What if I told you that sitting quietly for twenty minutes twice a day could change your life?
When Layla, one of my closest friends and a sister-by-choice, suggested I write a blog post about transcendental meditation (TM), I was immediately apprehensive. I’m a chronic stress junkie whose attention span is, more often than not, laughable; what pearls of wisdom could I possibly offer about sitting still and calming one’s mind? What’s a mantra, anyway?
And so I researched.
Following in the footsteps of other eastern practices like yoga, North Americans have developed quite an appetite for TM. From multi-billion dollar hedge fund founders to Jerry Seinfeld, Moby, and Ellen Degeneres, TM has developed something of a cult celebrity following. If you key “transcendental meditation” into YouTube, you’ll find actor Russell Brand praising the technique as “a shower for your brain,” one that helped him get and stay sober.
So what is TM, exactly?
I liked this definition from GQ writer Josh Dean:
You simply allocate twenty minutes of quiet time and use a mantra to liberate your mind from conscious thought and trigger the meditation. Mantras work, in theory, because they are essentially meaningless word sounds. One is chosen for you by your teacher from a library of dozens that go back to TM’s ancient Vedic origins. Once a mantra is given, it is never shared under any circumstances.
Unlike me, Dean dove headfirst into the practice in order to present his readers an authentic written account of his experiences. The closest I’ve come to achieving any kind of nirvanic, meditative state was a brief, panic-inducing encounter with mindfulness meditation a few years ago. Because I am neither an authority nor an expert on the topic, all I can speak to is the practice’s curb appeal – which, I’ll admit, it has a lot of.
Particularly when compared to other meditation techniques, TM seems much more user-friendly and conducive to our society’s GO KEEP GOING DO MORE DON’T STOP NEVER STOP MOVING ethos. This, of course, is its own can of worms.
TM can be practiced pretty well anywhere: In a train. In a tree. In a box. With a fox. In a house. With a mouse. Here, there, everywhere.
All you need is a mantra, a spot of faith, and a willingness to devote forty minutes of your day to stillness. Oh, and a bit of cash, too: I learned that a typical TM starter kit (generally a four-day retreat) can run you upwards of $1,000 a person.
And while you needn’t look far to find skeptics and non-believers, there is an abundance of research to support TM’s ability to reduce stress, remove inflammation, and lower blood pressure and risk of chronic health conditions.
If nothing else, by experimenting with TM you give yourself total permission to detach from your bleating cell phone and the cyclone of stimulation and information we are swept up in every day. That’s got to be worth something, right?
I want to know: do you think you’ve got what it takes to pass the Russell Brand Sobriety Test?