Transcendental Meditation (TM) is surely one of the most famous forms of meditation. So why has this technique of meditation survived the test of time and got a stamp of approval from celebs and doctors alike?
Simple, because it works.
What Is Transcendental Meditation?
Without going in too deep, the TM method is quite simple. One sits comfortably, shuts his eyes, and repeats a mantra (in Sanskrit) without movement of lips or uttering a sound for around 20 minutes, twice a day. Yep, that's about it.
Hold on– that can't be all there is to it!? Actually, that really is most of what it comes down to.
So how can this simplistic method improve cardiovascular health? And how could it possibly enhance your creativity?
How Does Transcendental Meditation Work?
Conditioning is the key here, and in fact, the TM technique can be considered as a conditioning technique.
Conditioning is a phenomenon that must occur for us to live our lives. Conditioning can happen gradually, or in an instant. We learn that fire is hot, for example, and condition ourselves into fearing contact with flames. We develop what we think are "natural responses" to certain stimuli – somewhat similar to Pavlov's dogs.
When practicing TM, we're conditioning our brains to have an entirely new response to thought itself. Usually, when we have a thought, we'll have one of two reactions or a mix of the two:
1) Emotion: We'll think about something that triggers some sort of emotion. This response isn't necessarily extreme, but it's always present. For instance, we might think of a relationship or business partnership turned sour, and as a consequence– even if only brief or mild– we'll experience a shift in our emotional state. In this case, it could probably be anger or sadness.
2) Action: A different reaction to thought is an action or planned action. The easiest example: You think "I'm thirsty," and as a result, get something to drink or plan to get some water to drink. Note that action doesn't have to be immediate. For example, have you ever, out of the blue, thought about an old friend and took a mental note to call them at a later time? "Action" here can also imply internal physiological responses, linked to emotion, like increased blood pressure, sweating, elevated heart rate, and so on.
Now, if you're properly practicing TM and have an unsettling thought, how will you react? The answer is "you won't"!
As discussed above, when one practices TM, he gently returns to the mantra once he realizes he has wandered off to a thought. Meaning no reaction takes place. One doesn't dwell on the thought, take the time to invest feelings, or carry out an action – one just goes back to the mantra.
And, again, what does this accomplish? It completely transforms our standard response to thoughts – our 'conditioning' or 'programming,' if you like.
The two sessions of TM one practices regularly are quite similar to practicing for a certain sport. If you've ever attempted a combat sport, for example, you have to completely rewire your "natural" response of turning your back to – or turning away from– an attacker. This requires time and repetition, but after some while, you've fully reconditioned a "naturally programmed" reaction.
Just imagine, if you can either eliminate or limit your action (external or internal) or emotional response to a thought, won't that lower your blood pressure? If you've been practicing TM routinely when a thought that may increase blood pressure or the actions or emotions that lead to a spike in blood pressure comes along, your reconditioned, non-reactive response should ensue, therefore averting the emotion or action response that would normally take place.
When creativity is concerned, imagine not being disrupted by your thoughts during the creative process, such as when you're trying to paint, play music, or write. Again, the reconditioned non-response enables you to focus on the task at hand and not get sidetracked by thought.
The good news and the bad news is we're not so far from Pavlov's dogs. If we practice the ability to condition our response to a thought, we can reap excellent benefits; if we simply let ourselves play into existing conditioning, we know just how damaging that can be. And guided transcendental meditation by an expert can help in that regard.