“The potential of every human brain is unbounded, infinite. Everyone is equipped with the physical machinery in his brain physiology to experience, through Transcendental Meditation, that level of intelligence which is the ocean of all knowledge, the ocean of all energy, intelligence, and bliss."
- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
As I've gotten further into my thirties, my desire for inner peace has become a bigger priority. Between having my first child with scary labor in 2019 and enduring a pandemic six months later, my stress levels went up into uncharted territory. A couple of my friends had mentioned on social media that they had started doing something called Transcendental Meditation to manage their stress. I remember thinking, "That's interesting..." and quickly forgetting about it. However, the topic just kept coming up - whether in magazine articles I found myself reading or on podcasts I followed. Transcendental Meditation was practically forcing its way onto my radar, so I decided it was time to investigate for myself. I began asking the following questions and then finding out the answers:
What is Transcendental Meditation? Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a simple and effortless technique. A person silently repeats a given mantra (a Sanskrit word/sound that contains no meaning to the meditator) while sitting with their eyes closed for twenty minutes, twice a day. Amidst the repetition of the mantra, the mind settles down naturally, transcends beyond a waking, sleeping, or dreaming state, and enters the fourth state of consciousness. It is a state of unbounded awareness.
Where did it come from, and how did it become popular? The practice of TM goes back thousands of years but was brought to the public by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an Indian guru who learned it from his teacher in the Himalayas. He extracted the technique from its Hindu context and began teaching it in India in 1955, then taking it on a world tour and to the US in 1959. Teachers were trained, and learning centers were opened across the country to make it widely available after Maharishi's departure (he passed away in 2008).
Is there any science to back this up? Yes! Because TM is taught through a standardized method with certified teachers, it is easier and more accurate to gather data from TM than other methods. With over 600 studies performed, and over 400 of them published and peer-reviewed in scientific and medical journals, the evidence shows that TM is highly effective. It can make a positive impact on reducing stress and anxiety, boosting energy and creativity, and lowering blood pressure. It's also been shown to help with symptoms of depression, insomnia, addiction, PTSD, and ADHD. One of the most intriguing aspects of TM is what it does to your brainwaves while you are meditating. During ordinary waking consciousness, electroencephalogram (EEG) patterns are generally scattered, disorderly, and rapidly changing. Thoughts are continually coming and going, and each wavelength is different. However, when the brain settles into the TM technique's practice, brainwaves become rhythmic and orderly. They start to line up with one another and move synchronously over large areas in the frontal regions of the brain, extending eventually toward the posterior areas. This is called EEG coherence.
After reading a few books and talking to friends who had taken the course, I contacted a teacher in my area. The entire course is only four visits over four consecutive days. On the first day, you receive your mantra and learn how to meditate one-on-one with your teacher. You then spend the following three days doing group meditation sessions with other students and discussing them. After that, they turn you loose and tell you to meditate for 20 minutes, twice a day. At my first lesson, my teacher performed a lovely little ceremony and then gave me my mantra. As I began to repeat my mantra, I felt like I was peacefully sinking down into a body of water. The lower I got, the more I felt like I was able to look up to the surface, where all of my everyday thoughts were tossing around on the waves. But down below in the depths, it was silent and still. I knew that this was something that not only would I take the time to do every day, but I would ENJOY taking the time to do it. It was refreshing to walk skeptically into that building and walk out, able to access a part of my mind that I had never experienced before. The three other group lessons were really interesting because I got to hear how other people experienced TM. Although everyone transcended during practice, everyones' stories were individual and unique.
I'm over six months into twice-daily practice now, and the differences are already incredible. I feel like my anxiety has disappeared altogether. I have more energy during the day. I'm more patient with the tasks of being a new mom. I feel like I have better problem-solving skills, and I react less to everyday annoyances like bad drivers or long lines. Everything just...flows better. I would recommend Transcendental Meditation to everyone, it has been one of the best discoveries of my life.