And the Maharishi Said Yes: The truth about Transcendental Meditation

(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.  

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi 1957-1998

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.  

Some facts:

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:   

  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Insomnia
  • 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 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.     

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart: Confessions of a Spiritual Bulimic. September 7, 2010. All rights reserved.