(This isn’t my best writing, and I know it. Neither is it a teaching, but it’s here and for what it’s worth, I’ll leave it be for now.)
This is a blog, and only a blog. Sometimes I love this little slice of cyberspace and sometimes – like today – I feel weighed down by its constraints. Blog readers are skimmers and rarely loyal. Those of you who do read these posts, know my story and keep coming back anyway are truly appreciated. I am still apprehensive about going from reporting on our Mission Start to sharing my own personal journey in faith. Confessions of a Spiritual Bulimic seems almost narcissistic to me and yet this is the path I feel God is leading me down. So I simply write and tell the truth and trust that God is not setting me up. He doesn’t need me to defend his church or his reputation, he only asks that I share my story with truth, and kindness.
This particular entry is by no means exhaustive and I find myself weighed down by the fear that I’ll make the church look bad and I lose my aim for the eggshells that I’m trying to avoid. I began this particular piece of my story under the post If the pastor doesn’t like me, can I still join? In that post I shared that I had been to many outreach events as a kid, but was never allowed to become a member of those churches. The TM group however, was more than willing to accept my mother and I into their fold.My aim for today is not, the church didn’t want me so I joined what Christians will define as a cult instead even if that is true. Nor is my aim to slam meditation. My goal today is to shed some light on why we made the choices we made, and how those of us who dare to call ourselves Christians today can make better choices in how we treat others.
I don’t choose to be a Christian because the church was so wonderful and kind to me growing up — I choose to be a Christian today, because it works for me – and yes, I really am that selfish. Now, I don’t mean that nearly as flip as it sounds and I will elaborate on that more clearly in later posts, I promise. And the real truth here is God chose me long before I ever knew him. So it really isn’t about me at all.
The Maharishi is dead, long live marketing Gurus. I’m a little frustrated with the internet right now. Everything I remember about the Maharishi and his school doesn’t match what I’m finding. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a very kind, intelligent, and generous man. I can say that because I’ve met him before. There is a lot that would draw you to him. He was kind, compassionate, loving and truly had a servant’s heart. Everyday people from The Beatles to single moms like mine were drawn to him. And yet they (his web page designers) credit him, not with religious practices, but with a relaxation technique practiced world wide.TM’s WEBPAGE says that “The Transcendental Meditation technique is not a religion or philosophy and involves no change in lifestyle.”
I can still remember kneeling before an altar, somewhere in Michigan, with statues that I did not recognize. My Spiritual Guide/Instructor was with me and the flowers and fruit (food for the commune I assume) that we were told to bring laid before me as an offering of some kind. My instructor placed her hands on my shoulders and started speaking in a language I know today as Sanscrit. I was being prayed over. To whom the prayers were going? I have no idea. We would go back for visits and spend time with our instructors. At each visit my teacher would ask me about me. She was genuinely interested in who I was, what I was struggling with. The teachers lived on the compound. They grew their own food, lived together, worshipped together and supported each other. And even though people like my mother and myself did not live there — we were considered part of their family. So tell me, how can something that is simply marketed today as a relaxation technique, and yet full of religious ceremonies and offerings NOT be a religion? — It used to be, before they watered it down and simplified it in order to gain the Western Dollar. Todays TM schools are not what the Marharishi set out to achieve.
Looking back, and knowing what I know today I still believe in the benefits of meditation, I just don’t believe that TM is the answer or the proper way. TM is not mindful — my mantra was simply the word “ing” and I was instructed not to share that word with anyone else or it wouldn’t work for me any more. Also at that time, words were added to your mantra and you progressed in their program. I later learned these “meaningless” syllables were actually sanscrit prayers. So there was some deception taking place depending on who trained you and where you were trained. It’s strange what memories children hang on to.
We eventually grew beyond this compound and began searching and exploring different areas. For me that meant Christian writings and eventually the church. For my mother?She’s been so badly abused by the church that she’ll never return. Now don’t get me wrong, my mother has an amazing faith in God, she just doesn’t like Christians.
So, what does that experience have to do with the church? A lot.
For all of their outreach efforts: community fairs, youth events, and great speakers – the churches in my neighborhood were not equipped to bring in youth as members. They had nothing to back up and support young people needing more than just a great talk or a gymnasium to play in after school. – as I’ve shared before I went to those things but when I approached the pastor’s about joining their churches they had no means for that. To be quite honest, I see the same problems in our outreach today as existed then.
For all of our talk of a loving God, Christians can be some of the most unloving and judgemental people around — myself included here.
Meditation does have scientifically proven health benefits.
A 2007 national Government survey that asked about CAM use in a sample of 23,393 U.S. adults found that 9.4 percent of respondents (representing more than 20 million people) had used meditation in the past 12 months—compared with 7.6 percent of respondents (representing more than 15 million people) in a similar survey conducted in 2002. The 2007 survey also asked about CAM use in a sample of 9,417 children; 1 percent (representing 725,000 children) had used meditation in the past 12 months.
People use meditation for various health problems, such as:
- Physical or emotional symptoms that may be associated with chronic illnesses (such as heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and cancer) and their treatment.
Meditation is also used for overall wellness.
Taken from: The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine .
Meditation is scripturally sound. Groups like TM and the way it is marketed has however given it a bad name. The marketing became mystic and told people that you can learn to levitate and other such things that just weren’t true and were not part of our original teaching. For the Christian who is reading and questioning my blog, lets not throw the baby out with the bath water here – love or hate my experience with TM and the pieces I choose to include in my life today – the love, acceptance, and servantship – search the scriptures for yourself. Go to biblegateway.com and look up “meditate” and study those contexts.
One last note because my readership is so broad: TM practices as taught today and the Buddhist faith, which is also meditative in nature, are nothing alike. I’m not an expert on the Buddhist faith and you’ll need to research that yourself if you want more information — There are many techniques out there that are more productive and beneficial than TM as marketed today. The mindfulness of Buddhist meditation engages all of your senses and helps you stay focused. It lowers your blood pressure and calms your mind. There is also Tai Chi or Yoga exercises where your mind and your body are equally engaged, both of which I have done and gained great benefit from.
So there you have it, my short story about meeting a really nice man — and a page of opinions mixed with what I hope are helpful facts – guaranteed to snap an egg-shell or two.
For more information on TM you can also see these two links.
9 thoughts on “And the Maharishi Said Yes: The truth about Transcendental Meditation”
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As a longtime meditator (practicing TM), I appreciate your kind words toward Maharishi, whom I respect immensely as a teacher, but feel your interpretations of the current TM organization and the practice are based only on a cursory glance and a few misunderstandings.
I am very familiar with how TM is taught (my wife teaches TM full time, and I also am a certified TM teacher). And I’m familiar with how it’s presented on the TM Website (www.TM.org). I feel nothing is watered down (click the Maharishi page and you’ll hear the same talks about TM that he was giving over 40 years ago). TM is not taught as a mere relaxation technique, but as a practice for unfolding life’s full potential—the same way it’s always been taught.
It was never taught as a religious practice.
My question for you, when you were instructed in TM and you bowed before the Guru Dev picture (there were never “statues” involved in TM instruction, though you may remember it that way), whom were you asked to worship? Who was being “prayed” to by the teacher? No one, I suggest. The TM instruction procedure is not a prayer.
The teacher probably bowed during the ceremony, though the student is not required to. ‘Bowing down’ in the West usually means worshiping some deity, but in the East bowing is a gesture of respect, and people may bow to one another just saying hello.
The TM instruction ceremony uses traditional Vedic language of adoration to honor the teachers of the tradition who handed down the knowledge through the ages, but neither the teacher nor the student is worshiping anyone, if worship means praying or communing with some particular believed-in deity.
And the TM teacher, if they are teaching according to how they were trained, would never place their hands on anyone’s shoulders. Are you sure about that part? (It WAS a long time ago, so perhaps you just sort of restructured that episode in your memory…all I know is, that’s not how it’s done and never was.)
TM is not a religious practice because it requires no belief, just practice. It’s all about direct experience. There is no philosophy you are asked to accept. No change in lifestyle. Some people, of their own accord, might turn it into a religion in their minds, or even into a cult. But that’s not how TM is taught or how Maharishi intended it. When once asked by a reporter how many followers he had, he said, “I have no followers. Everyone follows their own progress.” That’s the simple truth of the matter. TM is about people practicing their meditation twice a day, enjoying their personal progress.
And believe me, TM was not altered in any way for “the Western dollar.” It is still taught in exactly the same way that Maharishi trained teachers to teach it, and will be for generations to come to keep the practice in its purity and original effectiveness. The organization is non-profit in the truest sense of the word.
As for “levitation,” the TM organization never promised or claimed any such things. The advanced TM-Sidhi practices have always been presented as a “research program into consciousness,” with emphasis on immediate practical benefits and testable results. The so-called “supernormal powers” have been mentioned only in relation to the traditional literature — the classical texts of yoga describe such powers as means to unfold the full potential of human consciousness. The main emphasis in the TM-Sidhi program, including the much-publicized Yogic Flying technique, has always been development of consciousness and human potential, not the physical manifestations of particular results.
As far as your claim that there are more effective meditation practices than TM, that may be your opinion, but the scientific research and latest studies in neuroscience shed much light on the distinctions and different effects of the various practices. I suggest you look a little more closely at the EEG coherence and other neurophysiological findings before asserting that certain practices are more effective.
Effortless transcending is still and will always be the most effective means to enliven pure consciousness and produce holistic benefits for mind and body—watering the root to nourish all aspects of the tree. If one is transcending during other practices that’s wonderful. Maharishi never claimed that TM is the only way. Just the easiest.
Thanks for allowing me the chance to express my thoughts and this different perspective about your heartfelt article.
Jimmy, thank you for checking in and sharing your experience. Like I said, this is just a memory — and yes, pieces of it are most likely blurred. My preference for mindful meditation is again, just an opinion and personal preference. I do, however, appreciate your filling in the holes of my story. It was a long time ago —
It is easy to lure a weak minded believer or even a strong non-believer into a situation where everything sounds good, and there is a bit of truth, but in reality it is a lie. When the government trains their employees to identify counterfit money, they never once see a fake in the training. They study the real thing every day…for hours…and then when they are given a fake, they can spot it right away because they know the TRUE money. The same philosophy can be said about religion. If you study the Bible (which most people do not) and you spend time with God in meditation (TRUE meditation) and prayer, when a cult comes along, it will be spotted as such. Too many people are so mentally lazy about their eternal destination, that they put their trust in what is being said by the “leader”, and not checking it out for truth. I heard an old saying that if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.
“Spiritual Bulimic” conjures up a library of pictures and volumes of words. It is rich as it says in few words the rocky spiritual journey of imperfect mortals. You’ll be blogging till you’re 110!
This was a great post, Deana.
Psalm 1 comes to mind about meditating. Much is said about our thoughts. There is a whole universe of truths out there and outside our small box of thinking. (I think this is why “The Shack” hit a cord.)
Likewise, we are cautioned to test the spirits. I have much to say about my journey from New Age to Christian, but will leave that for another day….
You and I would have an awesome conversation Susan, I’ve walked that road too — Stormie Omartarian (That does not looked correctly spelled) also walked that road — while I don’t share the depth of her charismatic faith, (mine if more pragmatic if I’m being honest) I do appreciate her journey.
This post is not a teaching — it’s incomplete in that regard. But it is a story and it’s part of my journey.
Spiritual Bulimic — what am I thinking? LOL it fits, I just don’t like talking about myself this much.
If you are interested in seeing what the medical community is doing with meditation and mindfulness, check out http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/home/index.aspx – it is the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Mass. Medical School.
Thanks Pam — I appreciate the link. I know a lot of people who incorporate meditation into their faith/life walks — This particular post can probably be split into at least three if not four different readings, but I needed to just finish it and let it be for now and let the egg shells fall where they may.