Nothing beats relaxation and down time, and when such time is trademarked by a global corporation it must be the most superior rest period ever. Such is the case with Transcendental Meditation™, also known as TM™, a licensed trademark of the Maharishi Foundation, Ltd., which in turn is named for the late brainchild behind TM, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Maharishi introduced the meditation technique globally in 1958, teaching his followers the benefits of achieving deep restfulness through sitting quietly with eyes shut, repeating a personal sound mantra for twenty minutes twice daily. TM also claims to improve mind, body and relationships; reduce stress and high blood pressure, as verified by a number of reputable publications; and work toward achieving world-peace.
As Easy as 1, 2, 3… 4, 5, 6, 7!
While the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi asserted that TM is simple, can be practiced without any preparation and can be learned by anybody, it must first be taught to new practitioners by a certified instructor via a seven-step program and subsequent follow-up sessions.
The initial seven steps constitute Phase 1 of the TM process. They are spelled out on the oddly big-pharma-looking official TM website that extols the science of the practice. With the exception of the personal interview step, which runs 10–15 minutes in length, each of the steps requires 45 minutes to 2 hours time to complete. Phase 2 involves weekly and monthly check-ups – possibly for the rest of your life – to ensure that TM is being practiced correctly and that all the benefits are being sufficiently reaped: all this for the low, low price of 100.000 ISK. Courses will be provided for around 10.000 ISK shortly as a result of the recent efforts of Mr. David Lynch and friends.
TM enthusiasts stand by the practice due to its numerous benefits. According to the TM’s official website and supporting journal articles on the subject, it encourages the development of total brain functioning by improving communication between different parts of the brain; it promotes creativity and reduces stress by easing access to the thinking mind and reducing activation of the sympathetic nervous system; TM enables the management of diabetes symptoms by minimising stress and, as a result, blood pressure; and it contributes to the creation of a healthy, peaceful and creative society by encouraging the same traits in its practitioners.
In recent years, TM has been introduced to teenaged school children in the hopes of boosting their ability to concentrate in the classroom and increase their IQ’s, and it has been promoted as an acceptable workplace habit to increase employee mental health and productivity. Outside of such institutional venues, TM is practiced by millions seeking health and balance of the body and mind.
The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Born in 1917 in Madhya Pradesh, India, Mahesh Prasad Varma (later changed to Maharishi Mahesh) began his spiritual studies under Swami Brahmananda Saraswati in 1940 after completing a Masters Degree in Physics. After twelve years studying meditation under the Swami, he decided to become a Maharishi (a teacher of mysticism and spiritual knowledge) and share his views on meditation with the world.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi developed TM in 1955, established the Spiritual Regeneration Movement in 1957 and kicked off his first world tour in 1958. Beginning in the 1970’s, the Maharishi sought to establish enough TM teaching centres globally to accommodate one in every million humans and in 1975 introduced TM-Sidhi – at the time claiming it could teach people to fly and develop other superhuman-esque abilities! The Maharishi also introduced Maharishi Vedic Science (MVS) for those wanting to add a touch of the Maharishi to their health-care, architecture, farming and musical tastes. Nobody makes a TM mix-tape quite like the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Though TM-Sidhi and MVS are creations of the Maharishi and related to TM, they are not active requirements of practicing TM.
Celebrities and Controversy
TM garnered popularity worldwide in the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s, helped in part by famous practitioners like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Andy Kauffman, Clint Eastwood and… David Lynch. Actress and activist Mia Farrow was also a student of the Maharishi in 1968 until he allegedly got a little too handsy in a cave in India following some hard-core meditation. Ms. Farrow later noted in her autobiography that her panic and fleeing from the cave was in part due to her heightened state of consciousness. However, this alleged scenario had also allegedly played out with other female followers. Allegedly.
The word ‘cult’ has been tossed around when referring to TM since the late 80’s because the practice ideally integrates itself into every aspect of the practitioner’s life and, according to the Cult Awareness Network (which kept tabs on TM and over a hundred other suspected cult groups worldwide), “seeks to strip individuals of their ability to think and choose freely.” Proponents of TM, however, note that the practice is not a religion and it is practiced independently of religious beliefs – the official TM website features letters written by priests and rabbis who meditate daily using the Maharishi’s technique. Whether or not they freely choose to write those letters is anybody’s guess.
Despite instances of controversy, by the late 90’s the Maharishi’s foundation was worth more than US$3 billion, and TM claimed millions of followers worldwide. With millions of people labouring under the scientifically proven (by 600 studies, no less) tenant that their positive thought will pump peace into the world, cure heart disease, produce only favourable weather and fix the economy (David Lynch has his sights set on Iceland – thanks man!), world peace may be just around the corner… and if it doesn’t come soon, there are a lot of TM-ers to blame.