Define transcendental meditation

In today’s hubbub engendered by constant stress, modern technology, and endless streams of information coming at you, transcendental meditation (TM) becomes an indispensable weapon in your anti-stress arsenal.

To define transcendental meditation, we first have to get back to its origin, way back into the past. During the 1950s, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi began teaching a specific form of meditation to large groups of people. He learned a lot of things from his master, Brahmananda Saraswati (Guru Dev, which literally means “divine teacher”). Maharishi thought that he was simply teaching the traditional meditation method, inherited from his master. Guru Dev made a special technique, which could be used by people who were not monks or devotees. He did contribute, however, by spreading his teaching to innumerable people. In the 60s, he toured all over the world, catching the attention of numerous celebrities, and, most notably, the Beatles.

Now that we’ve given a short introduction, here is a simple yet comprehensive transcendental meditation definition: a practice relying heavily on mantras, which are repeated for about 20 minutes, twice per day. The person who’s meditating usually assumes a seated pose, with his eyes shut.

The meaning of transcendental meditation can be found in Maharishi’s philosophy, according to which every human being is divine. TM is the process of reaching that divinity. This is the main transcendental meditation meaning.

Now that we’ve defined transcendental meditation, let’s see why this mental exercise works.

The Benefits of Mind and Body from Transcendental Meditation

TM is the most researched type of meditation. According to Norman Rosenthal, by 2011, more than 300 studies on the health benefits of TM appeared in scientific journals. Some of these studies simply sought to analyze the transcendental meditation process, while others investigated its possible use in mental healthcare. Even people who are suffering from somatic illnesses are believed to have numerous benefits from TM.

In 1970, Robert Keith Wallace organized one of the first studies of TM. The variables he measured were a bit peculiar, as he focused mainly on the physiological measures such as electroencephalography, oxygen consumption, heart rate, and psychogalvanic reflect. The design of his research was simple- all the aforementioned measures were taken before, during, and after one TM session. These are Wallace’s main results:

  • A decrease in oxygen consumption
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Increased skin resistance

In other words, participants felt significantly calmer during the TM session- all these measures are indicative of serenity, peacefulness, and lower stress. Electroencephalograph measures were a bit harder to interpret. This simple apparatus measures the amplitude and frequency of the brain’s electronic activity, and it has been found that different types of brain waves correspond to various mental states. For instance, alpha waves predominate during wakefulness, while delta waves (slow activity) are a major sign of deep sleep. Researchers found no significant differences between normal brain activity and that during transcendental meditation. This finding isn’t surprising, however. While repeating mantras, practitioners retain a focused state of mind that has nothing to do with somnolence or deep sleep.

One meta-analysis of scientific studies of meditation found that transcendental meditation might reduce blood pressure in patients with hypertension. However, these researchers warned that it is not easy to analyze the efficiency of meditation because an over-arching theory of these exercises doesn’t exist. 

Another group of scientists tried to find the main components of all types of meditative practices. They analyzed a large sample of various courses and exercises, finding that there are 2 dimensions along which we can posit schools of thought. Transcendental meditation is a non-body oriented exercise, meaning that it is more spiritual and contemplative. The second dimension concerns the amount of activation, and all meditations involving mantras are relatively non-active, meaning that they revolve around acceptance and stillness. 

To conclude, researchers are still ambiguous when it comes to the efficiency of TM. Not because meditation exercises don’t work, but simply because it’s extremely hard to compare the effects of 2 similar types of meditation. While various types of Buddhist and Hindu practices most surely affect our physical and mental health positively, it is still quite hard to identify the „active ingredients“ of various types of meditation. Moreover, there are no studies which proved that TM is better than other techniques. Finally, it is questionable whether TM can be used for the treatment of mental health problems. While meditation can be an important part of psychotherapeutic programs, as is the case with various mindfulness therapies, transcendental meditation probably cannot „cure“ mental illnesses.

Do You Need A Teacher For Transcendental Meditation

Strictly speaking, TM began as a form of guided practice, and the importance of a teacher was emphasized. While you don’t always need a guide to mentally relax and reduce your anxiety, transcendental meditation has long ago become a fairly formal course, with official teachers and guides. 

This is why, to get a certificate, you’d need to find a legit TM practitioner. However, the benefits of transcendental meditation aren’t only available to those who are ready to pay a certain amount of money for a TM course. This type of meditation has long ago become extremely popular, and thus inevitably monetized. This is why, in the next chapter, we’ll explain the basics of TM, and how to do it all by yourself. 

Transcendental Meditation: How To Do It

This is a quick transcendental guide, which might be especially useful for those who don’t want to enroll in official TM courses, which can get rather pricey. Besides, the atmosphere resembles that of a cult, and people who would simply like to avoid all religious overtones will find this guide useful. 

First of all, you’ll need to come up with a mantra. This mantra can be a traditional phrase that’s been used in centuries-old Hindu technique, but we encourage you to find your own mantra. This might be a simple phrase that’s easy to remember and repeat. For instance: „May others be well, and may I be well.“. This is just an example- some people use highly idiosyncratic mantras, that might be completely unintelligible to others. 

If you opt for official TM courses, you will probably learn a lot of Sanskrit mantras, and, needless to say, you can use these too. 

Here’s how to do transcendental meditation:

  • Find a comfortable position. Sit down, lie down, whatever you like.
  • Close your eyes, and take one deep breath. This will signify the start of your TM session.
  • Start repeating your mantra. At first, this may seem kind of „artificial“, but after a while, you’ll repeat it almost automatically. 
  • Whenever you encounter thoughts that lead you astray, get back to your mantra. This is the point- the mantra acts as an anchor. 
  • After about 20 minutes, you start getting back to reality. Slowly move your fingers and then other parts of the body. 

After you’ve done all this, you should experience an onset of calmness and serenity. Your consciousness will be slightly changed, meaning that you’ll adopt a slightly different outlook and perspective.

To sum up, transcendental meditation is basically one of the easier to master as it uses external help from your mantra or additional sounds to boost your meditative experience.

Having said that, if you would feel that it is unnecessary for you, just opt for a very basic concentration meditation on breathing and make it your own. Our Shop features an invaluable book “Nonviolence Meditation” that helps every beginner to meditate or develop the practice further. Enjoy.