Are All Meditations the Same?

by Ann Purcell on August 25, 2015

How is Transcendental Meditation different From other forms of meditation?

photoOne of the most common questions I get asked is how Transcendental Meditation (TM) differs from other forms of meditation. There are many types of meditation on the market today. It seems that around every corner a new yoga studio or meditation center is opening for business. Even doctors are prescribing meditation to help their patients reduce stress. But are all of these practices created equal?

Very often people will come to me expressing that they have tried to meditate, but find it difficult. They say that they have too many thoughts and can’t quiet the mind. Instead of settling down in meditation, they want to jump out of their seat. They are so bored, so restless!

Most meditation techniques are difficult

buddhatwitter

My experience is that most meditation techniques involve effort: effort to silence the mind, effort to concentrate on one thought or image, effort to watch the breath.

Para Steinmann says (article on meditation here):
Guided meditation” is a case in point: One is told to move from one visualization to the next, thus keeping the mind continuously engaged on the conscious thinking level—the surface of the mind.
Trying to stay focused on a thought or an image is difficult for most people. The mind tends to wander and consequently does not settle down to quieter levels of the mind.
I was extremely fortunate to learn Transcendental Meditation 42 years ago. The reason I like TM and have stayed with it all of these years is that it is easy, and does not require any effort. In my very first meditation, I sank to the most peaceful silence I had ever experienced. I continue to do so every day, twice a day, without any effort or trying.

Trying to concentrate is unnatural

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 12.45.04 PMThe ocean is a good analogy to explain the different types of meditation. On the surface of the ocean we have waves, sometimes more rough, other times calm. These waves are like the surface level of our mind. According to the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging the average person has 70,000 thoughts per day. Thoughts can be more if we are stressed or less if we are rested and balanced. Either way, that is a lot of waves!

Mindfulness meditation aims for one to be present, dispassionately observing the waves of the mind.
Concentrating on an object or thought is another popular form of meditation today. Meditation techniques involving concentration aim to keep focused attention on the moving wave, which is difficult to do.  Also, if what one is trying to concentrate on is not pleasing to the mind, the mind will wander. It will also be a strain for the mind to try and focus on something that is not particularly engaging.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who brought Transcendental Meditation to the West, taught that the mind would automatically stay concentrated on something that is enjoyable without any effort or need to discipline the mind.
The TM technique allows the mind to naturally settle down to quieter levels. Because those quiet levels are extremely charming, the mind will automatically stay there. Going back to the analogy of the ocean, instead of observing the waves on the surface, with TM we are transcending the waves and sinking into the silence at the bottom of the ocean.

Transcendence—the goal of meditation

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Image by Tanya Johnston

It is a common misconception that to rein in, or get rid of thoughts completely is the goal of meditation. Trying to control thoughts is a wrong understanding, which, unfortunately, pervades society and makes most people feel like they don’t even want to learn to meditate. People feel they are so active that there is no way they can quiet, or empty their mind.

Only a technique that allows the mind to go within, settle down, and experience more quiet states of awareness deserves the name meditation. Such a technique effortlessly leads the mind to transcendence: inner wakefulness along with pure silence. This has been my experience with TM.
It is the natural tendency of the mind to seek more happiness. If we are talking with someone and our favorite music comes on in the next room, naturally the mind will go there. Transcendental Meditation uses this natural tendency of the mind to go toward greater happiness, but rather than putting the attention in the outer direction, TM turns the mind inward. The mind will automatically go to the transcendent because it is a field of greater happiness and peace.
Again, when we give the mind the experience of greater happiness, contentment, and inner peace, it will naturally go there. It is only a matter of learning how to turn the mind within, and the rest is automatic.
The transcendent is beyond space and time. It is a field of eternal silence, yet also totally awake. With regular practice this state becomes established so that, even in activity, one enjoys that inner peace and happiness.

Enlightenment—the goal of transcendence

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Eventually, the state of transcendence takes over so completely that everything in the outer world is experienced as a wave of that same silence experienced in deep meditation. This inner silence along with dynamic activity is the state of enlightenment. It is as if the deep inner value of life expands to overtake the whole of our outer world. All life is experienced as a state of oneness, a state of unity.

Enlightenment is the ultimate goal of all forms of meditation.
Everyone has to choose what meditation technique is most comfortable for them. Personally, I have learned that strain and discomfort are counterproductive.  I now tend to favor what is natural, easy, effective and enjoyable in all aspects of my life.
I hope this article has helped you in one way or another. If you have any questions or insights, please share them in the comments section below.

With thanks,

Ann Purcell

unnamedAnn Purcell is an author and has been teaching meditation around the world since 1973. In addition, she has worked on curricula and course 4development for universities and continuing education programs. Her latest book, The Transcendental Meditation Technique and the Journey of Enlightenment was released on March 13, 2015.

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6 Comments

  1. I have practiced TM for more than 20 years, I absolutely agree

    Maria Solis
  2. I quite agree Ann.
    As the tradition of Yoga describes, the goal of a practice is samadhi or transcendence. If you’re not reaching samadhi, it’s not leading to Yoga.

    You can also note the very distinct EEG patterns and resulting effects of different styles of meditation. Like this paper by Dr. Travis.
    http://drfredtravis.com/downloads/Travis_preprint.pdf

    I can also note that a certified Hypnosis instructor said that guided practices are a form of hypnosis and have the same style of effects. They may help you relax a little or quit smoking. But that’s a very different thing from meditation.

    David
  3. I have used TM for 42 years, I am so grateful to Maharishi for the great gift.

    Eugene O'Brien
  4. For me, TM has been the easiest form of meditation that I have encountered since I learned it as a college freshman in 1973. This is something I tell everyone who will listen to me, along with how it has enhance my life so much. While I prefer TM as a technique, I also practice Buddhism as a way of living an ethical life. Because of that, I am somewhat familiar with their meditation practices, which are very diverse — some are like you describe, but others are much closer to TM than you might realize. In fact, when Buddhism teachers talk about “concentration” in meditation, in many cases it is not the same type of concentration that TM teachers imply in comparisons like the one above — though, yes, sometimes it is. It is usually more of a “bare awareness” that is similar and has the same goals of transcending that awareness as does TM. I agree that TM is probably the easiest and most effective meditation technique available today. I just think it is important to recognize that other forms of meditations have benefited a lot of people and also brought enlightenment to practitioners.

    Alan August
  5. When someone writes an paragraph he/she maintains the plan of a user in his/her
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    non religious meditation
  6. TM,…Allows Me To Remained Attuned To The Innermost Core…The Source Of Thought….The Source Of Creation///The Source Of INFINITE Intelligence & Energy….The BEING….

    Tapash Chatterjee

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I started Transcendental Meditation in 1973 and have not missed a single meditation ever since. Twice a day, every day. It has given me effortless access to unlimited reserves of energy, creativity and happiness deep within.

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