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, depression, and addictions. 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:
- Loving-kindness meditation
- Body scan or progressive relaxation
- Mindfulness meditation
- Breath awareness meditation
- Kundalini yoga
- Zen meditation
- 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. 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. 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), 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.
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.