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Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a technique for avoiding distracting thoughts and promoting a state of relaxed awareness. The late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi derived TM from the ancient Vedic tradition of India. He brought the technique to the U.S. in the 1960s.

While meditating, the person practicing TM sits in a comfortable position with eyes closed and silently repeats a mantra. A mantra is a meaningless sound from the Vedic tradition that’s been assigned by a certified instructor.

According to supporters of TM, when meditating, the ordinary thinking process is “transcended.” It’s replaced by a state of pure consciousness. In this state, the meditator achieves perfect stillness, rest, stability, order, and a complete absence of mental boundaries.

Some studies have found that regular meditation can reduce chronic pain, anxiety, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and the use of health care services. But more study is needed.

Some researchers fault the quality of meditation studies and say meditation is no more effective than health education in addressing most common health problems.

Meditation, both TM and other forms, is generally safe for healthy people, and may improve quality of life. But experts agree that meditation shouldn't be used as a single treatment for any particular health condition, or instead of conventional medical care.

Learning and Practicing Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation is not a religion or philosophy. And it does not require any lifestyle changes.

But unlike some forms of meditation, TM technique requires a seven-step course of instruction from a certified teacher.

A TM teacher presents general information about the technique and its effects during a 60-minute introductory lecture. That’s followed by a second 45-minute lecture in which more specific information is given. People interested in learning the technique then attend a 10- to 15-minute interview and 1 to 2 hours of personal instruction. Following a brief ceremony, they're each given a mantra, which they're supposed to keep confidential.

Next come 3 days of checking for correctness with 1 or 2 more hours of instruction. In these sessions, the teacher does the following:

  • Explains the practice in greater detail
  • Gives corrections if needed
  • Provides information about the benefits of regular practice

Over the next several months, the teacher regularly meets with practitioners to ensure correct technique.

People practice TM twice a day for 15 to 20 minutes. That usually means once in the morning before breakfast and once in the afternoon before dinner.

TM does not require any strenuous effort. Nor does it require concentration, or contemplation. Instead, students are told to breathe normally and focus their attention on the mantra.

A few reports suggest that meditation can cause or worsen symptoms in people with certain psychiatric conditions or produce feelings of disorientation and anxiety. If you have an existing mental condition, consult your doctor before starting TM. Also let your meditation instructor know about your condition.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 20, 2013
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