Transcendental Meditation: How It Works
Of the many ways there are to meditate, Transcendental Meditation (also known as TM) is reputed to be one of the most popular: According to the official website (where the method is featured with its own registered trademark), “over ten million people of all ages, cultures, and religions have learnt TM.”
The practice was introduced to the world in the 1950s by Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. According to some studies, it can be one of the most effective forms of meditation for improving overall health and psychological wellbeing. Let’s take a look at how it works.
Power in simplicity
TM differs from other forms of meditation that require visualization, concentration, or a focused effort to ‘control’ the mind. Instead, the practice is to simply repeat a mantra – usually a word or phrase in Sanskrit – to yourself, while sitting silently, with your eyes closed. This is done for twenty minutes, twice per day. And that’s it.
The purpose of mantra
The use of mantra in Transcendental Meditation is intended to detach the mind from thought. Instead, awareness is given over to the ostensibly meaningless – yet powerful – phrase, as it is repeatedly ‘uttered’ silently in the mind. In the Vedic tradition, the vibration of mantra holds sacred power, and TM practitioners are given their own unique mantra by their meditation instructor. In mantra meditation, awareness is gently brought back to the mantra whenever the practitioner notices that the mind has wandered into thought. This is where the core of the practice lies.
Attaining transcendental consciousness
This style of mantra meditation works to bring the mind to stillness, and reach a deeper level of consciousness. Beneath the mental clutter of day-to-day thinking, rumination, and cognitive activity are much more powerful and peaceful layers of the mind, says physicist and TM instructor Dr. John Hagelin. ‘Transcending’ to this meditative state is deeply restful─in some ways, even more so than sleep. This transcendental consciousness is more of a detached state of being, removed from feelings and intentions, intellect, and even awareness of time and space, which occurs while one remains awake and self-aware. Transcendental Meditation is a framework for reaching this state of consciousness.
The physical health benefits of TM
Transcendental Meditation is one of the most widely-researched forms of meditation, and studies have recorded highly beneficial physiological responses to this practice. With the mind quieted and the nervous system free of stimulation, the body is able to relax into ‘rest and digest’, resulting in a restorative effect on the organs and various hormonal responses. TM has been shown to lower blood pressure over time, therefore reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, as well as balancing hormones and regulating the nervous system.
Practice makes presence
Even if, at first, the attainment of transcendental consciousness may seem out of reach, the alchemy is in the discipline. The more faithfully the practice is followed, the more the benefits to overall health, and particularly mental health, are likely to be felt. From just one session, meditators report feeling more energized and peaceful. With a regular, twice-daily practice, Transcendental Meditation has been found to alleviate stress and anxiety, and is effective for treating post-traumatic stress disorder. Research into TM has also highlighted the benefits of the practice on focus, productivity, efficiency, and achievement in life, work, and school through improved cognitive functioning. The practice also contributes to higher emotional intelligence and stronger, healthier, and more connected relationships.
How to learn Transcendental Meditation
Millions of people around the world practice Transcendental Meditation. It is taught one-to-one by licensed instructors over a course of four lessons, and once you have the tools for TM, this practice can be taken anywhere.
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals that influenced this article: Transcendental Experiences During Meditation; Review of Controlled Research on the Transcendental Meditation Program and Cardiovascular; A Scientific Perspective by Quantum Physicist John Hagelin, PhD
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