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I have tried many meditation techniques. There are distinct differences between techniques. Some are formal. Some are religious. Some require great effort.

Most meditation affects the brain, though benefits may vary or be disputed. A study in the journal Consciousness and Cognition identified 3 meditation categories, based on measured brain wave differences.

Under concentration or focus, they placed  types such as Zen and Vipassana.

Under the category of open monitoring is Mindfulness and Kriya Yoga.

Under self-transcending is Transcendental Meditation (TM).

I first became aware of TM like many Americans when The Beatles connected with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968. It was the Summer of Love and flower power was in full bloom and consciousness was being opened through TM and drugs. I didn’t take it very seriously.  The Maharishi got some criticism from stricter yogis who thought he went commercial. But it seemed to work for them.

The Maharishi died in 2008 but TM continues to promise health, stress relief and spiritual enlightenment and grow its followers. Transcendental Meditation is one specific form of silent mantra meditation.

I rediscovered, honestly just discovered, TM this year. It came to me through Jerry Seinfeld. Yes, the comedian.

Interview by Transcendental Meditation teacher Bob Roth
with Jerry Seinfeld discussing his 40+ years of practicing TM.

Celebrity TM practitioners still get more attention, but there are millions of ordinary folks using the technique. I think that many of them are like me and have tried other techniques but find TM to be completely different.

It never appealed to me with any mediation practices that you needed to “join,” pay money or continue to take classes with experts. I never took to strict rules or rigid practices.

Compared to other techniques, TM is almost effortless. It is easy to learn. Children adapt to it well.

Comparing it to my own Zen experiences, I immediately took to the idea of not having to concentrate. TM is not about the control of the mind. You don’t monitor your thoughts as in any mindfulness practice.

Thankfully, you don’t have to “empty your mind.” I had a lot of trouble with the empty mind and dismissing thoughts. In my last formal Zen session at a monastery, I finally relaxed because I just let the thoughts come – and stay.

My initial excitement with TM was cooled when I started to investigate deeper and found out that you are officially supposed to learn the technique through a standardized seven-step course over six days by a certified TM teacher at a cost of almost $1000. That shut me down.

TM requires that you use a mantra. You would think that you could make one up or get one from a friend who practices, but this item is something no TM practitioner is supposed to ever reveal. It starts to sound like a cult. I found online that:

It is important to receive the mantra from a fully trained Transcendental Meditation teacher because they have been given a selection of mantras which have been passed down through a long line of teachers over thousands of years. The effects are therefore well known both historically and currently to be always positive and life-enhancing.

I don’t like the sound of that.

But the Internet is the place where all knowledge now lives. Do some searching and you can find sites and videos on how to practice TM. You can find sites with mantras.

I suppose this unofficial path may be lacking something, but it works. After all. the seeking is part of finding the path.

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