Friday, December 31, 2010

Transcendental Meditation's Testimonials

"I lost 150 pounds in 4 weeks!" (RESULTS NOT TYPICAL.)

When I look at pro-Transcendental Meditation websites, I often find testimonials of people pleased with the results of TM. Some of these testimonials are deeply moving, even heart-wrenching.

Scientists call testimonials "anecdotal evidence," and it is poor science. That's because while a testimony is suggestive of what may be worth studying, it is far from proof. Testimonials do not take into account that for every one person with a positive experience, there may be many with a neutral or even negative experience. They do not take into account the long-term effects of the product. They do not take into account the subjectivity of the testifier. (Note, for example, the paper about TM commonly called the "German Study," which observes that some TMers extolled the efficacy of TM while ignoring their increased anxiety and depression.) There are many reasons why anecdotal evidence is a poor scientific tool.

But for those of us who were deeply involved in the TM movement, positive opinions about TM may have been the only opinions we heard. After living on a TM course for 1.5 years and hearing only positive testimonials, I came to believe that everyone who learned TM had positive results. And for non-TMers who are looking for ways to improve their lives, these testimonials may seem quite convincing.

"I was always afraid. Now I am peaceful inside - and
I am getting A's." - Student

"For years I was tortured by my memories. Now I have a way out of the darkness." - Former soldier

"I am winning my battle with demons of drugs. Thank
you for this, David Lynch." - Homeless person

(from the website.)

I am sorry for these people's suffering, and I am glad they found some relief through TM. But are these results universal? Are they typical? Are they even frequent? Can other modalities accomplish the same or better results more effectively or less expensively?

So to help recovering TMers who may have been mind-controlled into believing that TM is the answer for everybody, and to help non-TMers who are trying to decide if they want to learn TM, here is my own compilation of TM testimonials. And I didn't even solicit or pick over testimonies to find critical ones. They are just quotes or paraphrases from random acquaintances whom I have met over the years:

"When I learned TM, it didn't seem like anything special. There were other types of meditations I had learned that, from the first time I did them, I knew they were a practice I wanted to continue for a long time. I didn't feel that way about TM." - Social worker, 2008.

"When I first learned TM, I thought it was great and wanted to become a TM teacher. Except I felt the organization was too cult-like. Years later I learned to relax using biofeedback, and I couldn't believe the experience. I had never had such deep profound relaxation in my life." - Psychotherapist, 2010

"I was one of those people TM didn't work for." - Lawyer, 2008

"The first three days of TM was fabulous. It got me higher than the recreational drugs I used. But after a few days the high wore off, so I stopped meditating." - College student, 1972

"What results have I gotten from TM? Well, I used to take a nap when I got home from work every day. Now after work I do TM instead of taking a nap. No, no other benefits." - Elementary school teacher, 1974

"When I first started TM, I stopped taking drugs and drinking. But after a few years, I went back to the drugs and alcohol. Years later, I learned a different type of meditation. That got me off substances permanently. Also, TM left me feeling spacey, but the new meditation left me feeling grounded." - Retired secretary, 2008

"I started TM because I was a compulsive gambler and was desperate to stop. I saw the research charts on TMers stopping alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, so I thought maybe it could help me. Four months in, and I'm sorry to report it has done me no good." - Engineer, 1974

Now it's your turn. Would you like to share your TM results, or the results of people you know? Or your experiences with being mislead by TM publicity? Or anything else?


John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I started TM in 1969 and stopped TM a few years later, and it is difficult to assess the results. The short-term consequences of a long rounding course were pretty disastrous, but I did get my life back on track.

I suppose the benefits for me might have been an indirect consequence of doing TM.

One, I got used to not eating meat, and this has stayed with me and yielded very, very good results in terms of my health, my looks and my weight.

Two, certain psychic channels have opened up for me in the last few years (which I believe are our human birthright, and that everyone is capable of experiencing). I do not know if this would have occurred anyway.

Three, my TM experience has kept me from getting involved with alcohol or drugs.

And four, my time with TM opened me up to the importance and value of a spiritual aspect of life, and this has stayed with me and enriched my life.

My recent awareness of the scope of MMY's fallibility and the widespread and multi-faceted harm he and the TMO have caused have left me permanently distrustful of spiritual groups and spiritual leaders.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I enjoyed this post Laurie.

TM actually helped me, but apparently not enough to stick around for more than 1-1/2 years, total. (I took a break during that time.)

I was 16 when I received my mantra. It was late summer 1975. I had fried my mind with too many psychedelic drugs, and I was scared. I wanted my mind healed.

Well, my mind didn't get healed from TM. ;-D But it did calm. Also, I became engrossed with it. I volunteered at the center, helping wash the fruit, etc., at initiations. I hung Maharishi posters at my high school. I took SCI. I was planning on attending MIU once a graduated. I went to only one rounding weekend though. That was interesting.

I quit meditating altogether after I spoke in tongues. Ha! :-D Of course, then I surmised that the mantras were invitations for devil spirits to inhabit my mind.

So much backstory!

Oh my! What a long strange trip it's been.

Thanks for the article Laurie!

BTW: These days I camp mainly in the agnostic realm. I still speak in tongues from time to time....and I even repeat my mantra sometimes.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

While TM and Maheshism is a trap (or black hole sucking in even light), this is not the way all meditation works. But, you are correct in observing that meditation cannot give you what is already there. What is, simply is.

However, speaking from my experience with TM as well as other forms of meditation and other teachings about meditation, what meditation can do is enable you to see with increasing clarity exactly what you are as a person, as a living, breathing being and that is something quite special.

TM fails to do this because it is only a calming or quieting technique. Becoming calm and quiet, while this is instrumental to progress in meditation, by itself can only, as you observe, leave you vulnerable to the machinations of greedy individuals like Mahesh and his henchmen.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Thank you, Sudarsha, for your kind reply. I have not been active in the TM organization or practiced TM for more than 20 years but I am not sure that it is true when you say that "great rest is just rest". Certainly being alert while in the state of rest is essential. A lot of TMers probably acquired more stress and deep fatigue trying to get the next technique or go to the next course, trying not to doubt or despise Maharishi. But it seems to me that the heart/mind knows how to get where it is going. If we can stay alert in the rest provided by whatever meditation technique we may practice or not practice we may be able to watch while we discover what has always been there. A teacher can be an example of mental and moral fitness, can inspire us to keep going and give us a psychological lift if we have faith in him/her. I can't see how they can do more.

Charlie Hopkins

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

"YES! it is the alertness while in a state of mental and physical repose that is essential. Mahesh’s obsession with returning to the mantra acts as a distraction from this alertness."

I am not at all sure about this. Coming back to the mantra was also supposed to be effortless, and when you came back to the mantra you were simply replacing wandering thinking with the mantra, not replacing 'alertness' - you seem to suggest that the wandering thinking was an end in itself but in my experience coming back to the mantra took me deeper, away from a level of relatively mundane ideation to something more wonderful.

Now if I regarded coming back to the mantra as a chore, as a effort, because it was so vague that making it clear disturbed my peace then yes, it would be a problem, but as we all know the instructions explicitly say the mantra should be picked up at that same fine state of awareness you are in. Whenever I felt there was some conflict, between peace and mantra, I went with the peace and accepted a ridiculously vague idea of the mantra as the mantra and this always worked, worked very well in fact, because the daydreaming would stop and the bliss and awareness would grow deeper until I was in a remarkable state of test and awareness. "Thinking" the mantra became something else over time, it became following an impulse of bliss to its roots, just like it was supposed to be.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Sudarsha, happy new year.

No offense but your anti-TM makeup is serving like a kind of blinder. Every technique is composed of this kind of cycling of attention from an object of attention and back to rest, in a non-stop cycle. I don't care if it's Tumo, Mindfulness, Zen, Microcosmic Orbit, Kundalini, and even TM. There is just no way around it. What MMY discovered is that it is easy. Just look at pre-MMY and post-MMY literature, Gurus, and techniques. For being such a flim flam man, he was readily copied. Yea, with my half-full blinders on I would say they copied his con. Oh veay.

One thing that I found out very quickly is that many in TM, including teachers, don't know what they are doing or talking about. When you write "to note that there is a different kind of rest in which one remains very alert, without distraction. This is different from TM in which the mantra is always a distraction from alertness. ", it just shows that you never really understood TM and how to do it. Not to be confrontational, just getting quickly to the point and not be be coy about it. Even in the Yoga Sutras there is discussion of the types of Samadhi, how it cycles and changes, its all very technical and even more so in the Buddhist traditions (with all these white drops ...). But, its not important except to monks perhaps.

As to the need of a Guru. Please. Have we not learned how this is really NOT necessary. Sure if you meet an enlightened being that would be cool. But, how would you recognize him or her. Wasn't Jesus crucified? If people can't recognize God on earth, what chance of recognizing one who is simply awake. (I mention the Jesus thing only for illustration, most people are familiar with the Greatest Story ever told, not realizing it resembles many others).

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