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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Do Transcendental Meditation (Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Do Transcendental Meditation (Step-by-Step Guide)

Maybe you already know how to meditate but do you know how to do transcendental meditation?

Meditation was first developed in India many years ago (around 5000-3500 BCE). It took quite some time to become popular in the western world, but today it is celebrated as a therapeutic tool to ease stress, anxiety,[1] depression,[2] and addictions.[3] In the past years, it has also become recognized to improve mental performance, and it consequently became a multi-billion dollar business.

When we think about meditation, we usually think about what’s called “mindfulness meditation,” but there are seven different kinds of meditation that are being practiced all over the world:

  1. Loving-kindness meditation
  2. Body scan or progressive relaxation
  3. Mindfulness meditation
  4. Breath awareness meditation
  5. Kundalini yoga
  6. Zen meditation
  7. Transcendental meditation

Over the past decade, Transcendental Meditation® (aka TM® or T.M. Meditation®) has become extremely popular, scoring a staggering 5 million followers that practice it every day. You may have heard about the benefits of T.M. and wondered what it was all about.

T.M. is a type of mantra meditation that has been introduced to the Western world in 1950 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.[4] He taught the practice all over the world for 40 years to spread its movement, touching anyone from politicians to The Beatles.

Today, many celebrities such as Jerry Seinfeld, Hugh Jackman, Ellen Degeneres, and Howard Stern publicly stated that T.M. changed their lives.[5] The popular movie director David Lynch even created a foundation to help spread transcendental meditation around the world.

These big names certainly contributed to the success of this practice (together with the large body of studies proving its benefits),[6] but the main reason for the popularity of T.M. is its simplicity.

If you’ve tried to meditate in the past, but you couldn’t stick to it long enough to experience its benefits, keep reading.

In this article, I will highlight the main differences between mindfulness meditation and transcendental meditation, and why some people like one type better than the other. I will explain how the T.M. organization teaches it to their students, and I will also give you a step-by-step guide on how to do T.M. on your own.

Transcendental Meditation vs Mindfulness Meditation

To understand why T.M. is unique, we need to take a step back and examine how mindfulness meditation work. All the other types of meditation use a similar mechanism to the mindfulness one except for T.M, so I’m going to describe only the difference between those two types for the sake of simplicity.

Mindfulness, in current popular culture, encourages the cultivation of nonjudgmental, moment-to-moment awareness both during the practice and in everyday life.

We all experience a multitude of thoughts that distract us from what’s in front of our eyes. Maybe we’re thinking about our to-do list, or simply hearing the sound of a song brings back an old memory; in any case, we tend to spend more time in our heads than in the present moment.

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With mindfulness meditation, by repeatedly returning our conscious awareness to the present moment (for example focusing on the breath, body parts or an object) we are able to observe our anxious or depressive thought patterns.

In simple words, this means noticing your thoughts and learning to let go of them by shifting the mental focus from that thought to something like the movement of your breath.

The act of actively observing thoughts without judgment, and the effort of letting go of those thoughts by focusing on the body, acts as a sort of brain-training exercise. The more successfully we do that (both during our meditation and in normal life), the more we empower ourselves to make conscious choices rather than being mindlessly controlled by our negative thoughts.

To better understand this concept, you can imagine your mind being like an Ocean. On the surface, you have waves of any height and shape, but deep down, there is nothing but complete calm and stillness. Your thoughts are the waves.

In normal life, you would swim around the waves of your mind, trying to face them head-on. Sometimes you can climb them and swim through, sometimes you feel overwhelmed by their power and end up drowning or feeling beaten up by their strength.

Mindfulness meditation is like having a surfboard that allows you to ride those waves effortlessly. The more you practice, the better you get at surfing, and the easier it becomes to manage your thoughts.

Sometimes, while going through this process, people may eventually get to a state of complete mental stillness. This state is “the second state of meditation” or transcendence.

Note that the goal of mindfulness meditation is not to reach this state. Instead, its goal is to actively train your mind in letting go of thoughts and develop the ability to make mindful choices in everyday life.

I have personally practiced thousands of hours of mindfulness meditation and taught it to many of my clients with fantastic results. What I’ve noticed though, is that some people are simply not able to stick to it and enjoy its brain training process.

Usually, these people have a very active and buzzing mind, and not being able to “shut their thoughts” with the mindfulness technique drives them crazy. For those people, transcendental meditation works magic because of its totally different method.

How Is Transcendental Meditation Different?

Coming back to the example of your mind being like an ocean, imagine having a submarine instead of a surfboard. T.M., just like a submarine, can safely take you to the deepest depths of your mind, where it’s calm and peaceful.

Now that I’ve got you curious, let’s explore how transcendental meditation work. If the goal of mindfulness is to train the brain in conscious awareness, the goal of T.M. is to go beyond the thinking process. If done properly, this can be a simple, automatic continuation of the flow of mindfulness meditation. The vehicle T.M. uses to reach this state is the mantra. (I’ll explain in depth how it works later.)

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If we come back to the example of the ocean, now that we have our submarine (the mantra), we are able to slowly reach the depths of the ocean, where there’s nothing but calm and stillness.

In there, there is a state of restful awareness, where you can tap into the source of energy, thoughts, and creativity (also called collective unconscious by Carl Jung).[7]

When we get to these depths, we experience a profound state of rest and let go of even the deepest stresses.

The beneficial effects of T.M. happen spontaneously (not consciously) when you are able to reach the state of transcendence.[8] Those who regularly practice T.M. report an increase in mindfulness and a very deep relief in stress.

T.M. teachers emphasize the fact that the mind has a natural tendency of going into this tranquil state. Unfortunately, the mind also has a tendency to always look for what’s interesting around us. This is why, with mindfulness meditation, having its focus on actively observing thoughts, it is harder to lean on this tendency of the brain to settle into deep tranquility.

The question now is: “how do I get to this state of transcendence?” The answer is way simpler than you may think:

By chanting a mantra.

What Doing T.M. Looks Like

Before we get into what exactly a mantra is and how it works, I want you to get an idea of what a standard transcendental meditation practice looks like.

All that is required to practice T.M. is to sit and have your eyes closed; that’s it. You don’t need any particular pose or posture. Surely being alone, in a quiet room with a comfortable chair, will help facilitate the process but once you get a grip of it, you could do it anywhere, even while sitting at your desk or in a bus.

All you need to do is to keep your eyes closed and silently chant your mantra.

The general advice is to chant for 20 minutes, twice a day. This is partly due to the natural clock of our body (circadian rhythm) but also to the fact that the more you get into the habit of blocking time to meditate, the more likely you are to make it a habit.

Despite this advice, there are no set-in-stone rules on how often and how long you should do your T.M. session. Everyone is different and has a different schedule, so whatever fits in your diary should be your choice.

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Now, let’s get down to business and let’s talk mantras.

What Is a Mantra?

A mantra is nothing but a meaningless sound. There is no real secret behind the mantra except for the fact that it should have no meaning, and it should “sound positive.”

People tend to get too caught up in what type of mantra is right for them. I have interviewed several seasoned T.M. teachers, and they all stated that “the more we don’t know about our mantra, the better.”

This goes back to the fact that our mind is always making mental connections. If we try to chant a word that sounds too much like a word that we know the meaning of, we will automatically connect that word to images, sounds, smells, and memories. If we’re chanting a totally meaningless word, it’s easier to lean on the tendency of our mind to get into a tranquil state.

You can imagine a mantra being like a seed. If you want to grow a plant, you won’t look for “the perfect seed.” You would simply pick one, plant it, water it and see it germinate. Getting caught up in “picking the right seed (mantra),” won’t do you any good.

At this point, if you are like me, you would think “OK, but I still need to know what a mantra looks like and sounds like,” and that’s why I’m going to give you a few examples of mantras to chant.

Examples of Personal Mantras

The most common mantra is the Homm. Teachers tend not to use this mantra because of the wholeness of this sound. In Hinduism, the sound Homm reflects the sound of all vibrations combined, both positive and negative. The Homm mantra seems to be mainly practiced by monks, and every teacher I’ve interviewed said that “apart from that, any other mantra can work well.”

Other examples of mantra could be:

  • Kirim
  • Shirim
  • Inga
  • Aema
  • Etc. (no this isn’t a mantra)

Chanting a mantra sounds something like this:

  • Kiiiiiiririmmmm Kiiiiiiririmmmm
  • Shiririiiiim Shiiiiririnnnn
  • Iiiiiingaaaa Iiiiingaaaa
  • Aaaaaenma Aaaaaaaenmaa

You should vary the length and tone of each letter of your mantra while you’re chanting, so that it would be easier to induce this “trance” effect on your mind. Once again, how you do that doesn’t matter. As long as you chant it for the whole length of your session, it should work.

Should You Try Different Mantras?

Most teachers told me that both they and their students have been using the same mantra they’ve been given on their first T.M. sessions for their whole life. Once again, the point of the practice isn’t to find the best possible sound for you but, to develop the habit of melting the stress in your mind by chanting a meaningless sound.

On the flip side, if you’re trying to do T.M. on your own and you notice that the mantra you choose reminds you too much of a real word, go pick another one that is totally meaningless. People that speak several languages may find this a bit harder than people that only speak their mother tongue, but it is still quite easy to find a meaningless sound.

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If you learn T.M. from a teacher, they will choose the mantra for you on your first meeting after you fill a questionnaire. After that, you’ll chant it with them and progress into a personal, silent meditation practice. During the practice, the teacher will give some feedback and let you experience the mechanics of T.M. on the spot. This process is followed by another meeting with the teacher and two group meditations.

Can You Teach Yourself Transcendental Meditation?

The teachers themselves openly state that you can do T.M. on your own. The rules are simple, and all it takes is some practice and being consistent with it.

What a T.M. course gives you (that you can’t get on your own) is the accountability of a teacher and the support of a group of like-minded people.

Most people that pay for a T.M. course are not simply looking to learn a system. They usually look for support in their healing journey to fight stress, insomnia, addictions, or relationship problems.

If you tried mindfulness meditation, and simply want to try T.M. to experience first hand the difference between the two, there is no need to take a course. A very good way to go about could be simply this:

  • Look up on YouTube under “transcendental meditation mantras,” pick one and see how it’s chanted.
  • Play the track and try to chant it as they do it in the video.
  • Stop the track, sit, close your eyes, and silently chant the same mantra for 20 minutes.
  • Repeat this process, twice a day, for a week or so

If you find that T.M. makes you feel better than when you’re doing mindfulness meditation, and you want to learn more about it, you can then decide to invest in it and take the T.M. course.

So, Is T.M. the Right Fit for You?

Nobody can tell if T.M. is better than any other type of meditation. Everything works differently for each individual, and it’s our duty to try and discover new things before judging them.

If you’re into meditation, I highly suggest you try T.M. on your own or with a teacher to broaden your mind. The same goes for the people that are new to meditation, but, in this case, I would recommend starting from mindfulness meditation with an App like Headspace. T.M. can be quite tricky for a beginner without having the proper guidance, and the course itself is quite expensive (from 250 to 1000 dollars or even more depending on your income).

Whatever the type of meditation you decide to try, I encourage you to commit to a minimum of 30 daily practices. Doing this will give you the time to start experiencing some tangible benefits in your day-to-day life.

Learning about your mind is truly a delightful experience. The more you learn about the mechanics of your brain, the more you can experience personal growth and happiness. If you have difficulty meditating, learning how to focus can help you enter a meditative state.

More About Meditation

Featured photo credit: Katie Burkhart via unsplash.com

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Published on May 25, 2021

How To Recognize the Most Common Types of Mental Illness

How To Recognize the Most Common Types of Mental Illness

Have you ever had chills, a stuffy nose, a sore throat, a cough, or perhaps even a fever? More than likely you must have experienced at least some of these symptoms at one time or another in your life. You knew that you were sick, perhaps with a common cold, maybe the flu, or possibly a viral infection of some sort.

Either way, no matter what the diagnosis might have been at the time, you didn’t feel well, and therefore, you probably took some form of action to help alleviate the symptoms so that you could feel better, perhaps some medicine, followed up with maybe a little chicken noodle soup, a glass of orange juice, and some bed rest. Nevertheless, when it comes to seeking treatment for symptoms of mental illness, there seems to be a big difference between the way that we look at healing the body and the mind.

First of all, there are some common stigmas associated with mental illness. People, in general, seem to have a hard time admitting that they are having a problem with their mental health.[1]

We all want our social media profiles to look amazing, filled with images of exotic vacations, fancy food, the latest fashion, and of course, plenty of smiling faces taken at just the right angle. There is an almost instinctive aversion to sharing our true feelings or emotionally opening up to others, especially when we are going through a difficult time in our lives. Perhaps it has something to do with the fear of being emotionally vulnerable, open, and completely honest about our true inner feelings—perhaps we just don’t want to be a burden.

Additionally, throughout history, many people with mental illness have been ostracized and subjugated as outcasts. As a result, some may choose to avoid seeking help as long as possible to elude being ridiculed by others or presumably looked down upon in some way. Furthermore, rather than scheduling an appointment to meet with a board-certified psychiatrist, many people find themselves self-medicating with mood-altering substances, such as drugs and alcohol to try and cope with their symptoms.[2]

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We all want to have a sound mind and body with the ability to function independently without having to depend on anyone—or, for that matter, anything else for help. Nevertheless, if you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness, you may just have to find the will and the way to reach out for help before the symptoms become unmanageable.

Lastly, although we may all have the ability to gain insight into any given situation, it’s almost impossible to maintain a completely objective point of view when it comes to identifying the depth and dimension of any of our own symptoms of mental illness given the fact that our perception of the problem may in fact be clouded by the very nature of the underlying illness itself. In other words, even though symptoms of mental illness may be present, you may be suffering from a disorder that actually impairs your ability to see them.

As a professional dual-diagnosis interventionist and a licensed psychotherapist with over two decades of experience working with people all over the world battling symptoms of mental illness and substance abuse—combined with my own personal insight into the subject, perhaps now more than ever—I am confident that you will appreciate learning how to recognize a variety of symptoms associated with some of the most common types of mental illness.

1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent flashbacks and nightmares associated with previously experienced or witnessed life-threatening or traumatic events.[3] The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

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  • recurrent and unwanted memories of an event
  • flashbacks to the event in “real-time”
  • nightmares involving the trauma
  • a physical reaction to an event that triggers traumatic memories
  • avoiding conversation related to the traumatic event
  • active avoidance of people, places, and things that trigger thoughts of the event
  • a sense of hopelessness
  • memory loss related to traumatic events
  • detached relationships
  • lack of interest in normal daily activities
  • feeling constantly guarded
  • feeling as if in constant danger
  • poor concentration
  • irritability
  • being easily startled
  • insomnia
  • substance abuse
  • engaging in dangerous behaviors

2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent unwanted thoughts followed by urges to act on those thoughts repeatedly.[4] The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • anxiety when an item is not in order or its correct position
  • recurrent and frequent doubt if doors have been locked
  • recurrent and frequent doubt if electronic devices and appliances have been turned off
  • recurrent and frequent fear of contamination by disease or poison
  • avoidance of social engagements with fear of touching others.
  • hand-washing
  • counting
  • checking
  • repetition of statements
  • positioning of items in strict order

3. Major Depressive Disorder

Major Depressive Disorder is a mood disorder characterized by a persistent depressed mood that impairs the ability to function. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and sadness
  • lack of interest or pleasure in activities normally enjoyed
  • overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • sleep disturbances such as both insomnia and oversleep
  • overwhelming feelings of restlessness and irritability
  • lack of concentration
  • lack of appetite as well as overeating
  • thoughts of suicide

4. Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder that may be characterized by uncontrollable mood swings ranging from severe depression to extreme mania. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

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Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • easily distracted
  • racing thoughts
  • exaggerated euphoric sense of self-confidence
  • easily agitated
  • hyperverbal
  • markedly increased level of activity
  • overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and sadness
  • lack of interest or pleasure in activities normally enjoyed
  • overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • sleep disturbances such as both insomnia and oversleep
  • overwhelming feelings of restlessness and irritability
  • lack of concentration
  • lack of appetite as well as overeating
  • thoughts of suicide

5. Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a thought disorder characterized by a breakdown between beliefs, emotions, and behaviors caused by delusions and hallucinations.[5]  The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • delusions with false beliefs
  • hallucinations with a false sensory perception
  • disorganized thought with a meaningless unintelligible pattern of communication
  • disorganized behavior with catatonic appearance, bizarre posture, excessive agitation
  • flat affect
  • lack of eye contact
  • poor personal hygiene

6. Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat and excessive exercise. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

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  • extreme loss of weight
  • emaciated appearance
  • eroded teeth
  • thinning hair
  • dizziness
  • swollen extremities
  • dehydration
  • arrhythmia
  • irritated skin on knuckles
  • extreme food restriction
  • excessive exercise
  • self-induced vomiting
  • excessive fear of gaining weight
  • use of layered clothing to cover up body imperfections

7. Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight due to a distorted body image where large amounts of food are consumed and then purged. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • self-induced vomiting
  • consuming abnormally large amounts of food with the intent to purge
  • the constant fear of gaining weight
  • excessive exercising
  • excessive use of laxatives and diuretics to lose weight
  • food restriction
  • shame and guilt

Final Thoughts

From bipolar disorder to bulimia, major depression to dysthymia, there is a mental health diagnosis to fit any combination of symptoms that you may be experiencing. There are also a variety of corresponding self-assessment tests circulating all over the internet for you to choose from.

However, if you are looking for a proper diagnosis, I strongly suggest that you make an appointment to meet with a well-trained mental health professional in your community for more comprehensive and conclusive findings. Similar to cancer, early detection and treatment may significantly improve the prognosis for recovery.[6] And like I said, it’s impossible to be completely objective when it comes to self-diagnosing the condition of your own mental health or that of a loved one.

Furthermore, although the corner pharmacy may have plenty of over-the-counter medications that claim to help you fall asleep faster and even stay asleep longer, at the end of the day, no medication can actually resolve the underlying issues that have been negatively impacting your ability to sleep in the first place.

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Just like in business—and in the immortal words of Thomas A. Edison—“there is no substitute for hard work.” So, try to set aside as much time as you can to work on improving your mental health. After all, you are your most influential advocate, and your mind is your greatest asset.

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Featured photo credit: Sydney Sims via unsplash.com

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