I first learnt the technique of Transcendental Meditation (TM) about 12 years ago. I practised it regularly for a number of years and then, after it helped me reduce my anxiety, sleep better and become more focussed, I got lazy and only practised when I felt I “needed” it. At the beginning of this year, I decided to make an effort to recommit to TM. Why? It’s easy, and it is said to naturally help lower blood pressure, cure insomnia, preserve youthfulness and boost productivity amongst other benefits.
WHAT IS TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION?
It sounds like a type of dental surgery! But Transcendental Meditation is a technique of meditation, a method for relaxation, stress reduction and self-growth using an assigned mantra.
Based on an ancient technique, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought Transcendental Meditation from India to the West in 1958. Learning TM doesn’t require any change in lifestyle or religion. It is a practical technique which is practised in all cultures and religions.
Today, more than six million people worldwide and 100 000 South Africans practice TM. Celebrities like Oprah, Ellen, Gwyneth Paltrow, Martin Scorsese, Arianna Huffington, Clint Eastwood and David Lynch are all fans of TM. The last-mentioned recently established the David Lynch Foundation, that focusses on reduction of trauma and stress with a strong focus on TM.
I know what you’re thinking – meditation and mindfulness are buzzwords that most of us have heard a lot lately. Relaxation studios and retreats are popping up far and wide. Everywhere you turn there are new gadgets and apps telling you to “breathe”. And although ANY form of relaxation, conscious breathing and stillness is beneficial to us, Transcendental Meditation is a little different to anything else I’ve ever tried.
Watch this inspiring video on the work that the David Lynch Foundation is doing through TM.
WHY TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION WORKED FOR ME
Growing up, I had (and still have) occasional problems with distraction and anxiety. When I think of my most anxious moments – school speeches or five-hour university exams – I wish I had TM to help me calm down and focus.
I have tried other forms of meditation with limited success. Being forced to sit still, in an uncomfortable position while (hypothetically) thinking of the colour blue or waves crashing on a beach, didn’t work for me. After less than five minutes I’d start fidgeting, planning my day or stressing about things I need to get done. I suppose everyone is different, and what works for others may not be perfect for me.
HOW IT WORKS
Transcendental Meditation is a technique that is taught. I attended a course at the Houghton TM Centre in Johannesburg. The course was taught over four days in approximately two-hour sessions.
During Transcendental Meditation, you do not visualise a “happy place”. You do not have to sit still for an hour. And you do not have to concentrate. A teacher teaches you the technique, and you are assigned a mantra (a sound) which you repeat quietly in the back of your mind during your 20-minute practice with eyes closed, twice a day (although even one session is very beneficial).
Generally, you sit upright in a chair or on the floor with your hands folded. If you’re uncomfortable, you can change your position. If thoughts enter your mind, you are taught to acknowledge them and then return to your mantra. Deep TM, and its “natural high”, comes with practice and once mastered, is more easily reached. During deep TM, my limbs feel heavy, I feel restful, and my mind is extremely alert or conscious. One can do TM anywhere, one of my favourite places is on a plane.
Improved effectiveness is one of the biggest benefits. I recall that at my first job, one of the senior executives practised TM. He booked 20 minutes in his diary for a time-out every day. Oprah Winfrey’s entire studio at Harpo used to come to a standstill at 9am and at 4:30pm every day so that all staff members could practice TM.
I certainly experience a sense of calm, dramatic reduction of tiredness and improved productivity. Other reported benefits include reduced depression and anxiety; a better fight against addiction and improved creativity, youthfulness and general wellness.
It goes without saying that TM can aid, but should not replace any medical treatment. And healthy living includes other elements such as diet and exercise.
You can call the Maharishi Vedic Institute on 011 728 0959 if you’re interested in finding out more about Transcendental Meditation or visit their website for more information.
In South Africa, seminars regularly take place in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. Find out when the next seminar takes place, here.
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