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How Transcendental Meditation Made My Life Less Stressful

It’s even Oprah-approved

Being a millennial, there are two things I’m interested in: ways to make my hectic and nonstop life a little less stressful, and the weird New Age-y thing to try that’ll help get me there. I’ve tried all sorts of things to help calm my mind, body, and soul and help me feel more grounded, from reiki and sound baths to acupuncture and sensory deprivation tanks.

While these have all been pretty wonderful, I needed something more constant and ongoing—particularly something I could do myself from the comfort of my own home/bed/floor. That’s where Transcendental Meditation (TM) came into play.

I have a good friend who started practicing TM a couple years ago when he was going through a particularly rough patch, and while I had no idea what he was talking about at the time, I do remember his new practice really helping him. After talking with him about it, I decided to get in touch with the David Lynch Foundation, the organization responsible for TM’s popularity in America (and yes, it’s run by that David Lynch), and pop by one of its free information sessions to learn more.

Once I realized that this was definitely something I wanted to pursue—mostly out of pure curiosity—I got myself registered for the course.

What exactly is Transcendental Meditation? As a form of meditation, it's been around for over five thousand years. However, it wasn’t well-known in the West until the ‘50s, when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi founded the movement as we know it today, and ‘60s, when famous followers like The Beatles became hooked on it. Now, it's practiced by influential people from all walks of life—from Oprah and Russell Brand to prominent CEOs.

The whole idea behind TM is that rather than try to silence your mind, you use a mantra (which is more of a sound than a word, and is meant to be kept a secret) to help get you into a meditative state as you sit quietly and relaxed with your eyes closed. Over the course of the actual meditation, you allow your regular thoughts to flow as they normally would without trying to push them out. It’s meant to be effortless, instead of something that takes an inordinate amount of concentration.

The results ideally include an immediate sense of calm and relaxation and, over time, reduced stress, improved concentration, increased self-awareness and happiness—and even anti-aging and immune health benefits.

This all sounds fine and even easy, right? It is, but only if it's taught correctly.

Learning TM begins with a four-day consecutive course. When I started my course, I first met with the wonderful Mario Orsatti, who gave me an introduction to all things TM, and later attended small group classes, where I continued to learn about the inner workings of my brain as well as the power of group meditation.

What I was surprised to discover is that TM is the least New Age-y of all of the New Age-y things I’ve tried. My teachers wore suits and looked more like business executives than yogis. The classrooms felt more like office conference rooms than sacred sanctuaries. Other than an introductory ceremony, which involved Orsatti chanting in Sanskrit, burning incense, and offering fruit before giving me my personal mantra, it was like attending a small college class with 20 minutes of nap time.

I will say, learning TM is not exactly cheap. As an adult, it’ll cost you around $1,000, but many centers offer discounts or waived fees for students and veterans and payment plans. Once you take this course, you’re welcome back to any of the center locations for life, whether it’s to take a refresher course or to participate in group meditations that take place from time to time.

I know what you’re thinking: If transcendental meditation is so easy and so valuable to our well-being, why is it so expensive? Well, those who teach it strive to keep the integrity of the practice true to the ways Maharishi Mahesh Yogi taught it. If everyone tried to learn on their own without guidance, let’s say on the internet, they would not necessarily be learning it properly—which would lead to many people not practicing it properly. And that's also the reason why I can’t get too into the details of how it works—but I do promise, it’s just as easy as it sounds.

I’m not going to sit here and claim to meditate for 20 minutes twice a day, every day of the week as suggested, because realistically, I just don’t. But I definitely make the time for it as often as I can—and anywhere I can—when I feel that I need it. Since first studying TM back in June, I’ve definitely noticed a change in how I deal with stress and a decrease in how often I get stressed out, to begin with. My days seem to flow much better, and I find I have a much more positive attitude toward the things that I would previously attribute to day-ruiners. My roommates (who, admittedly, have seen me at my worst) have mentioned that I seem much "sunnier." (I'll take it.)

And it is really easy. I’ve successfully meditated on planes, sitting on the floor of my room while a garbage truck made way too much noise outside, and while sitting up in bed as my boyfriend snored next to me. 

On the mornings I do make the time for a 15- to 20-minute session, and especially on the days I manage to squeeze in two sessions, my busy millennial life seems just a bit more bearable.