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. Keep reading to learn more about the practice.
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.
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
Transcendental Meditation can be done anywhere, but the journey of Transcendental Meditation begins by finding a certified TM teacher and taking courses to learn the practice.
The practice cannot be learned from a book and must be learned over four sessions.
The first session always involves working with the certified teacher. During the first day the teacher will give you a mantra, one which you are asked not to share with anyone, and will teach you how to use it effectively.
The session normally lasts 60-90 minutes. Sessions 2-4 will involve a small group. The technique involves sitting comfortably with your eyes closed, with your certified teacher who will show you how to use your mantra effectively over four sessions. It is recommended to meditate for 20 mins twice per day.
After learning Transcendental Meditation from your teacher you will have access to free follow-up sessions with any TM teacher in the United States to refresh and refine your technique.
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."
Loizzo J. Meditation research, past, present, and future: perspectives from the Nalanda contemplative science tradition. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2014;1307(1):43-54. doi:10.1111/nyas.12273
Orme-Johnson DW, Barnes VA. Effects of the transcendental meditation technique on trait anxiety: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Altern Complement Med. 2014;20(5):330-341. doi:10.1089/acm.2013.0204
Cleveland Clinic. Meditation. Updated August 1, 2018.