Sunday, March 04, 2007

TM Checking and Hypnosis, Part I

The longer I spend with the Checking Notes, the more I'm convinced it's all in there.
--Anonymous TM Teacher

Year after year, the interest in the Movement is growing due to the success of Checking.
--Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, TTC III Videotape

In this series of articles, I compare Transcendental Meditation's Checking procedure to trance induction or hypnotism. I also develop the ramifications for TM practitioners of undergoing frequent trance induction -- and being subject to the subsequent suggestions made by the Checker.

"Checking" is a procedure conducted by a TM Teacher or Associate TM Teacher on a TM meditator. When an individual is first "initiated" into TM, the Teacher suggests that the new TM meditator undergo Checking once a week for the first month of meditation and once a month thereafter. The Teacher and the Checking Notes themselves state that the purpose of checking is to ensure that meditators begin meditation in the correct, "effortless" way. "The purpose of checking is to give the experience of right meditation.... Whatever is the complaint against meditation, whatever is the difficulty take the man through the necessary steps for checking, and he will feel better."1

Any meditator who does not practice meditation regularly or experiences various problems such as headaches or gross physical movements, to name only two, is told that regular Checking will make the meditation enjoyable again.

The Checking Notes, consisting of 30 points and pages of General Points, are memorized by prospective TM initiators during Phase I of the TM Teacher Training Course. Course participants (CPs) are tested by course leaders for absolute, verbatim knowledge of this procedure, its wording, and the precise time intervals as quoted in the Notes. CPs must pass such a test three times without mistakes or even hesitations. Completing Phase I, graduates are termed Associate TM Teachers. To become full-fledged TM Teachers, they must again pass the Checking test three times on Phase III.

Despite their importance, evidenced by the rigorous testing procedure, according to the restrictions imposed by TTC course leaders, they may only be "inscribed in consciousness" -- that is, memorized from dictation -- in order to preserve the "purity of the teaching." The dictated text is represented by course leaders as being a direct quote from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi -- including idiosyncratic grammar and phrasing -- and is said to be the only process by which his Transcendental Meditation may be corrected successfully.

The group and individual checking procedures, as well as the steps of initiation, are unique to TM, to my knowledge. Although many if not most meditative traditions practice group meditation, no other that I am aware of employs an "opening and closing the eyes" trance induction to begin. (One correspondent suggested that there were similar procedures used in Swami Sivananda's practice, but I have been unable to confirm this. No such procedure is mentioned in his treatise, Japa Yoga.)

Some naive TMers believe that these procedures are somehow derived from Vedic literature. This is not the case. In fact, the Maharishi did not introduce the Checking procedure until he had been teaching meditation for over 13 years, according to my sources. TM Teacher Janet Luise stated in communication with me on the Yahoo Group, Fairfield Life:

"In August 1968 during the First Squaw Valley course, Maharishi gave the first rough checking notes to everyone there (about 300 people I think)[.] It was ["]Close the eyes, open the eyes["] etc but no pages of
memorized what to do if.....

I know he gave all the European teachers checking in Livinio Italy. I THINK that was right before the 2nd Squaw Valley in 1969 but maybe not....

I was on the 1st Mallorca course[,] Dec 1969- Jan 1970[.] [W]e DID have lots of checking pages to learn[,] so I imagine the Estes Park course directly before also go them.

Prior to this, the Maharishi trained what he called "Meditation Guides," who were supposed to ensure right practice for TM meditators through advice similar to the General Points. From 1956, when the Maharishi began what would become the Transcendental Meditation movement, until 1968 the Checking Notes simply did not exist.

According to one anonymous critic, the Checking Notes were not the sole product of the Maharishi, but were created in conjunction with TM initiators, although the Maharishi approved their final form. Some of the General Points were proposed by TTC CPs while video cameras were rolling. Viewing these tapes on TTC III gave me an insight into how the Maharishi emended and added to the General Points. Simply, a future initiator would propose a common sense procedure, such as how to lift one's head without strain if it tilted forward, as in General Point "P." The Maharishi would consider the addition, and then either give or withhold his approval. Thus it appears that much of the Checking procedure was not created by the Maharishi himself.

In fact, as I develop in future installments of this series, I believe the heart of the Checking procedure -- as well as the group meditation procedure -- may have been suggested by individuals not only familiar with flowcharting, certainly not a skill the Maharishi would have known from his background, but also familiar with traditional and Ericksonian hypnosis.


1. "The Checking Notes," Revised by Maharishi December 74, introduction.


Why the TM Checking Notes Are Important

Overview of Checking Procedure

A Word about Secrecy

What is Trance Induction?

Symptoms of Trance Induction

Who Can Be Hypnotized

Comparing Checking to Formal Trance Induction

Comparing Checking to Naturalistic Trance Induction

Defining Embedded Commands or Post-Hypnotic Suggestions

Symptoms of Post-Hypnotic Suggestions

Suggestions Presented during the TM Checking Procedure

Implications of TM Checking as Trance Induction

Questions for Further Research -- and A Few Caveats

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