Saturday, January 14, 2012

Transcendental Meditation: What got you in? And what got you out? Part 1

I've been thinking back over my long strange journey through TM. How did I get so deeply embroiled? How did I get out? Maybe you've been musing over your own life too, or that of those you love who are still embroiled in TM. Here's my chronology. I hope reading it will help some TM-Free readers sort out their own experience.

- I was looking for a better life.
- I read "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramahansa Yogananda. At the tender age of 16, I did not realize that autobiographies were not automatically truthful. The book excited me with the hope that Hinduism's yoga had something special to offer. I tried out Yogananda's teachings, but they did not satisfy me.
- I attended lectures of Swami Satchitananda, who fulfilled my expectations of what a yogi saint should be like. But I did not start his yoga because it seemed like a commitment to a lifestyle change and a difficult practice.
- I had friends who started TM and told me in awed tones what wonderful results it brought, and that it was very easy.
- I attended TM introductory lectures and was impressed by the scientific research, logic of the theory, and serenity of the initiators.
- I was impressed by my initiator's holy glow during the initiation ceremony. When I said my mantra, I felt it reverberate in my mouth and around the room in a mystical way. When I thought the mantra silently for the first time, I was transported to a magical place of inner peace and bliss. I felt euphoric, stoned, for the first three days that I did TM, and I noticed positive changes in myself in those first three days, too. All these things led me to believe that TM was a profound, life-changing spiritual technique.
- The initiators promised that by doing TM twice daily, the positive changes would continue to accumulate. Indeed, for the first few months that I did TM, I did notice small improvements in myself.
- I ran into some TMers who were gung-ho on TM as a method not only for self-improvement, but as the solution for all of life's problems. They encouraged me to attend a long TM course.
- I attended the course and rounded for one month. Maharishi was there in person and lectured several times a day. Also, a few prominent Western guest speakers - scientists, psychologists, astronauts, philosophers, educators, etc. - hailed the virtues of TM. Maharishi promised that TM would solve all problems of society. My brain was in a vulnerable, receptive state from all that sensory deprivation during rounding and from hearing only TM-positive opinions for one month. There was no questioning or challenging. As computer geeks say, "Garbage in, garbage out." It was so easy to be lulled into a dreamy, hopeful state of belief. I experienced Maharishi as giving off saintly emanations. He was charismatic, knowledgeable , charming, flattering, and convincing - and begged us to become TM initiators. It was so easy to fall, as the path of least resistance, into his belief system.
- I left the course a true believer, determined to become an initiator. It never occurred to me to research the opinions of TM skeptics.
- Originally, I believed what Maharishi taught because science and logic supported his system (or so I had been led to believe.) But gradually, unconsciously, I made the transition from "Maharishi says it because it's true" to "If Maharishi says it, then it's true." All my TM activities that followed hereafter just strengthened the belief system that I had now internalized. Residence courses, checker training, advanced lectures, TM teacher training, initiating, working at TM residential centers, learning the TM-Sidhi program, attending long rounding courses for world peace - no matter what Maharishi's latest invention or discovery or program was, Maharishi had to be right, and to question would be disloyal and foolishness.

How about you? Does any of this resonate for you? What got you in?

Coming next: Part 2: And what got you out?

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