The practice of meditation is not new. In fact, it has ties in ancient Egypt and China, as well as Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and, Buddhism. But because of the wellness industry's increasingly mainstream attention, there is science behind the positive results of a consistent meditation practice. Essentially, think of meditation as part of your self-care toolkit—it's a way to achieve balance, clarity, and calm. And, it may help you reduce stress, improve your focus, and sleep better, too. Below, find out more about Transcendental Meditation.
Types of Meditation Techniques
At least by modern American practices, meditation is widely used as a relaxation tool, like a massage for the mind. For example, meditation app Headspace outlines 16 different kinds and includes techniques like focused attention, visualization, and one particular type called Transcendental Meditation (TM), which has captured the interest of celebrities since The Beatles got into it in the 1960s, according to GQ magazine.
What Is Transcendental Meditation?
Transcendental meditation involves silently repeating a mantra for 15–20 minutes a day and is commonly done sitting with the eyes closed. It is one of the most widely practiced meditation techniques.
The Transcendental Meditation website makes a point to state that TM is "not a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle." Instead, it is a method for achieving a greater sense of peace and calm into daily life, not to mention the benefit of being present (which, it seems, is harder to do these days.) Whether you're searching for greater meaning, seeking relief from anxiety, or hoping to slow down rapid thoughts, meditation may help.
Transcendental Meditation (TM) may seem intimidating—especially when newbies hear that TM asks practitioners to sit and meditate for 20 minutes—though it's surprisingly accessible. According to the website, Transcendental Meditation is so easy and effortless anyone can do it.
Here's how to do Transcendental Meditation, according to the Maharishi Foundation USA.
Transcendental Meditation is Mantra Meditation
The main difference between Transcendental Meditation and other forms of meditation is the mantra you're asked to repeat during a meditation session. In TM, the mantra is a meaningless sound used as the vehicle to help the mind settle down. Other forms of meditation use words, phrases, or visualizations during the meditation practice. By focusing exclusively on your mantra, you aim to achieve a state of perfect stillness and consciousness.
While some meditation practices encourage emptying the mind of all thoughts, TM encourages thoughts to come and go, like the passive activity of watching a cloud float by.
How to Do Transcendental Meditation
The journey of Transcendental Meditation begins by finding a certified TM teacher and taking courses to learn the practice. Teachers are certified by Maharishi Foundation USA, a federally recognized non-profit organization. Here's what a typical practice looks like:
1. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the ground and hands in your lap. Leave your legs and arms uncrossed.
2. Close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths to relax the body.
3. Open your eyes, and then close them again. Your eyes will remain closed during the 20-minute practice.
4. Repeat a mantra in your mind. This is typically a Sanskrit sound learned from a TM teacher.
5. When you recognize you're having a thought, simply return to the mantra.
6. After 20 minutes, begin to move your fingers and toes to ease yourself back to the world.
7. Open your eyes.
8. Sit for a few more minutes until you feel ready to continue with your day.
More Benefits of Meditation
There have been hundreds of studies done on the benefits of Transcendental Meditation, which include reduced stress and anxiety, enhanced brain function, and improved cardiovascular health.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, while research on the benefits of meditation is ongoing, existing research indicates a regular meditation practice can also help "improve sleep, improve pain management... improve self-esteem, improve concentration," and even "decrease menopausal symptoms, and reduce the severity of symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome."