Earlier today, I received an email from a psychologist and TM teacher. I won't share his email—I promise confidentiality to anyone who writes me, no matter what they have to say.
But you'll probably catch the drift from my public response.
Dear Dr. X,
Thanks for your input. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with email I receive from TM true believers, you seem to be reacting to or imagining things I have never said, implied, or even thought.
It doesn't appear you've read much of what I've written. I have repeatedly said over the years that I think TM is as good or better as any other beginner technique.
My beef is with the policies of the Org. Not simple 2×20 TM practice.
Although, it does appear, based on my clinical practice, that a significant minority of people who "rounded" extensively may have difficulties with dissociation ranging from mild to severe, according to their reports. ("Rounding" refers to extended meditation practice, as much as 8 hours a day or more.)
I have also written widely that I myself meditate using a number of techniques, including a mantra-based one. Although I no longer do TM or recommend it to others, I do teach some of my clients to meditate, using simple mindfulness techniques.
So your charge that I am against all meditation simply isn't true.
Nor have I ever said TM is the worst enemy of humanity.
Choosing to put my energy into criticizing TM is of course my choice. You're free to disagree with my choice. But, because you are a psychologist, it's hard to understand your pre-judgment of my personal life choice based on little or no information about me.
I am in no way doubting that you have had good experiences with TM. But I'd be very surprised if you've been around the TM movement for any period of time and are not well aware that a significant minority of long-timers have very serious problems with dissociation, depression, anxiety, involuntary tics, body jerking, and more.
Were you around for the delightful phrase, "Fiuggi Flipouts"?
It was the callous way that we "initiators" referred to people who came back from virtually unlimited meditation routines practiced at the Teacher Training Course in Fiuggi Fonte in 1972. Many were literal basket cases. Some have still not put their lives back together.
You state that Zen and many other spiritual traditions talk about similar problems for advanced practitioners. I'm not willing to cavalierly toss this kind of damage aside just because it may be true for other spiritual paths. Perhaps they need reform, too.
Besides, TM is not a religion. Not really a "spiritual path."
It is a multiBILLION-dollar corporation—selling very expensive products.
If Transcendental Marketer$ warned people upfront that some of them may experience life-destroying effects from doing TM and the other advanced techniques exactly as instructed, I would be somewhat less concerned—I suppose. But we both know they do the exact opposite, proclaiming that it's good for everyone, improves all areas of life, and has only positive effects.
These are only 3 of the lies the TM movement uses in order to make money. Even the Maharishi knew they weren't true.
I'm pleased to hear that none of your patients experienced these effects. But I've been working in this field for 15 years, working with well over 1500 TMers—mostly teachers and other long rounders. Certainly most never experienced the debilitating effects of long-term, advanced TM practice that I describe. But hundreds did. And that's just counting the people that I personally have worked with.
I can't express the cumulative effect on me of seeing the horror in the nearly empty eyes of person after person describing uncontrollable dissociation, depression, anxiety, difficulty with concentration, memory, identity—the wreckage of demolished lives.
Your suggestion isn't bad. The TM Org should publish a prominent disclaimer warning that people with serious mental disorders should only practice under the care of a mental health professional. Of course, the overwhelming number of people I'm describing wouldn't have been protected by such a disclaimer—even if the TM Org had the honesty to publish it.
Other disclaimers to add:
To say the TM Org is not the greatest evil humanity faces sounds like a convenient rationalization. It is not equivalent for me with saying the TM Org is not evil at all.
- If you have any tendency toward mental illness even garden-variety depression—whether you know it or not—you may end up in a nuthouse from practicing TM.
- If you've ever smoked a doobie, you may become a neurological basket case.
- If you're a "negative" person, you're probably wasting your time practicing TM.
- If your karma is bad, all bets are off.
- If you run into trouble, we can't help you. You're on your own.
And it's certainly no ringing endorsement of the product.
Hitler was a worse evil. Stalin was worse. Heck, cancer is worse. There is always someone in greater pain somewhere. Should we therefore dismiss the pain of everyone else?
We fight the evil that we know.
You object to my writing tone.
I use the tone that is most likely to get my message heard. Unfortunately, in Kali Yuga (the Hindu Dark Age), satire, sarcasm, and outright ridicule works.
John Stewart, Saturday Night Live, and South Park rule!
P.S. For readers unfamiliar with dissociation, what we used to laughingly call "spacing out," "blissing out," being a "space cadet" or "cosmic cowboy": This article discusses symptoms; this article offers some simple techniques that may help cope with dissociation; this article presents a "case history" from expert testimony in the Kropinski case, which also included the infamous "List of TM Casualities."