I started to question whether I wanted to go on enduring this awful "roughness" - after all, I didn't learn TM to reach enlightenment, I learned it to relieve stress.

So I stopped - and my life started to turn around.

Living in a Bubble

When I gave up TM, I made another discovery.

When TM was working well for me, it created a protective shell around me, shielding me from the world.

That sounds great, and in many ways it was. Stress and anxiety rolled off me like water off a duck's back. Grief and sadness were things of the past. I was contented, and life was smooth sailing.

But...

It wasn't until I stopped meditating that I discovered the shell worked for the ups of life as well as the downs. There's a big difference between contentment and pure joy. I spent 17 years living my life on one note - yes, I missed out on the lows, but I missed out on the highs, too.

The shell also meant I couldn't connect to people as well as I should have. Yes, I loved my husband and my family - but until I gave up TM, I didn't realise how muted that feeling had become.

I had always planned to start doing my basic TM practice again, but after that discovery, I decided not to. I'm not prepared to miss out on the high points of life any more, even if it means I end up in the Slough of Despond occasionally. That's what life is!

The Flying Siddhi
The Flying Siddhi | Source

The Flying Siddhi

The best-known part of the Siddhi program is the Flying Siddhi - so in anticipation of questions, here's my experience.

I was at the Siddhis introductory course, sitting cross-legged in a room with other meditators, repeating the required words and waiting to levitate.

I was a slow starter. Other people were hopping around and nothing was happening to me. Most of them were fitter than me, so I suspected they were cheating (or maybe that was sour grapes!).

Then it happened. I felt a powerful, hot current of energy shoot up my spine from base to tip, propelling me off the ground - and dumping me on my back on the floor just as quickly.

I was amazed. Sure, I hadn't "flown" - but If someone had told me I could jump several inches with my legs crossed, I'd have said they were dreaming! Sit down cross-legged and try to lift your bottom, and you'll see what I mean. Without that mysterious surge of energy, I would never have got off the ground. So clearly, something did happen. But I never saw anyone do more than hop, and I've never met anyone else who has.

All the photos of meditators "hovering" in the air were simply taken at the top of the jump.

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Comments 27 comments

Happymommy2520 profile image

Happymommy2520 5 weeks ago from East Coast

I love your honestly in the article. I never realized it could make people a little detached from life's highs. You article is beautiful. Very insightful!


Chuck Bluestein profile image

Chuck Bluestein 10 months ago from Morristown, AZ, USA

This is a great article and I am amazed at how honest and accurate that you are. I do a meditation that is taught by Prem Rawat. The idea is you are in control by how much you do. It is not explained but you can feel that the more you do, the faster you move. This movement is also called the evolution of the soul. You move closer to the true self that is always in perfect peace, endless love and infinite happiness. As you move faster, things can feel more intense but you better able to handle the intensity.

Just in case you want to try another mediation, let us discuss price. Can you afford to pay for this meditation? No, not even if you are a billionaire. That is why it is free because no one can afford it. The high that seems to avoided when you meditate (now I am guessing since I do not do TM) is the false happiness instead of the true happiness. What is the difference?

The false happiness comes from the world and always has the opposite pain. For example it is very enjoyable having a spouse and children. But you have a lot of pain if you lose them. If you are a billionaire and you die, you lose so much money. The true happiness is not conditional on anything even being alive. The purpose of meditation is to "know thyself" as Socrates taught. Now Socrates lived 300 years before Jesus was born but taught that the immortal soul was the most important thing. I wish that you get all that you want. You are very sincere.


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 23 months ago from Sydney Author

I've never tried SSRIs but since you're the second person to make the comparison, it does sound plausible that they work the same way.


Sam Edge profile image

Sam Edge 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a well rounded look at TM. My mother started TM when pregnant with me in the 60s and I grew up with it. I had it forced on me from a young age to I'm a little jaded. She is quite high strung by nature and I'd hate to see what she's be like with out it. For me I always struggled - I didn't find sitting for 20 minutes to be effortless at all. I've incorporated meditation into my life but not TM. I do deep breathing and listen to tapes along with prayer. I am a great believer in moving mediation that Eckart Tolle writes about in the Power of Now.

I find the quieting of my mind to be a great help. As a writer, most of my inspiration and ideas come to fruition when I'm in the "gap" between sleep and consciousness that I find in meditation. I agree that TM got off track with the Siddhis - they lost me there for sure.

I was amazed to see the comments above about SSRIs because that was exactly my experience as well, but I'd never heard anyone else talk about it in that way. Some really excellent experiences you've shared here - thanks.


Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Beth Eaglescliffe 2 years ago from UK

This article is fascinating read and full of thoughtful insights. Thank you for sharing your experience of TM.


zion 4 years ago

Marisa thanks for you comment. I think i am definitely introducing effort into my practice. i'm sort of an anxious thinker to begin with and its hard for me to "space out" or relax. i know that i'm supposed to TRY to relax, but i can feel myself sort of pushing thru it. Time for a check! I do like that about TM that I always have someone to turn to with questions.

thanks again for all your insight, really great and encouraging to read a rational discussion of TM.


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 4 years ago from Sydney Author

Thanks for a great comment, zion! Yes I am on the fence - I still think TM in its basic, original form, as taught by Maharishi himself, is an excellent tool for stress relief. I just wish one could enjoy it without getting sucked into the rest of the silliness!

First, your "roughness" - it's a common experience in TM and it's often because you're coming out of meditation too fast. Keep your eyes closed for about a minute after, while you wiggle your toes and fingers to draw your attention to the outside.

However, because you're also getting pain in the head, I wonder if effort is the problem. It's against our nature NOT to concentrate so it's not surprising, really. If you find you're able to stick with your mantra for long periods, you're definitely trying too hard - the average meditator spends far more time forgetting the mantra than remembering it.

Maharisha used to explain it like this: you repeat the mantra once or twice, which causes your mind to sink down and release a "stress bubble". Your brain can't identify that activity so it interprets it as a thought. Therefore you shouldn't be upset at having thoughts during meditation - they are just a sign that the mantra is doing its job.


zion 4 years ago

I learned TM just this past weekend and had a very blissful feeling in my first few meditations. I also noticed pain in my neck and head which persisted throughout the 4-5 days of training and still continues somewhat. I also noticed that after a few days I was feeling MORE irritable which is exactly the opposite of what I thought this was supposed to do. My teachers say that it could be stress release or having some effort in my meditation, which I think might be true. I'm planning on continuing with the 2x daily 20 minute meditations to see how i feel.

I really appreciated reading your post because the internet seems to be very black or white when it comes to TM. The organization and affiliates promote it as being a perfect panacea. The other side seem to equally bloat how corrupt and bogus the organization is. You seem to land somewhere in the middle and I appreciate hearing that your negative experiences happened in the more advanced stages of TM. Honestly, I am extremely skeptical of the organization but extremely mesmerized by the practice. David Lynch, who i heard speak back in 2007, argues a very good point about the practice, but the secrecy around the organization is just weird.

Now that I've learned it, I honestly feel slightly demystified and even let-down because it not this glorious thing. Why the organization has to make something that I feel is really just a way to relax and possibly relieve stress into some bloated "scientifically verified" panacea is odd to me. why can't they just be honest about this? All of the information that they are hiding are essentially available online and I know about a lot of them (religious nature of it, mantras not being individualized, etc). If they were honest about those things I probably wouldn't even mind. I would feel much more comfortable if I felt like they weren't hiding anything.


meditateproperly profile image

meditateproperly 4 years ago

If you want to learn how to meditate properly, be prepared to face frustration and confusion. There are several meditation techniques available. Some of them are simple; some are very complex. There are a few variations on what position / posture you will meditate in, how long you will meditate, what you should do to concentrate, and how you can breathe in that position, what will the expected results and how long before you reach your goals. If you find yourself frustrated and stressed, your key to success is to not quit. It is one of the important tests of meditation. You should try your hardest to overcome difficulties.


FadyAgeeb 4 years ago

Great hub about meditation i love it and i wrote some hubs about meditation we can share together

thanks for this valuable information


soumyasrajan 5 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

An interesting article, written in a very nice style Marisa! I enjoyed going through your experience very much.

I wonder why some times people start feeling stressed so much as you describe from something they have started to practice more out of pleasure? One reason I can think of is style one adopts to practice. When you start thinking of technicalities involved in any work (yoga, exercise, scientific analysis, business, politics, religiousness or social work it does not matter which work you are doing) almost as a religious ritual to be done exactly as taught by some body or as read in the book etc. pleasure of doing work is lost and one gets more worried about the technicalities instead of actual substance of the work as if they are religious rituals and must be followed exactly line by line (otherwise God or this or that will punish and you may fail- may be such thought is not so clear in mind but essentially it amounts to some thing like that). I think it is bound to happen that with that type of attitude that whole pleasure of doing any thing is lost and stress generated will affect other aspects of life too.

Interestingly being in world of scientists, I have seen similar phenomena in scientific research too, a field many might argue is quite far from meditation(though I am not so sure- even analytic arguments are not just mental exercises). Some times people who do very good scientific research, suddenly get lost in technicalities and no longer their work is interesting nor are they relaxed persons while talking about their work. If unfortunately you start your research with a teacher (Guru in Indian languages just means teacher) who is similarly lost in technicalities it is quite possible you may go on doing all your life the same thing getting lost in technicalities and thinking of them as great work, never really seeing or enjoying actual reality. This becomes even more troublesome when you see people with very simple and short ideas suddenly become very popular and are respected much more, while all your great knowledge and technical skills gets less attention.

Do you feel something similar happened with you when you switched from simple effortless meditation to technicalities of Sindhi?

Even in earlier period, aloofness you acquired, I wonder is quite possibly result of similar ritualism involved that you are supposed to be like that if you do meditation? I wonder what do you feel?

I think this idea itself that a person practicing meditation should be aloof is a bit off mark. I do not know much about technical aspects of meditative exercises. From what ever I know of meditation if you try to identify with your own self or whole universe or just get relaxed, it should be opposite, it should make one active and involved like the universe, at the same time not so much worried about results - which again should result in happiness.

Though I am from India, somehow I never learnt meditation formally. Just like Denise I tried myself just to meditate and enjoy it, some years back. I did for a few days, ritually for a half hour or so. At some stage I gave up just like you. Though in a little different style.

One day while trying this exercise of meditating, my wife said some thing and I got disturbed. It irritated me. I was surprised about this feeling. At that time I felt my whole idea is wrong. If some thing which is meant to be for pleasure and calmness, it irritates me then I am not doing it properly. That time I felt that this whole idea that you will be changed person just by sitting calmly for a few minutes is quite off the mark. If one really wants to be calm and full of feeling of happiness, one has to practice it 24 hours. I stopped doing those exercises but I tried to change my style towards this idea. I can not say that I succeeded completely but it has been pleasure to practice this idea, without doing much of any physical or mental process. Some spiritualism automatically comes in. Like initially I felt some sort of blissful feeling in some places- I thought oh! it is just my imagination. But over the years, I have felt may be not just imagination, there is indeed such bliss or happiness or anandam (to me they look to be same phenomena) every where. One just gets so busy in our physical activities of thinking, watching, hearing talking etc. that one misses some other aspects of this universe. Only occasionally you get glimpse of this much more interesting and pleasureful phenomena than usual physical activities. Perhaps that is what meditation is supposed to give. Ultimate aim should be that it does not matter what physical activity you are doing, you also feel this pleasure all the time.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

Hi Marisa. I also meditate daily. I was first introduced to the TM program in the early 70's, but did not follow thru b/c of the expense. Later, I found myself following a spiritual path that does require meditation. I find it beneficial. Your article is well written with a good explanation of your experience. Thanks for sharing.


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 5 years ago from Sydney Author

Hi May and thanks for the comment. Yes, I think you're right about SSRIs working in a similar way.


May Monten 5 years ago

Hi, Marisa. This was fascinating and very well-written. I've done a bit of self-taught meditation, but never anything like TM, and I've always been curious about it, especially after hearing about some of the stranger stuff.

Interesting what you say about meditation having muted the highs as well as the lows. I have a friend who takes SSRIs to control anxiety who complains about exactly the same thing. Maybe they work in a similar way.


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 5 years ago from Sydney Author

Jean, Maharishi used to talk about releasing old stresses, and by that he meant both physical and mental stresses. So yes, I'd agree your experience is completely normal.


Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 5 years ago from New Jersey

Hi Marisa,

I used to do TM meditation when I was in my 20's. It was actually a physical therapist who suggested it, because I have a chronic back issue from scoliosis, and your back and neck store up lots of stress. I felt refreshed and more aware of when parts of my body would tighten up, and learned to relax the stressed areas before it got worse. I began meditation (same kind) a few months ago. I began feeling trembling and unusual slight pains or sensations in my upper back. It wasn't awful, but it was odd. I spoke to several people, easy since I travel in Metaphysical circles in my area. Several people told me it was common to release older, Metaphysical sensations, or mild pain. I had a spinal fusion when I was 6, and missed a year of school, had one other surgery, and wore a body brace before I got to HS & refused to wear it. Since I began TM again now, my mind is clearer afterward and I feel calmer in general, I am keeping up the practice. My chiropractor even heard about this type of thing happening during TM. I never experienced a squashing of my happy emotions though. And I like being able to do TM anywhere, though I do get odd looks from time to time. Interesting read. A women named Jewels writes on HP and knows a lot on this subject. Interesting read.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Ihave never heard of it and therefore it was very interesting. Thank you for sharing.


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 5 years ago from Sydney Author

@SilentReed, when I started TM I had no qualms about its purpose, even though my initiation was expensive. I was involved in arranging functions and courses for our local TM branch and knew the instructor was only charging enough to cover costs.

All that changed with the Siddhi program - all of a sudden, we were invaded by senior TM'ers in corporate suits, and the price of all the courses was astronomical. At that point, I did start to feel the movement had been overtaken by the wrong kind of people.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

Excellent insights and valuable information. Thanks for this!


SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 5 years ago from Philippines

It's hard to fit meditation into a busy life schedule unless we are willing to find the time.Like you, a friend of mine got into TM and experience the downsides that you mention. he was out of "sync" with the real world. TM is big business and some believe making money and not "enlightenment" is the main purpose of TM.You are ask to become "unattached" to worldly possession and guess what? Like some religious organization which are supported by "donations",TM is no different. Meditation for me is what is found in Matthew 6:6, personal and in silence. With regards to TM, may I suggest the advice of my childhood idol,Bruce Lee...."Take what is useful" :)


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 5 years ago from Sydney Author

Earth Angel, I hear what you're saying and I'm glad you find meditation helps you. Yes, in principle it does sound nice to even out the ups and downs of life - but for me, life is about experiences and when I gave up meditation, I discovered that I'd forgotten what it felt like to experience the exhilaration of pure joy.

I know those high points of life don't happen very often - but when they do, I want to squeeze every morsel out of them. I couldn't do that while meditating, because TM cushioned me against good extremes as well as bad.


PWalker281 5 years ago

Marissa, like you, I learned TM in the mid-70s, but never participated in the additional training, although the young man who introduced me and my boyfriend to it did. While I don't do the TM form of meditation any longer, I do meditate every morning between 30 and 40 minutes. I'd like to add an evening meditation too, but haven't done it yet.

When I meditate in the morning, I feel calm and centered through most of the day. If I don't meditate, I'm scattered, anxious, and jittery. And like Earth Angel, if I'm having trouble sleeping, meditating helps relax me so that I can fall asleep. It's the one daily practice that I don't think I'll ever give up.

Thanks for sharing your TM experiences. Rated up.


Earth Angel profile image

Earth Angel 5 years ago

Blessings to you dearest Marisa,

I am a long-time meditator having also begun a regular practice in the 70's with TM. I love it and still use it to this day.

I spend 20 minutes or so in the morning meditating and 60 minutes in the evening. I shut all electronics off at 7pm, ease into meditation and then have a wonderful night sleep.

I think one of the benefits to meditation IS to level out the high's and low's that we have become addicted to in our conditioned society.

As you know, one way to ease our daily suffering is to learn and practice non-attachment - to learn and practice groundlessness. This is really difficult when it comes to our beloved family.

It does become a way of life. It is a discipline like any other. It is up to each of us to use the tools of meditation only to the extent it offers positive benefit to our lives; it doesn't have to be all or nothing.

GREAT Hub Marisa, Namaste! EarthAngel


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 5 years ago from Sydney Author

@Jantamaya, I think twenty minutes twice a day is just fine for most people. The trouble is that I, like your secretary friend, was doing far more than that!

You're encouraged to go on weekend courses where you do far more meditation, then I also learned the Siddhis which involves longer practice too. Most people who report problems with TM have graduated to these higher levels.


jantamaya profile image

jantamaya 5 years ago from UK

It is pity, because in general transcentental meditation is something positive. Probably the positiveness is laying in the dosage... Maybe twenty minutes twice a day are simply for some of us too much, for some it maybe too less ??? Or whatever.


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 5 years ago from Sydney Author

Jantamaya, I know exactly what you mean. While I was meditating, I was known as a friendly, helpful person - but I didn't have any friends outside TM because I was also seen as 'reserved'. I didn't realise at the time, how dissociated from people I was.


jantamaya profile image

jantamaya 5 years ago from UK

Hi Marisa, I like your hub and the way you write about TM. Meditation isn't foreign to me and I like to do it from time to time. This is okay. I know somebody who was Maharishi's secretary. She lives in a sort of ashram since ever. We were renting hers house for a whole year and she forgot (!) to ask us if we would like to extend our stay (what we were planning to) and rented it for another couple. After realizing the mistake, she wanted to ‘correct it’ – to give the couple money back so that we could stay longer. We said, ‘no thank you’. This is only an example of her TM-personality (I have experienced many similar moments with her). She is friendly but somewhat not personal… I maybe can’t explain it very well.

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