A simple but powerful technique, transcendental meditation (TM) serves as an way to manage mental stress and has even been shown to help with the symptoms of a variety of physical ailments. Transcendental meditation as it is known today first gained popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, but the practice originated thousands of years ago as a part of the Vedic tradition in India.
Since TM hit the mainstream, celebrities and other prominent figures have touted the benefits of the practice. Although the name may sound complex, this simple practice is powerful and can be used as a part of a daily self-care regimen.
Transcendental Meditation: The Basics
The core principle of transcendental meditation is not to simply avoid outside distractions but to ignore distracting thoughts. It is common for people to believe that meditation means tuning out every distraction, though this is not possible for most people. Instead, TM centers on creating a Zen-like state of awareness by concentrating on a specific thought or mantra.
During transcendental meditation, you sit comfortably, close your eyes, and repeat your mantra silently. Reciting your mantra out loud is counterintuitive because transcendental meditation is all about putting external stimuli aside and turning inward. The normal thought process is also transcended and replaced by a complete focus on your chosen mantra. Though you can practice TM for any length of time that you choose, it is generally recommended to devote 15 to 20 minutes twice a day for your meditation, preferably in the morning and the evening before bed.
While anyone can study and begin to incorporate TM into their daily lives, it is considered an advanced meditation technique. There are certified TM courses available for those who want to go deeper into their personal practice or would like to guide others on their transcendental meditation journeys.
Differences between Mindfulness Meditation and Transcendental Meditation
Not all meditation techniques are created equal, and this is certainly true for mindfulness meditation and transcendental meditation. The two techniques differ and are used to achieve different results, but many people confuse the two. Let’s explore the differences.
Originating in India, Transcendental Meditation comes from the Vedic or Ayurvedic tradition and was introduced to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. TM is considered a passive type of meditation in which your sole goal is to divert your attention to your mantra, completely tuning out other sensations and distractions.
Mindfulness, on the other hand, was initially popularized in the West by scholar MinJon Kabat-Zinn and is rooted in Buddhist tradition. Mindfulness is more active, requiring you to pay attention to sensations like breath and physical touch. When practicing mindfulness, the goal is to monitor your thoughts, repeatedly bringing the attention back to the present moment when the mind wanders.
So, the main difference between mindfulness meditation and transcendental meditation is that the former focuses on being fully present on an awareness of one’s body in the moment. The latter is more concerned with transcending awareness of your body and your present thoughts to achieve a deeper state of awareness.
Other differences lie in how the techniques are taught. Mindfulness is arguably easier to learn and practice as it is more mainstream. Information on mindfulness meditation is easily accessible through books, podcasts, and even organized group meditation efforts. Transcendental meditation is a specific seven-step process that is only taught by instructors who go through extensive TM training and certification processes.
Other Things to Know about Transcendental Meditation
Although the two techniques have distinct differences, there are times when the two overlap as well. In fact, both practices can be used depending on a person’s goals. For this reason, no one practice is considered better than the other. It all comes down to personal preference.
If you are unfamiliar with either technique, try both and note how each makes you feel before, during, and after each session. If you have specific goals you are trying to achieve, pay attention to the technique that seems to resonate best and/or pushes you closer to those goals.
Transcendental meditation is not difficult in and of itself, but it does require a certain level of concentration that some people may not be used to. The practice is not supposed to be overwhelming, so it might be better to try shorter sessions when you are first getting started or work with an instructor. No matter which approach that you choose, exploring TM can serve as a powerful tool on your journey to self-realization.