Several years after I stopped meditating and left the Transcendental Mediation movement, I spent some time with an old friend who was still deeply involved, and asked him about recent happenings in Fairfield, Iowa, the home of Maharishi International University. He asked me why I was still interested, since, after all, I was no longer a meditator. I thought for a moment and then responded that one always maintains a curiosity about one’s “ex.”
I didn’t realize at the time how meaningful that comment was. For me, leaving the TM movement was very much like leaving a long-term relationship. I had been emotionally “married” to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ideas and organization for 22 years, and it was not easy to find the courage and resolve to initiate a divorce.
Over the years, I’ve seen various marriages come to an end around me, and I’ve had my own share of ill-fated romantic entanglements. Attachment to a person is not unlike attachment to an ideology. Relationships and ideologies both serve as emotional anchors that are hard to give up. Giving them up means being alone and choosing what’s unknown over what’s known and familiar.
I guess that’s why so many people stay in bad marriages, and perhaps that’s why people have trouble leaving the the Transcendental Meditation movement. It’s easier to stay in one’s comfort zone even if things aren’t great than to leave for something unfamiliar. When Neil Sedaka sang “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” he had it right.
The last time I was in Fairfield I ran into more than a few old-time meditators who had stuck around for years but didn’t seem especially fulfilled. When they saw me, there was invariably a look on their face that I found consistent across encounters. It was as if they couldn’t quite verbalize the question that must have been on their mind: “what’s it like out there?” I represented the choice not taken.
I see now that my years in the Movement were just like staying in an unhealthy relationship. I speak from experience as someone who went through lots of them. I would get physically involved with someone inappropriate and then try to justify the relationship until things just didn’t work anymore. Unhealthy relationships last as long as one or both partners pretend that everything is fine when it’s not. These relationships finally end when the truth can’t be ignored. I left the TM movement when I could no longer live with the self-deceit.
I see now that I was seduced. TM was my lover, and I was in love with an ideology that kept me enthralled but ultimately wasn’t right for me. If my involvement with TM could be compared to involvement with a person, it was as if the sex was good but the person wasn’t.
I certainly deserve some of the responsibility for this myself. I stayed in the Movement as long as I did because I was emotionally unhealthy. I liked the short-term, feel-good benefits of meditating, but I wasn’t ready to be an adult in the world. I wasn’t mature enough to take on the very human challenges of a career, finances, marriage, responsibility, and independent thinking.
After several years of increasing discomfort and inner struggle, I finally got up enough courage to leave the TM movement. The big surprise was that I immediately felt enormous relief and freedom. I’ve never looked back.
Life after getting out of a lousy “marriage” is great. I decided to join this blog to share that message. There is life after TM, and it’s much better.