Transcendental Meditation and Mindfulness

The Sunday Times Magazine (12.12.10) published an article “Mantra with a mission” about the film director David Lynch’s mission to bring Transcendental Meditation (‘TM’)  to schoolchildren around the globe. In case you don’t know much about TM, it’s based on the allocation of a personal mantra by a teacher during a private ceremony and involves you meditating twice a day for 20 minutes each time. It got me thinking about TM and why, having been a devotee of TM for 20 years or so, I chose to follow mindfulness meditation instead.

TM, in my experience, was and is great at reducing stress and allowing the mind to settle – like all meditation practices I suppose. However I just knew there was something missing that I wasn’t getting out of my meditation. Perhaps I wasn’t ‘doing’ it right, not practicing enough, but for me I think I was seeking something more. When I first started with TM I was told it was like ‘brushing your teeth’ just get up, meditate, and then do it at the end of the working day and between times ‘forget about it’. However what I ultimately noticed was that TM didn’t help me ‘be’ in the moment. I was still as preoccupied as ever with the future or the past and yet I really wanted to live more in the ‘now’ – something I sensed was essential to the quality of my living. From my work at the Hospice I knew I wanted to really explore and understand this – we only have nowthis moment, the future isn’t promised to anyone. So live the now as best you can.  I talked about this and just ‘being’ with my clients yet hypocritically I wasn’t exactly doing it myself. Doesn’t the ‘teacher’ always teach the lessons they need to learn themselves? Ouch!

It took me a couple of life changing moments to finally wake up to what I personally needed to do – somehow learn to be in the moment more often. And here I am, now embracing mindfulness in all aspects of my life (living, loving, eating…) and regularly practicing mindfulness meditation.

All I know is that since I have started mindfulness meditation the quality of my life has improved; I am coping with stressful emotional situations much better, I have developed a much more mindful and healthier way of being around food (and as a result lost weight too but without getting obsessive about it), I’ve made some major life changes and life overall seems to be flowing more easily. For sure there are difficult, painful times – that is the duality of life – there is always sadness and pain as well as joy and happiness but I can more easily be with these emotional states.

I was going to say in my work life mindfulness is continuing to play a major part as I research the wider implications of mindfulness for mental and emotional health and bring ideas and concepts to light which might enhance the quality of people’s living.  However that’s not quite true – mindfulness is for the whole of my life – for my mental, emotional and physical health in a way that TM never quite seemed to be …

I’d be really interested to hear if any of you out there have any views on meditation in general or want to extol the virtues of a particular form of meditation. I’m not into criticising one form of meditation over another – in my opinion meditation of any kind is pretty wonderful for most people.

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