As of October 2, 2011, I will have been meditating forty years. Every morning and evening, for the past forty years, I have sat down, closed my eyes, and gently begun the silent, effortless inward repetition of a mantra, a Sanskrit word, that to this day I have kept secret, as per the instructions of my meditation teachers or “initiators,” who introduced me to Transcendental Meditation, as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian guru who taught the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Donovan, and many others, and who also brought to the world a technique of meditation that has been widely researched by the scientific community.
TM has also been widely scoffed and disparaged, as has the TM movement, largely because of the cost of TM instruction. When I learned TM as a student in 1971, it cost me $35. Now the cost for a working adult is $2,000. That’s right, two thousand dollars. U.S. Two thousand U.S. dollars. I don’t know about you, but I’m a working adult, and if I were to see that price tag today, I would be, uh, somewhat put off.
But here’s an important question: Is TM worth that cost?
My short answer is, “Yes! A thousand times, yes.”
However, I know a lot of people that have learned TM who would answer differently. My sister, some good friends, and many others that I know have learned TM and, for whatever reason, have not continued meditating. My wife learned TM in 1981 and has continued doing it every day, but only once a day.
I am one of the very few Transcendental meditators I know who still does Transcendental Meditation, as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, twice a day, as instructed, and has been doing so since first learning the technique.
Why did so many people quit TM? And why do I still do it?
As to the first question, here is some of what I’ve gotten from talking to those I know who have quit TM:
1. They’re quitters. That’s right, persistence just isn’t their thing. The same pattern shows up in their marriages (these people have never married, or been married repeatedly) and/or are on their third, fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh career or line of work.
As anybody who knows me well will tell you, I also have persistent problems with persistence and follow-through. Having done many odd jobs, I am now in my second career, and am considering a third. But I’ve stuck with meditation, and by the way, miraculously I’ve also been married for thirty years. Something is sticking.
Closely related to #1 in my observations from talking to ex-TMers is:
2. They lack self-control, and don’t follow instructions. Many in this group failed to observe “The Fifteen-Day Requirement.” When first learning Transcendental Meditation, we are instructed to quit using all recreational drugs for fifteen days or more before being “initiated” into the technique. People in group #2 told me that they smoked pot or used another recreational drug or drugs within those fifteen days, yet in many cases they still benefited from TM; they just slid into group #1 due to lack of self-discipline or commitment.
3. They never learned correctly in the first place. My first experiences of TM were profoundly enjoyable and beneficial, but I quickly ran into trouble. In wanting to enjoy more profoundly enjoyable experiences, I started introducing effort into my meditations, and immediately stopped enjoying or benefiting from TM at all. I mentioned this to my TM teacher in a standard follow-up meeting, and she insisted that I get my meditation “checked.” This involves sitting with a trained “checker” (I have since become a checker myself), and making sure that meditation is easy. I have “bolded” the word “easy,” because it is the key word in the correct practice of Transcendental Meditation, as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. If anyone finds TM difficult, they aren’t doing it correctly, that’s all there is to it.
So, if you are one of those who learned TM and quit, maybe you just need a “check-up.”
4. They never benefited from TM. Having personally “checked” many dozens of meditators over the years–mainly in the TM center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania–I will have to say that I think there are people who, for whatever reason, simply do not or can not benefit from TM. It might be that they lack the motivation to stick with it long enough to learn correctly; it might be that they lack the self-discipline to sit down and close their eyes for twenty or more minutes twice a day; it might be that they have mental issues that make it especially hard or even impossible for them to learn TM correctly; it might be that their lives are simply too busy, noisy, and/or chaotic for TM. But to the last group–those who feel they’re too busy–I would say that the busier you are, the more you need TM. But that’s just me.
OK, so why do I love TM so much, and why have I kept meditating all these years?
1. It feels good. In my body. Sometimes better than sex.
2. It’s beautiful. Some of the most beautiful moments of my life have come during or soon after a meditation. The first thing I did after my first meditation was to eat a walnut. It was the most delicious walnut I had ever tasted. In fact, it was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted. In fact, it seemed to be the first thing I had ever really tasted.
In yoga culture, initiation into meditation is sometimes called “second birth.” Having gotten a completely fresh new experience of life after my first meditation, I like to call October 2–the day of my initiation and first meditation–my “second birthday.”
3. It has helped my social life. That is an understatement. When I first learned TM, I had zero friends. Zero. In my last two years of high school, and my first year of college, I had gone to a lot of parties and done a lot of drugs with a lot of friends and with my little brother Frank III. But around nine months before learning TM, I completely quit all drugs, and broke off all ties with friends and family who were still using drugs, even alcohol. Needless to say, that cut a lot of people out of my life, and I didn’t like to hang out with religious people, so basically my social circle consisted of nobody. After learning TM, I gradually started to reconnect with the human race, to the extent that in my daily work I now interact with dozens, if not hundreds, of people every day, and enjoy vibrant friendships and acquaintances with dozens, if not hundreds, of people that I have met in my work as a teacher of English as a second language to immigrant adults. I feel that TM has made me more accepting, tolerant, of loving towards all that I meet, and consequently I have very little conflict or friction in my relationships.
4. It has opened my mind to a lot of new ideas that I love. Such as doing this blog. I’ve been doing this for less than a year, but already it’s one of my favorite things, and a natural fit with meditation, as many blogs are meditations or essays on different topics.
But before I go, below are a few more links on TM.
i. A good, general factual overview (I love Wikipedia!): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendental_Meditation
ii. An article on TM reducing post-traumatic stress disorder. (My entire childhood was a case of traumatic stress, and my adolescence and early adult life were an experience of post-traumatic stress.) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232362.php
iii. And here’s the official TM website: http://www.tm.org/