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Published on October 3, 2019

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.

More About Meditation

Featured photo credit: Katie Burkhart via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Davide Alfonsi

Celebrity Coach, Author and Mindfulness expert

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

What Makes a Good Leader: 10 Critical Leadership Qualities

What Makes a Good Leader: 10 Critical Leadership Qualities

The word “leader” makes you think of people in charge. High-ranking people – your boss, politicians, presidents, CEOs…

But leadership really isn’t about a particular position or a person’s seniority. Just because someone has worked for many years doesn’t mean he has gained the qualities and skills to lead a team.

Getting promoted to a managerial position doesn’t automatically turn you into a leader either. CEOs and other high-ranking officials don’t always have great leadership skills.

So what makes a good leader? What are the characteristics of a leader?

Good leadership is about acquiring and honing skills. Leadership skills enable you to be a role model for a team in any environment. With great leadership qualities, successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes: in the home, at school, or at the workplace.

The following is a list of characteristics of a leader who successfully leads a great team:

1. Stay Positive, Even in the Worst Situations

Great leaders know that they won’t have a happy and motivated team unless they themselves exhibit a positive attitude. This can be done by remaining positive when things go wrong and, by creating a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the workplace.

Even some simple things like providing cupcakes or beers on Fridays can make the world of difference. An added perk is that team members are likely to work harder and do overtime when needed if they’re happy and appreciated.

Even in the worst situations such as experiencing low team morale or team members having made a big mistake at work, a great leader stays positive and figure out ways to keep the team motivated to solve the problems.

Walt Disney (1901-1966), had his share of hardships and challenges; and like any great leader, he managed to stay positive and find new opportunities. In 1928, Disney found that his film producer, Charles Mintz, wanted to reduce his payments for the Oswald series. Mintz threatened to cut ties entirely if Disney didn’t accept his terms, and Disney chose to part ways. But in leaving Oswald, Disney decided to create something new: the iconic Mickey Mouse.

    What Can You Learn from Walt Disney?

    Break down huge challenges into smaller ones and find ways to tackle them one by one.

    Think about the lessons you can learn from the mistake and jot them down — Because sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.

    2. Exhibit Confidence Everywhere

    All great leaders have to exhibit an air of confidence if they’re going to succeed. Please don’t confuse this with self-satisfaction and arrogance. You want people to look up to you for inspiration, not so they can punch you in the face.

    Confidence is important because people will be looking to you on how to behave, particularly if things aren’t going 100% right. If you remain calm and poised, team members are far more likely to as well. As a result, morale and productivity will remain high and the problem will be solved more quickly.

    If you panic and give up, they will know immediately and things will simply go down hill from there.

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    Elon Musk is a great example of a leader with confidence. He truly believes that Tesla will be successful, which he has shown many times through his actions. He converted 532,000 stock options at $6.63 each, their value on Dec. 4, 2009, before Tesla went public. It was a hefty bargain considering Tesla’s stock price stood at around $195 per share at that time. He doesn’t apologize for his beliefs and has drawn fire from just about everyone for his political actions.

      What Can You Learn from Elon Musk?

      You can’t instantly become a very confident person, but all the small things you do every day will gradually make you more confident:

      • List 10 things you like about yourself every day (something different every day), and you’ll be more confident about yourself.
      • Work on your strengths, do your best to enhance them.

      3. Have a Sense of Humor

      It’s imperative for any kind of leader to have a sense of humor, particularly when things go wrong. And they will.

      Your team members are going to be looking to you for how to react in a seemingly dire situation. It would probably be best if you weren’t stringing up a noose for yourself in the corner. You need to be able to laugh things off, because if staff morale goes down, so will productivity.

      Establish this environment prior to any kind of meltdown by encouraging humor and personal discussions in the work place.

      As president, Barack Obama exuded confidence and calm during stressful situations. But he was also known for his “dad jokes”,[1] his genuinely funny speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and appearing on Zack Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns.[2] Obama’s sense of humor made him grounded, realistic, and honest – no doubt that helped during some tense moments in the White House!

        What Can You Learn from Barak Obama?

        Laugh at yourself. Confident people laugh about their own silly mistakes, others will also trust you more because you’re willing to share your experiences.

        Be observant and learn from the jokes others make. You can also get a lot of inspirations from the internet.

        4. Embrace Failures and Manage Set Backs

        No matter how hard you try to avoid it, failures will happen; that’s okay. You just need to know how to deal with them.

        Great leaders take them in strides. They remain calm and logically think through the situation and utilize their resources. What they don’t do is fall apart and reveal to their team how worried they are, which leads to negative morale, fear and binge-drinking under desks.

        Great leaders do in fact lead, even when they’re faced with setbacks.

        Henry Ford experienced a major setback after designing and improving the Ford Quadricycle. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but the resulting cars they produced did not live up to his standards and were too expensive. The company dissolved in 1901. Ford took this in stride and formed the Henry Ford Company. The sales were slow and the company had financial problems; it wasn’t until 1903 that the Ford Motor Company was successful and put the Ford on the map.

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          What Can You Learn from Walt Disney?

          Get to the root cause of any problem so you can prevent it from happening again and learn from the mistake.

          To do this, use the 5 Whys problem solving framework.

          By asking “why” for 5 times (or more) on why something happened, you can find out the key factor that caused the problem and can find the best solution to tackle the problem.

          You’ll also learn how to prevent this from happening again in the future after finding out a problem’s root cause.

          5. Listen, and Give Feedback

          This is far more complex than it actually sounds. Good communication skills are essential for a great leader. You may very well understand the cave of crazy that is your brain, but that doesn’t mean that you can adequately take the ideas out of it and explain them to someone else.

          The best leaders need to be able to communicate clearly with the people around them. They also need to be able to interpret other people properly and not take what they say personally.

          The Dalai Lama, as a symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, represents and practices Buddhist values. The Dalai Lama’s leadership is benevolent and aims toward truth and understanding, alongside the other Buddhist precepts. This is a great example for all leaders: if you want to give good directions to others, you have to get feedback from others to understand the situation properly.

            What Can You Learn from Dalai Lama?

            Encourage communication between team members and establishing an open door policy.

            Practice not to interrupt team members when they’re talking.

            Summarize what they say and ask for feedback every time after you have talked about your ideas.

            6. Know How and When to Delegate

            No matter how much you might want to, you can’t actually do everything yourself. Even if you could, in a team environment that would be a terrible idea anyway.

            Good leaders recognize that delegation does more than simply alleviate their own stress levels (although that’s obviously a nice perk). Delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which subsequently results in higher morale in the workplace, as well as loyalty from your staff. They want to feel appreciated and trusted.

            Although Steve Jobs is known for focusing in on the smallest of details, he knew how to delegate. By finding, cultivating, and trusting capable team members – like Tim Cook – Jobs was able to make Apple run smoothly, even while he had to be absent for extended periods of time.

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              What Can You Learn from Steve Jobs?

              To know when and how to delegate work to team members, you have to be very familiar with each of them:

              • List out all of their strengths, weaknesses and personalities.
              • Talk with your team members more too to know more about their passion and interests.

              Take a look at this guide and learn more about delegation: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)

              7. Inspire and Grow People Around

              Any good leader knows how important it is to develop the skills of those around them. The best can recognize those skills early on. Not only will development make work easier as they improve and grow, it will also foster morale. In addition, they may develop some skills that you don’t possess that will be beneficial to the workplace.

              Great leaders share their knowledge with the team and give them the opportunity to achieve. This is how leaders gain their respect and loyalty.

              Pope Francis has been unusually popular with many Catholics and many non-Catholics. His position isn’t totally traditional, which is part of his appeal, but he also has admirable leadership skills. Pope Francis’s TED talk drew attention, because he encouraged leaders to be humble and to demonstrate solidarity with others. This inclusive, kind, and respectful style of leadership is incredibly important for any situation.

                What Can You Learn from Pope Francis?

                Spend time to talk with other team members individually to understand them.

                Find out team members’ current challenges and try to give feedback and encouragement so they will grow and do better.

                8. Take Responsibility and Never Blame Others

                Great leaders know that when it comes to their company, work place or whatever situation they’re in, they need to take personal responsibility for failure. How can they expect employees to hold themselves accountable if they themselves don’t?

                The best leaders don’t make excuses; they take the blame and then work out how to fix the problem as soon as possible. This proves that they’re trustworthy and possess integrity.

                Howard Gillman is the chancellor of UC Irvine. You might have heard of how the university rescinded a bunch of acceptances, and then changed its mind.[3] This past spring, an unusually high number of accepted students decided to matriculate; the school initially responded by rescinding offers over things like missed deadlines. But the college realized this was a mistake and reversed its decision. Gillman and the university accepted responsibility and decided to move past their earlier bad decision.

                  What Can You Learn from Howard Gillman?

                  Ask yourself what you could have done better to prevent this from happening.

                  Take the responsibility and think about what you can do better to prevent this from happening next time.

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                  9. Make Decisions Based on Lessons Learned in the Past

                  It’s safe to say that all great leaders will have to enter unchartered waters at some point during their career (figuratively, of course). Because of this, they have to be able to trust their intuition and draw on past experiences to guide them.

                  Great leaders know that there’s always something to learn from everything they have experienced before. They are able to connect the present challenges with the lessons learned in the past to make decisions and take actions promptly.

                  You can either recall what you’ve learned from your memories, or search from your notes (ideally, a software that you can access anywhere with things well-organized).

                  Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has mostly made the right calls. But in dealing with huge amounts of money, Buffett has also made several multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar mistakes. He has stated that buying the company Berkshire Hathaway was his biggest mistake.[4] From that poor choice, he realized that it was unwise to pursue “improvements” and “expansions” in the existing textile industry. Despite mistakes like this, Buffett has invested wisely – and it shows.

                    What Can You Learn from Warren Buffett?

                    Write down lessons you’ve learned from any mistakes you’ve made.

                    Have all the lessons well organized and  when similar things happen again in future, take these lessons as references.

                    10. Lead by Example and Commit to Do the Best

                    Great leaders stick to their commitments and promises, and they are the most committed and hard working ones on the job. All great leaders lead by example.

                    Why should your staff and team members give it their all if you don’t bother to? By proving your own commitment, great leaders will inspire others to do the same, as well as earn their respect and instill a good work ethic.

                    After 15 years of house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi was voted state counsellor in Myanmar – one of the highest-profile and most powerful positions in the country. She became a symbol of peaceful resistance when she attempted to bring democracy to her country.[5] In the early years of her detention, she was often in solitary confinement. Suu Kyi is a perfect example of committed and belief-driven leadership, which she openly demonstrated during her many years of house arrest.

                      What Can You Learn from Aung San Suu Kyi?

                      Some people learn by observing the way you perform a task, some need more detailed guidelines.

                      So dedicate time to demonstrate your work to team members, let them observe how you do it. Summarize the skills you use and let team members know how you make difficult things work.

                      The Bottom Line

                      Leadership traits are learnable. If you practice consistently, you can be a great leader too.

                      Make small changes your habits when you work with your team – wherever that may be. Most of us aren’t presidents or CEOs.

                      But we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others. This gives every person the chance to develop leadership skills and to stand out from the crowd.

                      More About Leadership

                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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