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Last Updated on January 12, 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.

More About Meditation

Featured photo credit: Katie Burkhart via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Davide Alfonsi

Online Weight Loss And Exercise Specialist

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

Stress affects everyone, invariably in different ways. Regardless of how stress shows up in your life, when it does, it takes over, making it difficult to stay in the present moment or show gratitude for what and who we have in our life. In the eye of the stress storm, everything is tossed around into oblivion, and self-care ideas go out the window.

However, this is the moment when self-care is the most important. When you notice that you’re struggling with stress, anxiety, or powerful emotions, it’s time to get back to a sense of balance by showing yourself love and compassion.

How Does Stress Show Up?

On a physical scale, stress tends to be behind many of our typical ailments, such as headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, or body aches and pain.[1] When we’re in stressful situations, our body activates our fight-or-flight response through the stress hormone, cortisol.

According to the American Institute of Stress, when the body is in this mode due to stress, “the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands, triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.”[2]

While our fight-or-flight response is extremely helpful when we’re in situations that risk our survival, not every situation is that dire. However, the body doesn’t know how to differentiate between such scenarios.

Rather, we become accustomed to seeing every stressful situation as life-threatening, and we become locked into this fight-or-flight response automatically. This causes us to burn out because our body is constantly fighting or fleeing from threats that are not causing us any real harm.

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On a mental and emotional scale, stress affects your thoughts, feelings, and ultimately your behavior. Everything is interconnected. When stress takes a toll on our bodies, this has a domino effect on how we process our thoughts and feelings. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see correlations between depression and anxiety when it comes to dealing with stress.

Self-Care Ideas to Combat Stress

Below are five self-care ideas for combating stress in your life. Consider implementing them into your daily routine for the best results.

1. Start a Brain Dump Writing Exercise

When you’re overwhelmed with thoughts, it can become very difficult to stay present and focused. This could affect you at work, in school, or in your relationships. It’s as if your mind were filled to the brim with thoughts that are constantly competing for your attention. If left unattended, this can affect your performance or your state of being, so it’s important to turn to self-care ideas in these moments.

One exercise to get this under control is called a brain dump, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Start by getting comfortable with a pen and paper or your favorite journal. Without any special formatting or introduction, just start writing any and all thoughts that come up.

Consider your paper a blank canvas onto which you’re going to spill every thought, no matter how small or unimportant. This can look like a laundry list, a jumble of words, or a paragraph.

Don’t focus on how it looks or how well it’s organized. The idea is to give your thoughts an exit. Once they’re on paper, they’re no longer swimming in your head for attention.

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Once you have them written down, leave them as they are. We have a tendency to want to fix our thoughts. Instead, allow them to simply exist as they are—they’re not right or wrong. Consider coming back to this exercise daily or whenever you feel like you have a lot on your mind.

2. Sweat It out

There is nothing more therapeutic than moving the physical body when it feels the weight of stress. Energetically, we carry our day in our body, mostly in our neck, shoulders, and hips. If we’ve had a particularly difficult day, that energy is going to feel tense and unsettling. This is why it’s so important to move and really break a sweat!

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America[3]:

“Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.”

Find what exercise regimen works for you, and commit to it for a few days per week for your mental and physical health. Scientists have also found that even 10-15 minutes of aerobic exercise can have a tremendous effect on your body. Go for a run, take a spin class or a power yoga class, or dance the stress away in Zumba. Whatever gets your heart rate up and breaks a sweat is one of the perfect self-care ideas to keep the stress away.

3. Seek the Care of a Therapist

Sometimes writing out our thoughts and feelings doesn’t seem quite enough. This is common and to be expected. After all, we are complex human beings who want to understand and process our emotions on a deeper level. This is why spending time in a regular therapy session is so beneficial!

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In the presence of a professional, we can open up about what stressful situations we’re going through. We don’t have to keep our emotions bottled up, and we know that our honesty will be protected and safeguarded.

Additionally, when we’re feeling stressed, we often want to simply vent and get things off of our chest. Having someone on the receiving end who will simply listen and hold space is a truly healing gift. We can often leave the session feeling more empowered, seen, and offloaded of the stress we brought in.

Lastly, we may be able to receive guidance from our therapist on a particular situation we’re struggling with. Having someone else’s perspective on something we’re too emotionally close to can be just the right solution and a great addition to our self-care routine.

Here are more self-care ideas from a therapist: Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice)

4. Interrupt Your Day

When it comes to self-care ideas, this may seem like a derailing technique, but give it a shot! Interrupting your day means introducing something entirely new or random into a routine that is very monotonous or typical.

If your work or school day is the same sequence of events every single day, bringing in an interruption can be quite conducive to your productivity and creativity. This can look like pausing in the middle of the day for a yoga stretch at your desk or in your office. It could be playing your favorite playlist in-between meetings or taking a walk outside for lunch. Not only does this stir up new energy for your day, but it can also help you de-stress

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As I said above, when we’re too close to a situation or conflict, we have a harder time breaking away. We’re so emotionally and mentally invested that we don’t see how that proximity is affecting our health. So, interrupt yourself when you’re feeling stress coming on, and do something fun, random, and refreshing to feel good.

5. Get Some Energy Work Done

Energy work is anything that is being done to improve the circulation and energetic flow of the body. This could be a massage, a Reiki session, chiropractic adjustment, or acupuncture[4].

Moving the body helps move the energy that is blocked or stuck. This is why exercise is so important. However, sometimes we need a session where that work is done for us by a licensed professional.

In such treatments, we have the luxury to relax and receive the benefits of the treatment, making it a beautiful way to squeeze in self-care!

You can find even more stress management techniques in the following video:

Final Thoughts

Stress is, unfortunately, a common part of every life. It affects everyone, but to what extent it affects you is personal. One thing is for sure, and that is that stress has a tremendous effect on our physical, mental, and emotional state.

This is why regular exercise is so important, as well as mental stimulation and emotional release. These self-care ideas won’t necessarily guard you from ever feeling stressed again, but they will certainly help you manage it better and offer amazing health benefits along the way.

More Self-Care Ideas

Featured photo credit: Alisa Anton via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Mayo Clinic: Stress Management
[2] The American Institute of Stress: How the Fight or Flight Response Works
[3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Physical Activity Reduces Stress
[4] Medical Acupuncture: Does Acupuncture Reduce Stress Over Time? A Clinical Heart Rate Variability Study in Hypertensive Patients

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