Thursday, May 7, 2015

Reflections on forty years experience with Transcendental Meditation.

- For Traudl, Gale and Justin -

After forty years of T.M. I've watched the organization grow from a time before Fairfield Iowa. I watched Chopra and Maharishi take over the world with great information and programs. The fallout of the T.M. movement has been incredibly profitable and has provided very comfortable lives for the corporate entities that have grown out of it. I have to say that the symptoms of PTSD are not fully dissolved with T.M. but it does help somewhat. T.M. works great for ADD and ADHD. The most interesting thing about T.M. from my experience is an important step in the walk to higher consciousness.
It's terribly important to understand that it is just one part of the process that is necessary to manifestation and creation. T.M. removes us from reality and places us into a state of complete insulation from it. A place where the stresses and strains of the day can not touch us. It is a perfect silent communion with the river of life, with creative intelligence and with nature to an astonishing degree.

My first meditation was so memorable it is like it was yesterday. It was as if the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. For a closeted 17 year old terrified teen this not only prevented suicidal thoughts (and actions) but it also provided a lifetime of relief from unimaginable internal stress associated with living in a world from this perspective. I could access complete stress-relief in critical moments when the world was most harsh cruel or relentless. I found myself hundreds of times in my life dipping into the stream of the Absolute to automatically find immediate answers to life-saving questions, or to just seek out peace which is guaranteed by meditation.

Video:  How To Practice T.M.

I can not imagine what my life would have been like without T.M. It's important. It was a transition a rite of passage and a large piece of the answer to the questions of life love and what it is to be human. The experience is the embodiment of silence from which we experience the absence of time space and other cosmic effects. You also witness perfect forgiveness in meditation. We may not carry it with us outside of meditation back into the relative motion of our days but while in meditation doing the right thing, knowing the right thing always comes to us, and sometimes with life-saving consequence.  This is what has been provided to me by meditation many times in my forty years of practice.

I hope anyone who reads this post who have never practiced Transcendental Meditation are forgiving of the T.M. movement for their mistakes. They are just human and have fallen to the seven deadly sins no less than anybody else. The seduction of corporate greed spares no one. But this does not change the credibility of the Transcendental Meditation technique Maharishi brought to the United States so long ago. So if you don't confuse the message with the messenger then you can give yourself the gift of T.M. without reservation.  You can experience peace love and joy in ways you only dream of and as it was intended to be.  It is a birthright and one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.

Transcendental Meditation Technique
Formal Instruction System
As taught by official T.M. teachers

Teacher has prepared an altar to Guru Dev, lit a candle and incense, and spread camphor, sandalwood paste, rice, and other ritual offerings in the appropriate ritual containers prior to student's entrance. Two comfortable chairs are also provided directly in front of the altar, leaving room for teacher and student to stand before the altar. The initiation room is always prepared behind a closed door so that no student may see the altar before entering. Maharishi has said the element of surprise is important for insuring a smooth and deep initiation experience for the student. When the student enters the room, teacher accepts fruit, flowers, handkerchief, and initiation form from student -- the student usually carries the items in a wicker basket. Teacher briefly glances at initiation form to check the criteria for mantra selection (age and/or sex) and to preserve the illusion of personal mantra selection.

Then the teacher begins speaking to the initiate, as they both sit in front of the altar: "In this personal instruction, you will receive a mantra, or sound, and then the procedure how to use it properly. Once you know the mantra or sound, by tradition, we keep it to our self. Also the actual procedure of meditation that you receive is to be kept private. For maximum results, all that we learn in private, we keep private. Do you agree?" Teacher must wait for student's assent before continuing. "Now, please come..." Teacher rises, stands in front of altar, and indicates where student should stand. "...stand here. You would like to have a flower?..." Teacher offers one of student's flowers back to student. The student must take and hold it for the ceremony to continue. "...and witness the ceremony which I perform in gratitude to the tradition of Masters who have given us this wisdom of integration of life. "This is a picture of Guru Dev, His Divinity Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Maharishi's Master, from whom we have this meditation. "Now, I'll begin -- and you just witness." Teacher performs puja. At the end of the puja, the teacher sinks to his knees in front of altar while sweeping his right arm -- indicating to initiate that he, too, should kneel. The ceremony may continue if the initiate does not kneel, or "bow down." After a moment, the initiator slowly rises, slowly and softly repeating the initiate's mantra -- without explaining to the initiate that this is his mantra. For the purposes of testing on TTCIII, before prospective teachers actually are given their list of TM mantras, the word "flower" was substituted. "Flower, flower, flower, flower..." The teacher beckons to the individual to repeat with hand motions. If he doesn't begin repeating the mantra, then the teacher says: "Repeat: Flower, flower, flower, flower...." The teacher ceases repeating the mantra, indicating with hand motions that the student should continue. The teacher waits for the student to repeat the mantra 3 or 4 times on his own, then motions him to sit in the provided chair. The teacher might say: "Continue...." (15 seconds) "Now, close the eyes and continue." (wait 15 seconds) "More quietly." (15 seconds, the teacher softens the voice each time "more quietly" is repeated) "More quietly." (15 seconds) "More quietly." (15 seconds) "Now, mentally -- without moving tongue or lips." (wait 15 seconds) "Open the eyes." Wait for him to open the eyes. "It's easy? Mental repetition is not a clear pronunciation, it's a faint idea. And if at any time you seem to be forgetting the mantra, don't try to hold on. Let it go. Now, close the eyes and continue." (2 minutes) "Open the eyes." Wait for him to open the eyes. "It's easy? You feel some relaxation? This is Transcendental Meditation. See, how simple it is? It goes almost by itself. We don't concentrate. We don't control the mind. Just think the mantra easily, effortlessly. And if at any time you seem to be forgetting the mantra, don't try to hold on. Let it go. If a thought comes, easily come back to the mantra. Now, close the eyes and continue." (10 minutes) "Open the eyes slowly." (15 seconds) "It's good? Relaxing? See how simple it is? Did you feel sometimes the mantra was forgotten and thoughts came? How many times this happened -- two, three times? It's good. Whenever we forget the mantra, we quietly come back to it. It's a very simple, natural process.

Now, you'll sit in this room and meditate for a while. After some time I'll come and then we'll talk more about it." The Teacher closes his eyes as an example and after a minute leaves the room as the meditator continues to meditate by himself for 20 minutes -- or if he is under 18, one minute for every year of age. When the teacher returns, he offers the meditator the Initiation Day Questionnaire to fill out and discusses experiences with him -- based on the General Points of the Checking Procedure. He tells the new initiate to meditate in this way in the afternoon at home, and then again in the morning and afternoon of the next day. Finally, he reminds him of the time and place of the First Day's Checking meeting. From: GENERAL POINTS The instructions in the following are to be used as and when necessary -- we talk only on what he is talking -- only that part of the point that is useful or applicable to his situation should be used. Checkers should be careful to mention negative aspects as little as possible.

A. "If during the period of 2 minutes of silence, at the end of meditation, there is some sensation in the body, some movement anywhere in the body, in the heart or head, or some pressure somewhere, then let the mind continue to feel it. Be with it innocently , as it is, even if it increases or decreases in intensity. This is the time to _not_ open the eyes until the sensation has significantly diminished or faded away. Usually it happens after 2 or 3 minutes. But in case the sensation is strong and shows no si gn of diminishing or dissolving then the only thing to do is to continue with it in the same innocent and easy way. "Or lie down and rest for 5 or 10 minutes and if you feel sleepy and doze off, don't mind the time and come out when you naturally wake up. Maybe some sleepiness comes in 5 to 10 minutes. This will indicate that some big block of stress is dissolved and no w the system is free for greater enjoyment and accomplishment." · Such cases of many minutes of continued sensations or stress will be rare, but if stress is there, it is wise to allow it to dissolve through this innocent procedure. (This is after meditation.) This information will be given during the three days of check ing.

B. "Maybe at any time during meditation you feel sleepy, don't try to be alert in order to think the mantra. If sleep comes, let it come. Sleep either sitting or if it seems to be too strong lie down in bed and sleep. Maybe in 5, 10 minutes or half an hour -- whenever you are awake, it will be good to sit and meditate, even for 5 or 10 minutes because this rest has revitalized the nervous system and it's now ready for much clearer experiences of finer states of the mantra. Always if we fall asleep during medit ation, we meditate immediately after waking up."

C. "One piece of information which it will be good to have is that _if_ ("if" is very important here), if at all, at any time it happens that during meditation we suddenly feel that any particular thought is overpowering and at that time it is not possible to pick up the mantra, then we don't try to pick up the mantra by force against the thought, just let the mind be easy, without trying to pick up the mantra. In this easy state the mind will naturally be drawn to some physical sensation in the body. This physical sensation born of the release of some deep stress in that area is causing that powerful thought. As the attention is innocently drawn to the physical sensation, the process of release of stress is facilitated, causing the release to be more thorough and at the same time more smooth and easy." · The shifting of the attention from the mental thought to the physical sensation has yet another value in that the mind is saved from the influence of the meaning of the thought. And this saves the psychology of the meditator from being spoiled by the nature or quality of stress that is being released. "As the sensation begins to diminish it will cease to grip the mind and naturally the mind will begin to entertain other thoughts. When the thoughts start coming in this is the indication that the sensation is no longer dominating and this is the time to start the mantra."

D. "It is an important principle to note, that at any time that the mind is capable of thinking any thought it is capable of thinking the mantra. Another point of importance to remember is that to allow the mind to continue feeling any faint sensation at the time the mind is capable of thinking thoughts and therefore capable of thinking the mantra is not the process of Transcendental Meditation and has the effect of making the mind lazy and weakening the system." · The meditator may not feel this lethargic influence in the system as he unnecessarily prolongs "feeling the body." The reason for this is that when he meditates using the mantra properly he does dive deep into finer levels of energy and thereby feels more energetic. This compensates for the weakening influence produced by prolonged feeling of physical sensations. The very knowledge that the energy gained during meditation is used up (to whatever extent doesn't matter) to compensate for the weakening influence caused by deviating from the subtleties of instruction for right meditation should be enough for any meditator to refrain from prolonging "body feeling" once the thoughts have started to come and the mind can think the mantra. · Note for checker: This principle of disallowing prolonged "body feeling" is however not to be confused with the special instructions given to initiators for certain mental cases.

E. "When we feel that we gain more energy in daily life it is important not to spend more energy than we gain. Take it easy, and always take time to meditate regularly. What has been experienced in different parts of the world is this: When a man starts to me ditate, within two or three days or weeks he begins to feel so fresh and full of energy that naturally he cannot resist entertaining greater activity. This is also due to the reason that he enjoys his activity more. This is the natural results of meditation, but there should be a limit of the increase of activity. If one increases activity more than the proportion of the increase of energy, then it will be naturally inevitable that one gathers fatigue. "This is generally witnessed in the case of busy businessmen. They start to do more business yet feeling fresh they naturally want to do even more. Having unduly increased their business responsibilities they soon start gathering fatigue and find that they cannot cope with their increased responsibilities. The result is anxiety and this brings fatigue. With the loss of balance of mind, the first thing they naturally find is that they have so much to do that there is not time for meditation. "This is like a gardener who has been watering the root everyday and when the fruits are ripe he is engaged in eating and enjoying them so much that he does not find time to water the root. Therefore, whatever the increasing energy level through meditation and whatever the increasing level of accomplishment, we should be innocently trying not to skip meditation because of the increased amount of responsibility and interest in work. The need to be regular in meditation is even more important when a man incre ases his responsibilities and undertakings."

F. "Regularity in meditation is of utmost importance and we always start with half a minute of silence and end with two minutes of silence." · People who have been meditating more than three years are sometimes recommended by the initiator that, if they have time, they can meditate 30 or 40 minutes. If they ask the checker how long they should meditate, the checker should say: "20 minutes is the usual time of each sitting of meditation. But if for any reason your initiator has advised you for longer or shorter periods of meditation it is better to go by this advice."

G. · In case a man complains that the mantra is going with the heartbeat or breath or tick tick of the clock, we say: "We take it easy, we don't try to associate the mantra with the heartbeat or breath or tick tick of the clock. Only that we are not concerned with this heartbeat.... Mantra is our concern. If heartbeat comes along we don't mind. Neither we try to maintain the heartbeat with the mantra nor we try to forget about it. Mantra is all our concern. Innocently we favor the mantra. As when we are walking on a road if someone is found walking by our side we just don't mind."

H. · Sometimes, if someone is exposed to some unsuitable food which has resulted in influencing the digestive system, then the experiences will not be fascinating. In such a state even the points of checking will not prove to be very effective. In such a case, after checking, it may be good to ask him if he has within 2 or 3 days eaten something after which he feels meditation is not to good as before. But in asking, be careful that you don't give an impression of great horror. Just say to him: " It doesn't matter, sometimes it happens. You don't have to worry much about it. If something wrong has been eaten, the effect of that will only last for 2 or 3 days and then you will have good meditation. What you have to do is just be regular in practice. It won't be good to stop for 2 or 3 days. Keep on meditating without effort, just not minding at this time whether the meditation is good or not."

J. · Even tiredness can sometimes bring the influence of unsuitable food. The same situation can be found in case of medicine. If a man asks, "I don't want to take medicine because it will influence my meditation," tell him: "Remaining ill will spoil the meditation more than the use of medicine. The advice is to choose the lesser evil. If we have to choose between illness or medicine, it is more useful to decide for medicine and against sickness. The effect of medicine, even if it overshadows clear meditations, is, in the final analysis, useful even in the cause of meditation." J. Pregnant women may meditate as much as is comfortable in their daily routine.

K. With reference to point number 29A: If after 10 minutes meditation some difficulty arises and we need to return to point number 24 to give a further period of 3-4 minutes of meditation, then continue also to point number 27,if time allows, so that the meditator finishes with 10 minutes of easy, comfortable meditation.

L. "When we meditate at home, we don't open and close the eyes many times before starting the mantra."
M. Shaking, etc. (expressions of release of stress) "These are all expressions of the release of stress. Because meditation is a natural process, naturally the body twists and turns in a manner which is favorable to the release of some specific stress. The way to meet with this situation is to 1) take it as it comes. Never do we try to physically resist the movement. If the movements become violent and seem to be going out of hand, then instead of physically trying to stop them, we can open the eyes so that our awareness comes out. With this the movements will naturally become less violent and stop. Opening the eyes is one thing we do from our side. "2) We don't cooperate with the movements in order to continue them. That means: we do not hold in our mind the idea that because these movements are the expressions of release of stress, and the they are allowed to go on the more the stress will be released, therefore let me enjoy the movements and continue them. If there is a slightest willingness to promote movements in order to release stress, then the chances are that the movements will continue even beyond their natural need. "3) It is safer to hold the idea in our mind that it is, after all, absolutely necessary that the movements should go on; even without movements the stress can be released. This idea in the mind without any application of physical force to stop movements w ill be found to be useful in naturally stopping the movements, but if in spite of this attitude, the movements tend to continue, then we know that they are necessary; we just be with them."

N. In case during checking we feel that man may be shy to say "no" to any point, just at that moment it will be good to verify his quote "yes" by asking him "How did you feel?" or "How is it?", so he has a chance to elaborate on that "yes" just so we can see that his quote "yes" is genuine and not out of shyness.

O. To be used in advising a man how to handle pain or pressure at home. "Sometimes it may happen that a person complains of pressure in the forehead, back of the head, or pain in the temples, or pain in the neck, appearing during meditation. This may be due to 2 different reasons: "1. Due to some faint or weak element of pain existing somewhere in the head, inside somewhere, which is not experienced when the awareness is in the gross and which begins to be experienced when the attention reaches that subtle level. In such a situation , one can't do anything other than experience it or go through the experience of it whenever it starts to be felt. This feeling of pain will inevitably continue time after time in almost every meditation until the wound is healed completely or until the si tuation is repaired. This situation may also be said to be the experience of pain during meditation arising from the process of release of stress. The formula in this case is take it as it comes and allow it to go the way it can go. "2. Some effort to meditate some trying to think the mantra -- some intention even faint to continue thinking the mantra or some idea to continue to experience the mantra or comprehend very faint states of the mantra -- all this can be summarized in one wo rd: effort during meditation. This can certainly be remedied by stopping repeating the mantra the moment the pain begins to dominate (bringing the attention to the mantra at this time would be a strain) and sitting doing nothing until the pain has somewhat diminished. Maybe it will take a few seconds or half a minute or one minute. Then start the mantra again. "This procedure of stopping the mantra the moment pain begins to dominate at any time during meditation should be adopted for both situations, number one or number two. It is not necessary to try to locate the reason, whether the headache is from situation number one or number two, because there is no way to determine the exact cause of this experience of pain during meditation. "Any experience of pain in the head, heart, or anywhere arising during meditation should be handled in this way. "Regarding pain in the neck: After sitting 2 minutes without the mantra with eyes closed, one may bring the head forward and backward and if necessary roll the head in a way that the neck feels increasingly comfortable."

P. "If at any time during meditation we become aware that the head is tilted forward and is not erect, it may be better to very slowly and easily bring the head back to an upright position. In case it is uncomfortable to bring it upright then leave it the way it is and continue to enjoy meditation. "If the head is tilted back then rather than strain the neck to bring the head forward, we should bend forward very slowly and easily from the waist allowing the head to come forward gently. Then sit up and continue meditation. "If we become aware that the head is moving from front to back or sideways, we shouldn't try to this movement. When the moving has stopped, then we easily bring the head back upright following the above instructions." Jai Guru Dev

'My life's fallen into the quicksand of modernity. It's filled with a whirl of TVs and phones and emails and Twitter and noise and bleeps.'

Transcendental meditation, does it really work?

First he tried sleep apps, then a flotation tank, then mindfulness – but nothing would stop the chatter in Stuart Heritage's increasingly exhausted mind. Would transcendental meditation, currently enjoying a revival, do the trick?
I don't know about you, but I am knackered. I wake up knackered, and spend each morning limply punching away at the fog inside my skull. I eat lunch knackered, then swear at every inanimate object in front of me. I try not to fall asleep at my desk, then stagger to my sofa, pass out in my clothes and crawl into bed for another night of infuriatingly broken sleep. That is my life. It's not like I even do very much.
I daren't complain about this out loud, of course, because I don't want to get into a game of competitive exhaustion with anyone. I don't want to tell somebody that I had four hours' sleep, because they'll reply that they had only three, plus their mattress caught fire at midnight. Worse, what if they're a new parent? "How are you?" they'll ask. "Bit tired," I'll reply. "Oh yeah?" they'll snap back. "Well, I haven't slept since October because I've been scraping baby diarrhoea off my fridge door with a spatula." You can't win with new parents.
But I am tired, and I blame myself. Like most people I know, my life has fallen into the quicksand of modernity, filled with a whirl of televisions and phones and sirens and emails and Twitter and lights and noise and bleeps. Simpsons quotes, video game sound effects and fairground music riverdance madly across the surface of my brain. Switching off takes deliberate effort, and even then it doesn't always work. I'll almost be asleep and suddenly my mind will shriek: "Have you remembered to set your alarm?" or, "You didn't reply to that woman yesterday, you idiot" or, "Remember the Nyan Cat song? No? OK, I'm going to repeat it over and over again at the top of my voice until 6am, hope that's cool."
To shut out the world, I have turned to transcendental meditation. This was not my first choice. First I tried the sleep app Pzizz, where you get bombarded by binaural sound effects until you drop off. This didn't work because I was convinced it would subliminally order me to eat my parents in my sleep. Then I tried flotation tanks, where you lie inside a tiny pod full of salty water for an hour. This didn't work because it turns out that splashing around inside a dark plastic coffin full of boiling hot tears is the precise opposite of relaxing. After that, I tried mindfulness.
Chances are you've already heard of mindfulness, because people won't shut up about it. Once, Buddhists and monks had mindfulness all to themselves, as a way of concentrating on their thought processes during meditation. Now that we've found a way of stripping out the spiritual aspect, it's everywhere. There are books. There are seminars. Therapists and counsellors prescribe it. There are apps, like the incredibly popular Headspace, where you're guided through 10 minutes of breathing exercises and top-down self-diagnostic checks on various parts of your body until you become the perfect model of beaming self-realisation.
Mindfulness helps thousands of people every day; people with depression and eating disorders and addiction problems. But it's not for me. Mindfulness requires self-observation, and self-observation is exhausting. You have to sit and pay attention to everything. How you're breathing, what your posture's like, what you're thinking about, why you're thinking about it, what to do because you're thinking about whatever you're thinking. It goes on and on. I know people who have been put on mindfulness courses by doctors, only to run away screaming at the piles of homework they're expected to do.
Plus mindfulness makes me neurotic. One exercise I did involved writing down every thought that passed through my mind over the course of half an hour. This taught me that I was worried about work. I didn't know I had been worried about work, but the knowledge sent me into a panicky death spiral. In retrospect, I should have just pushed all my feelings down into the pit of my stomach and ignored them until they turned into heart disease and killed me at a tragically young age. This is the Heritage way.
So I turned to transcendental meditation. I was wary at first, because I clearly remember watching a party political broadcast for the Natural Law party, the politicised wing of transcendental meditation, about 20 years ago. I still remember how colossally creepy it was. There was a man with a thick Selleck tache sitting behind a desk and explaining, in a cartoonishly sinister way, how his party wanted to unite the country beneath a field of collective consciousness. There was a horrible purple mural of the galaxy, the sort of thing you find in shops that sell under-the-counter bongs to 12-year-olds. There were the Yogic Flyers, who were basically a couple of blokes flapping around on a mattress in their pyjamas. There was the claim that the Yogic Flyers had single-handedly reduced crime in Merseyside by 60%, presumably by bouncing cross-legged around Toxteth like a squadron of low-flying Batmen. Some of us tried to yogic-fly up and down the CDT block at school the next day. It did our knees in.
The Natural Law party looked like the smug dinner party guest who had it all figured out and wanted to condescend you into submission. But times change. The Natural Law party deregistered a decade ago. Every idiot's got a beard now. More importantly, transcendental meditation has undergone an enormous PR overhaul. In recent years, it has been reframed as a practical lifestyle choice rather than something for bead-liking soap-dodgers.
According to its website, 4 million people around the world now practise it daily. It's not even called transcendental meditation any more. They played the Kentucky Fried Chicken card, so it's just TM.
Rather than banging on about collective consciousness, TM now sells itself as a cure for modern life. Our fight or flight responses have been mucked up, say TM's advocates, leaving us in a constant state of stress. By spending 40 minutes a day meditating, we can learn to dim those responses a little. They point to evidence from the American Heart Association and other organisations that it lowers blood pressure and risk of heart disease. There is much anecdotal evidence that it increases creativity and efficiency. All this and you get to experience a profound sense of rest in the process.
Perhaps because it's so beneficial – or perhaps because it sounds like a vaguely spiritual fad – a huge number of celebrities have signed on. Jerry Seinfeld does it. Martin Scorsese does it, as does Oprah Winfrey and her entire staff. Goldie Hawn led a TM session at Davos this year.Clint Eastwood does it, for crying out loud. Clint Eastwood, the opposite of a hippy, a man who shoots hippies. In this country, singer Tim Burgess of the Charlatans is a big believer in the power of TM. He has been practising since 2008, and told me it's "one of the most important aspects of my life". He meditates morning and evening. The morning, he says, is "a great time for ideas. Not necessarily world-changing ideas – often little ones about how to organise my day, things I have forgotten, plans and ruminations on what's going on."
The modern-day resurgence of TM is often attributed to the work of film director David Lynch, whose foundation teaches TM techniques to a number of at-risk groups. It helps returning soldiers deal with depression and post-traumatic stress. Under the guise of quiet time, it makes schoolchildren more productive and generally less likely to stab each other. It holds TM sessions in homeless shelters and prisons and orphanages. It has commissioned an ocean of scientific research and academic studies to back up its claims. Before he began practising TM, Lynch has said, he was "filled with worries and anxieties". Someone had suggested psychotherapy but, scared that this might limit him creatively, he turned to TM. "When I had my first meditation," he says, "this inner bliss revealed itself so powerfully – thick happiness came rushing in. And I said, 'This is it.' There it was. And everything just started getting better – way more fun, way more joy in the doing… And it just seems natural. You're happy and there's nothing you can do about it."
Does TM work for non-celebrities? It seems to be having a moment among 30-somethings who are quite emphatic about how calm they are. I tracked down a couple of devotees to be sure. Again, there was no word of dissent. Marketing manager Justyna Sobkowicz started practising in 2012, and happily admits it changed her life. "When someone told me that you have to give up 20 minutes twice a day, I was suspicious," she says. "But it calmed me down. You have less stress." She had experimented with other types of meditation, which didn't work. "They make you try to think you're on a beach, and it's an effort to imagine these things."
Maverick Gutarra (his real name) got into TM because he is a big fan of Lynch's Twin Peaks. He had tried other kinds of meditation: "But after those you still go out to a bar and drink seven pints." After learning TM a couple of years ago, he told me he was much healthier in every way: "You're not as likely to drink a bottle of tequila every night." Maverick talked about booze a lot. "I was raised in Sweden," he offered by way of explanation.
But they would say this, wouldn't they? They do TM, and they want everyone else to do it, too. I still wasn't sure but it was time to try it for myself.
Through, I found an instructor, Ged Valente. An amiable Glaswegian schoolteacher who turned to TM decades ago, Ged explained how easy it is to learn. You can't pick up TM from a book or an app or an article like this, because the instruction has to be customised to your individual needs. So, instead, an instructor comes to your house on four consecutive evenings. After that, you're on your own. You don't have to pay any more money. You don't have to attend any more classes or meet any new TMers. You don't even have to be that interested in religion or spirituality. Which is good, because I'm not.
Ged talked me through the difference between TM and mindfulness. Where mindfulness practises overt observation, he said, TM is all about letting go. You sit in silence for 20 minutes, and your mind naturally begins to quieten down. You repeat a mantra – a meaningless sound you're not allowed to tell anyone – and eventually, if you're doing it right, you reach a point of expansive silence, and your body floods with a warm and pleasant feeling.
This feeling has many names, but I'll be referring to it as transcendence. Ged likes to call it "pure consciousness", which is a little too mystical for me. Other people call it "bliss", although I won't because that word's been hugely devalued since people started using it as a Twitter hashtag for whenever they get to eat a Twix in an armchair. So transcendence it is.
Training consists of an exploratory chat, an initiation ceremony and three follow-up sessions. Hearing that a ceremony was involved was a worry, but not a big one. As Ged said, "If you like ceremonies, it's fun. If you don't, it's short." It takes five minutes, and by the time you're done, you've got your mantra.
After that, you can get on with meditating. TM, I quickly discovered, was pretty much designed for people as lazy as me. You sit down wherever you like, in your normal clothes, shut your eyes and repeat your mantra in your mind. That's it. As time goes on, you stop feeling self-conscious, and your breathing slows down. Your grip on the mantra loosens and it grows more abstract. Your mind becomes stiller and less troubled by thought. It's a nice feeling.
I felt groggy after my first go. My brain didn't quite know what to do without the usual clattering din of gibberish and retro sound effects. And five minutes later, I told my sofa to go fuck itself. I can't remember why. Inner peace was clearly some way off.
After a few attempts, though, I started to improve. Eventually it became easier to shut up my stupid brain. When you finally achieve this, everything just melts away. It feels like the instant before you fall asleep, but stretched out. I can't say for sure that this was transcendence but it definitely calmed me. To be honest, I might have just fallen asleep – but even that is fine. You're allowed to fall asleep in TM. It's a sign of good practice.
The full benefits of TM don't necessarily show themselves until you've been practising regularly for weeks or months – Maverick told me it took him a year – so it's too soon to say if it has had any concrete results. I don't know what it's done to my blood pressure, or whether I am any less likely to keel over with a giant heart attack before the age of 35. I certainly haven't yet experienced the shimmering, all-encompassing, unbound glow that comes with full-blown transcendence. But I've decided I'm going to stick with it, even if transcendence never comes.
Why? Because it's an almost embarrassingly luxurious thing to do. Aside from anything else it means that, for 20 minutes twice a day, I get to shut myself away. There is no TV, no rolling news, no phone calls or emails or idiots squabbling about specific definitions of feminism on Twitter. Nobody is trying to sell me anything. There's just me, alone, sitting quietly in a nice chair with my eyes closed. TM is the closest I can feasibly get to running off to live in a cave, which is something I'd like to do but probably won't because I don't think Domino's delivers to caves.
More than anything else, TM works for me. It might not work for you, but I find it profoundly relaxing. It gives me a chance to order my thoughts. I've discovered that I can concentrate more easily throughout the day. Most importantly, whether it's down to the meditation or some elaborate placebo effect, I am much less tired than I was a month ago. My sleep is deep and unbroken (so take that, new parents).
And best of all, I am still me. I haven't suddenly got religion. I still don't know what a collective consciousness is. I still swear at inanimate objects. Total relaxation and getting to call your printer a dickhead. That's the dream, isn't it?

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