Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Another Transcendental Meditation Myth Bites the Dust: Uniformity of Practice

One of TM's selling points is that TM is uniformly practiced.  The TM movement claims that their teachers are well trained, that TM is "simple, natural and effortless," and that the checking sessions are effective; therefore TM is uniformly practiced.  This, they say, assures optimal personal results, maximum "coherence" for people practicing TM together in the hopes of creating world peace, and provides uniform practitioners for scientific research studies.     

With these claims blaring, I thought it would be useful to tear apart this myth about the uniformity of TM practice.  So I have gathered together a few quotes from current and former TMers I have known.  (These TMers have had their meditations checked regularly.)

1.  "It says in the checking notes that it's very important to start with half a minute of silence and 'then begin to think the mantra in that same effortless way we think any other thought.'  But I never did that in all the years I meditated.  I would close my eyes and would immediately jump into thinking the mantra."

2.  "My mantra was 'rahrim'."  (Editor's note:  "rahrim" is not a TM mantra.)

3.  "My first mantra was 'iam.'  I used that to remind myself that 'I am' an empowered human being.  My first TM 'advanced technique' (editor's note:  second mantra) was 'iamnamah.'  I used that mantra to remind myself that 'I am no more' my ego, but rather I am the Self behind my ego. "

4.  "The checking notes say 'Mental repetition is not a clear pronunciation.  It's just a faint idea.'  But I always pronounced the mantra clearly in my head when I meditated, never as a faint idea."

5.  "I've discovered that TM is even more profound when, during meditation, I briefly put my attention on the base of my spine before returning to the mantra."

6.  "The way to do TM is to chant the mantra in your head for 20 minutes."

Anecdotes are not scientific proofs, but they are starting points for hypotheses and further research.   
I did not go out searching for deviations in people's TM practice in order to write a critical article.  Rather, I was struck with the frequency with which I heard these comments, even from seasoned meditators.  It makes me wonder if the percentage of TMers who are not practicing "standardized" TM is high.  

What are the implications of this?  Does it mean TM teachers are not competently trained?  Does it mean people who say they practice TM are not necessarily doing TM?  Does it mean the "checking" that people receive is not effective?  Does it mean that scientific researchers who think they are studying a uniformly practiced technique are mistaken?  Does it mean that TM is not really "simple, natural and effortless"?  Does it mean that a uniform procedure known as "TM" does not actually exist?  Does it mean that the belief that people are creating "world coherence" by practicing TM together is flawed?  

What does it all mean?  Do you have any anecdotes or thoughts to share?

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