Many celebrities have taken up transcendental meditation (TM) and swear that it’s transformed their lives. Jerry Seinfeld, David Lynch and Howard Stern are just a few names that pop to mind. Jerry Seinfeld compared the effects that TM has on the brain as being similar to “recharging the battery on your phone”.
So is it really that good or do these people have a vested interest in promoting it as a miracle cure for depression, anxiety and health in general?
Is TM worth it
In my opinion it’s a great meditation technique AND the talking heads spearheading the TM craze make money promoting it. A TM beginner course typically costs $1000. The later courses can go up to a few thousand dollars or more according to some sources, making it a very lucrative business.
It works like an initiatory organization, where if you pay a decent chunk of money, you can move from outer to inner circles where the real powers begin to unravel. For example, TM students are told that with enough practice they can achieve levitation! So there’s a special course for that also. In fact, I believe it was David Lynch who said he can levitate thanks to his TM efforts.
You know that I’m not squirmish about the existence of supernatural elements that can be tapped into. My only doubt is whether any members within the TM community have a real grasp of such powers or they’re tricking people into buying their courses.
Having said that, I’ve practiced TM and still do from time to time. The general advice is to meditate 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes before bed to experience decent results. But you can perform it any time you feel like it’s necessary. The whole process is about repeating your unique mantra (mentally, not out loud) given to you by a TM teacher for the duration of 20 minutes. Eventually the mind starts to focus on the mantra instead of the racing thoughts coming from the “monkey brain”.
TM works pretty good at quieting the mind and relaxing the body. I’ve also noticed that it can improve digestion, because as you repeat the mantra your belly sort of goes inward. So the technique provides a gentle stomach massage.
Why TM works (the mechanism behind it)
I believe all of these benefits have to do with the change in breathing that occurs as you repeat your mantra. The belly gets drawn in closer to the spine and breathing slows down and reduces. It leads to an increase in CO2, which results in relaxation of muscles and nerves. So the entire body benefits from the process.
The Buteyko Method, originally invented by the Soviet doctor Buteyko for Soviet astronauts has the increase of CO2 as its foundational principle for the same reasons. TM-ers don’t mention the mechanism which makes it successful, but that’s the one, and it’s also the key component to all other forms of meditation and breathwork.
The less you have to breath, the healthier and more relaxed you’ll be. Hyperventilation occurs when people are under physical or emotional stress. It happens when too much oxygen is drawn into the body. The opposite of that is an increase of CO2 by breathing more slowly and taking shallower breaths (not deeper!). More CO2 paradoxically leads to a higher oxygenation of the cells. Here’s a more in-depth explanation by Dr. Artour Rakhimov, the most well known Buteyko Method instructor:
Is Transcendental Meditation price tag justified?
So TM works as good as any other meditation technique, and perhaps better than some. It’s a great method for regular people who want visible results instantly and don’t have any reasons to do more advanced methods. It can be a lifetime practice for maintaining a greater level of sanity than your average Joe.
However, why does it cost $1000 or more? What hidden knowledge will be imparted to you by the TM teacher? I haven’t done the course, but there are plenty of testimonies online from those who did, including ex TM teachers.
TM organization claims that the mantra given to the student by the teacher is somehow unique and special, and that no other mantra will be as effective.
That’s it. That’s all you get for paying 1000 bucks, along with a few tips on how to improve your meditation. I don’t think it’s worth it, nor is it necessary. You can purchase hundreds of books for a few dollars on Amazon on mantra meditation, which is exactly what TM boils down to, and become a straight out guru instead.
The only exceptional benefit of paying $1000 for a TM course is the psychological effect. If you pay for something a large amount of money, you’re more likely to do it than if it was handed to you for free. But I my spending habits were motivated by such frivolous reasoning I’d probably be homeless by now.
The Mantras and FREE TM Instructions
I’m not saying that all mantras are made equal. There’s a whole traditional science of mantras that explores different tonalities and vibrations behind each mantra. But a TM teacher is not an enlightened guru who can sense your vibration and decipher which mantra is best suited for you. They’re trained salesman first and foremost.
If you want free TM instructions, here’s how you do it:
- sit in a comfortable upright position
- close your eyes
- start repeating your mantra (mentally, not out loud)
- my mantra is “HUM”, but you can choose your own mantra from this list
- try out a few mantras, once you’ve chosen the one that works best for you, stick to it
- continue repeating the mantra for 20 minutes
- your thoughts will keep racing as you repeat the mantra; don’t fight these thoughts, simply focus on repeating the mantra
It usually takes 10+ minutes for the restless thoughts to wind down. So don’t lose patience with your mantra and the technique. In most of my sessions it eventually produced the desired result and my mind went completely blank towards the end. You will also get better at it if you practice on a regular basis.
Is TM dangerous?
Many people are asking if transcendental meditation is dangerous. I feel like it’s a weird question but I’ll answer it anyway.
What could possibly be dangerous about meditating 20 minutes in the morning and before bed? The only danger with meditation, as with any other activity is becoming obsessed by it. Or being duped out of your savings by a well trained cult salesman.
Simply performing a mantra meditation or a mindfulness meditation or a one-point focus meditation will provide great physical and mental benefits. In case of TM specifically, a scientific study was conducted which points to it’s great effect at stress reduction. There are no downsides or dangers to quieting your mind. Unless you consider the realization of your untapped potential as a human being as dangerous.
Conclusion: Is TM Dangerous or Worth it?
So hopefully this explains TM in more or less reasonable terms. I think that any initiatory system that requires exorbitant sums of money from its participants is counter-initiatory and false.
The TM technique works, but it’s nothing unique or special. It’s a mantra-repeating form of meditation hidden under a flashy brand name and promoted by celebrities who’ve either been duped into believing that it’s unique or are taking a cut from the proceedings.
Having said that, if you want to practice TM or any other form of meditation, by all means go for it. The only danger will come from your newly discovered power and potential, which you can then use for good or bad, depending on what the Universe has in store for you.