Someone once asked me to explain, in two words, why I meditate.
My answer: “Blissful Existence.”
Yes, as simple as that.
But think about it: How far do most people go to get that experience? They would trek the mountains or dive the oceans, in search of something that is already within them, something that is their birth right. The source of happiness is never as far as 1 nanometer next to your heart.
The bliss is there, but how do you get it? By “diving within,” David Lynch is known to be saying. The famous director is an outspoken proponent of Transcendental Meditation (TM). He has been practicing it for more than 30 years, and so have many of the creative celebrities who have one by one come out to support the work of Lynch’s foundation—to bring the gift of calmness and bliss to the most downtrodden people in society.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi started bringing this gift to the people outside of India in the late 50s, and to date, several million people are practicing the simple technique of meditation and enjoying the bliss that comes along.
There have been more than 600 studies on the effects of TM, a third of which are independent ones published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Among the positive effects of TM are:
* Increased happiness
* Reduced stress
* Increased intelligence
* Increased creativity
* Improved health, including reduced high blood pressure, reduced cholesterol and reduced risks for many diseases and psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression
* Improved relationships
* Increased energy
* Reduced insomnia
* Reversal of biological aging
* Reduced crime and improved quality of life in society
For a summary of those studies and their validity, click here and here.
My first-hand experience has found all of the above positive effects to be true.
The reduction of stress level is one that I particularly appreciate. When I first started to meditate, I was working as a journalist and later as a Web producer in New York. The jobs involved long hours and tremendous pressure. Besides, I had a busy private life on top of having the entire stress bundle of “New York living” to deal with. I never slept for more than five hours a day.
But as soon as I started to meditate, my sleep pattern changed automatically. I remember waking up and having overslept. I had slept seven hours for the first time since years! Just as my TM teacher told me, the body adjusts and returns to its natural functions as one starts to meditate. It does whatever the body naturally needs. So in my case my body recognized that I had a shortage of sleep. It automatically adjusted my internal alarm clock after I started to meditate.
Since then, I have always felt a strong sense of calmness within and extra energy to boot. A flat mate once asked me, “How come you are so energetic the whole evening even after work?”
This was just one of the immediate benefits of TM that I can recall. Overcoming clinical depression was another great step, which I achieved after practicing for about two months (disclaimer: everybody’s condition is different, so my case does not necessarily apply to other people).
At that time I had been on an antidepressant, Zoloft, for about a year. The psychiatrist strongly suggested me not to get off the drug on my own, but I had misgivings. I felt artificially hyped in new drug-induced happiness. Something must have been wrong. I knew intuitively that I could not go on like that. I did not feel like myself. So after having started to practice meditation, I felt a gradual return to my own self. I got closer and closer to my soul and what she wanted. And yes, she did not want this drug influence anymore.
It took about a week for me to go through the terrible withdrawal symptoms of Zoloft, but TM kept me anchored. Through the dark tunnel I emerged to be a new person. Since then I’ve never sunk back into that abyss anymore. TM has kept me not just afloat, but thriving.
Over the years, I have also noticed that my memory has become sharper and my learning ability has improved. In the past, I went through my life as if walking in a dim mist. Not anymore. Every moment feels to me to be painted in full “technicolor”! I remember things in a much more vivid light. I don’t just go through my life like a walking zombie.
As for learning skills, I have, after the age of 30, picked up a new language (Swedish) and became fluent in a relatively short period of time. I have also started to learn ballet as an adult and making good progress, despite my age. These are contrary to what conventional “wisdom” would tell you—that our brains degenerate after we have reached adulthood.
Scientific studies have proven that TM actually improves brain function:
Keeping Your Prefrontal Cortex Online: Neuroplasticity, Stress and Meditation
It’s not just this new found happiness, health and intellectual development that I treasure so much since I learned to meditate 12 years ago. In a very subtle but real way, TM opened up my consciousness, my third eye. The transcendental consciousness and restful alertness that I experience during the 20-minute, twice-a-day practice spills over to my daily existence, so that I become more refined in my choices from moment to moment, staying true to myself rather than drifting along blindly on the surface of the ocean.
As a result, I started to go deeper and more passionate about new interests that “popped up” inside me. I also began to believe without a doubt the infinite potential that lies within me, just as it lies within every single one of my fellow human beings. My search for the truth has also been guided by an inner light, leading me to knowledge that is many layers deeper than “conventional,” mainstream knowledge that most people around me seem to accept without questioning.
The clarity of who I am and what I want to be has increased over the years. The practice of TM has allowed me to develop a sense of intuition that helps me move toward the right path for myself (finding my own dharma), while staving off negative influences and setting up boundaries to people who try to invade my integrity. Instead of the weakling that I was, always trying to please other people in order to establish my own self-esteem, I have grown stronger and more certain of myself. The inner voice is talking to me ever more clearly and I am consciously in touch with the core of my being, my soul.
In this sense, TM has not only benefited me in terms of health and happiness, but also helped me move toward spiritual maturity and enlightenment.
Some people wonder if there is any difference between TM and other types of meditation. Well, there is. My TM teacher in New York told me he studied zen meditation back in the 60’s. But he found out after learning TM, that what would take a zen meditator 30 years to achieve, would only take 20 minutes for a TM meditator to do so. I and many TM meditators I know can attest to that.
Have a look at this article, which addresses this common question:
Are all forms of meditation and relaxation the same?
There is nothing difficult about learning how to meditate, when you have the right technique. And TM is just that. After the very first lesson, you will already be able to experience that “boom”! For me, it was like taking a mental shower. My brain had never felt so fresh in my whole life. It was also like taking an elevator and all of a sudden, it dropped to the right floor and you are there. You know you are there when you are there. But this is all experiential. Unless you actually take the step to learn and do it, no amount of words can truly do this fantastic experience any justice.
Lastly, let me include a beautifully written article about meditation and how it fits into the concept of yoga, the union with Devine Intelligence:
Samadhi is the beginning, not the end of Yoga